Checking In: Grounding Exercises for Uncertainty and Fear

There’s something in therapy called a “check-in”. A check-in takes place at the beginning of therapy groups and works to focus people in the here and now. You go around, one by one, sharing how you’re feeling in the moment.

The check-in allows people to share their inner experience briefly, so that everyone is informed about how people are feeling and what’s themes could come up or play out during the group.

 We sometimes do a mini “check-in” on our Instagram stories, asking people to share anonymously what’s going on for them so that we, as an organisation, are always informed and connected to the hopes and fears of our community.

“We experience these types of anxieties and fears because it is much “simpler” to channel and focus overwhelming emotions onto things that we can, in a way, control.”

Recently, we asked our followers what was going on for them in preparation for this blog and, interestingly, most responded with fears around eating too much, gaining weight, constantly snacking or worries about binging.

These are very common fears and anxieties when living with an eating disorder. But just because they’re common doesn’t lessen their intensity. They are also the fears and anxieties associated with the more symptomatic elements of the eating disorder – i.e. the external, “surface-level” experiences that are indicators for deeper, inner turmoil and anxiety.

We experience these types of anxieties because it is much “simpler” to channel overwhelming emotions into things that we can, in a way, control – such as our weight, calories and food. But there’s actually always much more going on underneath that maybe we’re not even aware of.

“Having a tolerance for uncertainty and learning to keep grounded during transitions is a skill that can be learnt.”

Collectively, we’re in a really transitional period right now. We’re on our way to autumn (already?!), gradually loosening social distancing measures and trying to prepare ourselves for this next chapter of returning to work or starting studies in September.

It is yet more change, and we know that those suffering with eating disorders can sometimes find change and unpredictability intolerable. It’s hard to know what to prepare for – and what if we’re not feeling ready?!

Having a tolerance for uncertainty and learning to keep grounded during transitional periods is a skill that can be learnt.

Grounding Exercises for Uncertainty and Fear

  1. Give yourself permission to investigate what’s underneath the fears around your body and food. Is there something you’re experiencing – at home, in friendships or in yourself – that you’re finding overwhelming? Eating disorders are akin to escapism, they help you to “leave” overwhelming experiences by distracting your attention, but this leaves the overwhelming experience bubbling underneath the surface until it’s healed
  2. In a safe space, write down everything you’re feeling and thinking, no matter how “shameful” or embarrassing. Give your anxiety room to breathe and dissipate – you don’t need to hold onto anything that isn’t serving you
  3. Consider how a friend may respond to these anxieties if you said them out loud to them. What would a loving person say to you? Thinking like this invites and cultivates a loving internal voice to counter the strength of the critical voice
  4. If there are reoccurring themes coming up for you, consider writing affirmations that help you to reframe your thought process. You may want to set reminders on your phone to ping at certain times during the day, or make a phone wallpaper that reminds you of how you want to be thinking and feeling
  5. Acknowledge that, despite how impossible and indefinite these emotions may feel in the moment, they are impermanent and you have control and you can train yourself to think in different ways. People with eating disorders often say, “I got myself into this, so I can get myself out of this” and in a way – it’s true! You have the power to rework patterns of thought
  6. If uncertainty is anxiety-provoking, create some sense of certainty through structure and routine. If you need time in the morning to journal and set intentions, make sure you have that time carved out. Does meditation help to centre and ground yourself? Pop a reminder in your phone at the same time every day to come to this exercise
  7. “It’s not joy that makes us grateful, it’s gratitude that makes us joyful” says Brene Brown – and this is scientifically proven, by the way. Every morning and/or evening, take a few minutes to write a list of 5 things you are grateful for. They can be seriously mundane like “the warming colour of my bedroom light” or more specific “Spotify’s amazing algorithm that always gets my music taste right”. Again, this will help you to hold onto the magic in the moment

We know that many people will be starting university next month, so, stay tuned for upcoming blog posts on creating structures and routines in new, less familiar environments and in the absence of our usual support structures.

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