11 Tips to Maintain Recovery in a College Environment
Nicole Siegfried, Ph.D., CEDS
A new year at college is exciting, but also brings with it a good amount of stress. Challenges such as a new apartment or dorm, different roommates, and new class schedules can be especially difficult for those working to maintain eating disorder recovery. Alsana is dedicated to helping all individuals fully recover from eating disorders. Here are 11 tips we’ve found most helpful for maintaining recovery in college.
The start of a new school year often means moving away from your outpatient team. For this reason, many consider the new semester a natural time to reduce or end outpatient therapy. However, times of change usually call for increased support. To help meet your needs during the school year, we recommend the following tips.
- Continue professional support, such as outpatient or intensive outpatient (IOP) with a therapist, dietitian, and medical professional.
- Attend a local or campus-sponsored eating disorder support group.
- Establish regular check-ins with a trusted friend or family member about what’s going well in recovery and where you could use extra support.
Meal Planning & Prep
With the rush of a new school year and the busyness of classes, it’s important to plan ahead for meals.
- Review your daily schedule with your dietitian and decide when you’ll eat meals and snacks. Maybe you have a break in classes Tuesday & Thursday for your morning snack, while on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday you’ll need to eat while walking from literature to government class. Find those times that will work for you and make a routine out of it.
- Meal plan in advance. We all know how busy your days can get in college. Choose your least busy day of the week to plan your meals and go grocery shopping. Your dietitian can help you with the meal planning process.
- Prepare meals and snacks ahead of time. After you’ve been grocery shopping, do some meal prep to save time on busy school days. For example, you could separate snacks into small baggies that you can take on the go. You can also chop up chicken for next Thursday’s soup before storing it in the freezer, and then set an alarm on your phone to start thawing it on Wednesday night. Taking a little time out of meals and snacks can make a huge difference in following your meal plan on a busy day.
- Prepare for the unexpected. Be ready for that last-minute review session or other unexpected changes to your schedule by keeping a few non-perishable snacks in your bag, such as protein bars. This simple act helps you be accountable for your recovery and avoid situations where you have an “excuse” not to follow your meal plan.
An important part of maintaining recovery during college is finding the right balance of activities and downtime. You want to keep structure in your day without being overwhelmed by it.
- Take a lighter class-load. Twelve credits are often the right amount for a student working on their recovery.
- Keep extracurricular activities light. While hobbies that you truly enjoy can give meaning and excitement to your time at college, adding too many can take away the joy and become overwhelming.
- Keep your days structured, but try not to overdo it. Leave time for yourself, your recovery, and the activities you enjoy to keep your stress level down.
- Spend time with healthy friends in a healthy environment. Healthy connections are an important part of recovery. Create time for friends who support your recovery.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get the Help You Need
If you find that you need more support, reach out for help. You may find that increased outpatient support, group therapy, or enrolling in a nearby IOP program is enough to keep you stable throughout the semester. And if you find that school is too much for you right now, there is no shame in taking time off for more intense help, such as partial hospitalization or residential treatment. Getting the right level of treatment will make your full recovery not only possible, but probable.
Flexible IOP Programming at Alsana
To help college students access quality recovery support without sacrificing their education, Alsana offers flexible hours for IOP programming. The program is available in four-hour blocks from 7:00 am-7:00 pm Monday-Friday, and 7:00 am-3:00 pm Saturdays and Sundays. You can choose to come at the time that best fits your school schedule, or the time of day when you need the most support.
Programming includes individual sessions with your therapist and dietitian, group sessions, meal support, and access to a virtual support group.
Flexible IOP programming is available at the following Alsana locations.
Get Support Now
Getting through college while maintaining eating disorder recovery is no easy task, and there’s no shame in seeking support. If you’d like to have a confidential conversation about the level of support you need during school, call us at (855) 915-0213. You can also call or fill out a form to discuss our flexible IOP program or any other questions you may have. And don’t forget, you’re always welcome to join our free virtual support groups. We look forward to hearing from you soon!