Your eating disorder may be a source of stress in your life. Be mindful of your response to stress, as long-term stress can impact your physical and mental health. In honor of April being National Stress Awareness Month, here are some tips on managing stress in response to eating disorder urges or behaviors.

By: Dawn Lundin

National Stress Awareness Month aims to bring awareness to the negative impacts of stress. The World Health Organization defines stress as “a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation.” Everyone experiences stress in their life. Although, stress levels may be higher in those with an eating disorder due to environmental and social factors. While you cannot change the factors that cause stress, you can control your response.

Here are some tools for managing the stress caused by eating disorder urges or behaviors.

Keep a Daily Routine. 

When stressed, you are more likely to act impulsively to experience relief. These impulses can cause those with eating disorders to restrict food, purge, or engage in binge-eating episodes. Keeping a regular routine can help you feel more in control and help eliminate acting on impulse. Your daily routine should include meals, snacks, work and school, time with others, chores, and hobbies.

Keeping a daily routine can also be important when transitioning from treatment when you gain more responsibility over your daily schedule. It can be helpful to think about what components of your schedule at treatment worked for you and what you would have changed. Reflecting on a schedule you’ve been following can be a great starting point for establishing a new routine.

Limit Time Spent on Social Media. 

Peer and societal pressures on body image and beauty standards can cause feelings of guilt or shame about your body. Filtering the accounts you see on social media and limiting your time there can help reduce negative feelings about your body image.

You can unfollow any accounts that increase your likelihood of engaging in comparison. Establishing boundaries around social media, like time limits, can also be helpful. The amount of time someone should spend on social media is individualized, but a good rule of thumb is if it doesn’t make you feel good, it’s probably time to take a break.

Get Outside. 

Spending time outdoors while breathing in the fresh air can help you reconnect with yourself, be present in the moment, and feel refreshed. Don’t underestimate the power of sitting in a sunny spot or driving with the windows down.

It is common to correlate our time spent outdoors with movement, making it difficult to think of movement-free ways to spend time outside. A few movement-free ways to spend time outside include sitting in a camping chair, sitting on the sidewalk & drawing with chalk, laying in the grass, reading in a hammock, or eating at a picnic table.

Move a Little. 

Discussing movement with your treatment team is important, but gentle and joyful movement can help reduce stress. If your movement is limited, you may need to re-evaluate what you define as movement. Stretching can give you time to tune into where you are holding tightness in your body. Yoga helps you center your mind and focus on breathing to practice staying in the moment. Tai chi is a form of martial arts that can help you strengthen your mind and refocus on the present. Walking is also a great form of movement that can help reduce stress. You can add mindfulness practice to your walk by staying unplugged. Allow yourself to take in your surroundings without the distraction of a phone call, audiobook, podcast, or music. If you’re used to having those things, set a goal for staying unplugged for the first 5 minutes and increase from there.


Relaxation is a widely used technique for managing stress. Muscle relaxation is a technique where you bring awareness and relaxation to all muscles in your body. Do this by bringing tension and relaxation to each part of your body, from your toes to your head. Here is an example of this exercise. 

While your ability to incorporate these stress-relieving techniques into your day may vary depending on where you are in your treatment, choosing a tool that works for you to help navigate everyday stressors can be helpful.

At BALANCE eating disorder treatment center™, we understand that seeking help and pursuing recovery from an eating disorder can feel overwhelming. Click here to learn about our eating disorder treatment program services. Our services include a Day Program, Weeknight Program, Saturday Program, outpatient groups, and nutrition counseling.

Our admissions team would be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding this unique program or any of our other services. Book a call below, or read more about our philosophy here.

This post was written by BALANCE Blog Contributor, Dawn Lundin (she/her).

Dawn Lundin, MS, RD is a registered dietitian and owner of Restore Ease Dietetics which is a virtual nutrition private practice that focuses on mental health + sports nutrition. She primarily with adolescents and young adults with eating disorders. She believes in meeting clients where they are at which provides a unique client-focused approach to recovery. She lives in Marquette, Michigan with her husband and three sons. As a family, they love to travel and spend time outdoors. She also enjoys mountain biking, running, cross-country skiing, being on or in the water, and knitting.


National Stress Awareness Month. National Institutes of Health. Accessed March 15, 2023. 

Stress. World Health Organization. Accessed March 15, 2023.

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