[author title=”Laura Muth” author_id=”Laura Muth”][custom_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”true”] Change can be overwhelming [/custom_headline]
It’s probably fair to say we’ve all experienced stress on a variety of different levels from deciding what to wear, to panicking about deadlines. While coming to university can be exciting and fun for some, for others it may be lonely, isolating and highly stressful.
You may feel like you’re juggling a lot: moving away from home, meeting new people, receiving that new timetable packed with an overload of information, having to look after yourself and of course finding time to fit in work with all that socialising.
[pullquote cite=”Alan Watts” type=”right”]The only way to make sense of change, is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.[/pullquote]
The first term at university can be overwhelming and chaotic and the chances are you haven’t experienced this level of stress and anxiety. Many people start to feel that they are unable to cope.
Being in charge of choosing, buying and cooking your own food combined with this new found freedom and responsibility can easily result in developing eating disordered behaviours as a way of attempting to control the chaos. What may start off a seemingly harmless coping strategy can soon develop into a full-blown eating disorder that takes control of your whole life.
[custom_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”true”] You are not alone [/custom_headline]
Every university will have support services available to those who need it, if not a specialised eating disorders service then a counselling service that will be able to help. They may also have a free helpline that can give you guidance and advice. If you can feel yourself slipping into unhealthy patterns or you notice a housemate or friend is presenting with eating disorder behaviours then please do make use of these services. Please do get help, keeping it to yourself and dealing with it alone will only make it worse.
[custom_headline type=”left, center, right” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”true”]Reaching out [/custom_headline]
It takes an immense amount of courage to ask for help. It may be too scary, too overwhelming or we don’t want to be seen as vulnerable or dependent on anyone. Remind yourself that reaching out for help can act as a life anchor and marks the first step of your journey to recovery
If the prospect of reaching out to professionals is too daunting for you, confiding in a friend can provide you with much needed support and nourishment also.
[pullquote cite=”” type=”right”] Reaching out is not a sign of weakness, but one of courage.[/pullquote]
Start by identifying at least 1 person that you can go to for support, whether it be your partner, friend, family member or mentor. Make sure you can trust this person and also ensure they are readily available to help you.
When you approach this person, make sure you communicate exactly what you need from them. This is very important, as they may know that they want to help you but are unsure how to go about this. Communicate that you are ready to seek support and cannot do this alone.
Be prepared for any reaction. Your friend or loved one may feel anything from compassion to helplessness to guilt. Bear in mind their first reaction is not indicative of how supportive they will or won’t be in the future.
Taking this initial step and sharing your struggles is terrifying but the rewards will amaze you. Just one leap of faith will give you a chance to live the life you deserve.
[custom_headline type=”left, center, right” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”true”] What to do if a friend opens up about their eating disorder [/custom_headline]
If a friend has opened up to you about their eating disorder, you may not know know what to say to them or understand what they’re going through. Know that there is a lot of shame attached to eating disorders and therefore, steer clear of the topic of food or appearance. Put the focus on emphasizing your love and support for them instead.
It is a good idea to research eating disorders and learn as much as possible in order to help you better understand what is happening. Having even a basic knowledge of their mental health problems will make you better equipped to support your friend.
If you are at university, being away from family can feel extremely isolating and that feeling is likely to be emphasized by their eating disorder. Therefore, providing them with kindness and warmth will help them feel less alone in their struggles.
Make sure you have someone to turn to. Hearing about a friend’s struggles can be overwhelming and upsetting so ensure you have your own support system to help you deal with the feelings and emotions that will arise.
If appropriate, encourage your friend to seek professional help but try not to force them. If you are at university, direct them towards the counselling team. Do not put pressure on yourself to ‘fix’ their problems. You do not have to know all the answers, just being there for your friend is what is important.
[custom_headline type=”left, center, right” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”true”] Adjusting to university [/custom_headline]
Remember it’s natural to feel anxious when adjusting to university lifestyle. Try not to overwork yourself, take time to relax and have a break (it’s healthy). Keep in contact with family and friends from home.
Finally, plunge yourself into university life, it may seem too often that you hear “these days are the best days of your life” but if you remember to take care of yourself and find that balance then really could be.