One of the worst things you can do when you’re in internal distress is to drop your self-care routine—eating regularly, getting enough sleep, exercising, and doing the daily activities that give life structure and embody extreme self-care. Emotional health includes keeping up with self-care no matter what is going on in life. This is exactly what many dysregulated eaters don’t do when they’re thrown a curve ball, endure a major change, or get walloped by something unexpected or unwanted.
When your life is thrown out of whack—by illness (yours or someone else’s), job change or extra work, guests staying with you, or unforeseen travel—it can seem as if the world is spinning out of control. You may feel as if the pressure’s on, you’re routine is thrown off balance, and you can’t seem to find time for yourself. Pretty soon you drop all or most of the activities you’ve been doing to take care of yourself and which have brought you pleasure and a sense of well-being and, instead, end up turning to food for comfort. These activities include reading a passage in one my books before bed, taking vitamins, enjoying a daily walk, careful food shopping and preparation, keeping up with friends, and the minor and major rituals that help us feel good physically and emotionally.
And then what happens? Added to your inner chaos is the lack of structure you’ve created by dropping your healthful habits. Having lost your internal center and external structure, you go from feeling bad to worse. And it’s no surprise that you turn to food more and more because you feel as if there’s nothing else to hold on to. Because you can’t control your entire environment, you stop exerting any control over it.
We all need a sense of structure, containment, control, and centeredness in our lives. If we don’t feel internal stability, then we need to get it externally and that is where routine comes in. That’s how emotionally healthy people get by in the topsy-turvy times. They cling to routine to provide a sense of continuity and familiarity when there is turmoil going on in their lives. Some do this instinctively and others do it because they’ve learned what happens when they let go of the infrastructure that holds them together.
Consider if you have this problem. Do you suddenly stop self-care when there’s a blip on your radar screen, when life zigs when you want it to zag, or when you don’t have complete control? If so, you are someone who would benefit greatly by keeping up your routines no matter what happens. Think about what routine brings to your life and the value it has especially during chaotic times. You may not be able to do everything you normally do, but do as much as you can and you’ll feel a lot more sane and stable.