This summer I’m fortunate to have the help of an intern, Anna Heltemes. She’ll be my guest blogger every other week for the summer. I’ll be previewing and approving all her posts and will assure that they all adhere to Health At Every Size (HAES) principles. 

Meet Anna:

Hi, I’m Anna Heltemes, a junior at Iowa State University studying Psychology. I have been in recovery from my eating disorder for 3 months. I want to eventually become a mental health counselor who helps others with eating disorders. I know how much pressure it can put on the individual and their loved ones, and I want to be able to use my experience to aid others in regaining control of their life. I am excited to be interning with Hope Network LLC for this summer!

This last year has shown me how easy it is to get lost in our thoughts and worries. It is harder to find a way to redirect your mind towards what needs your attention in the moment. With my spring semester at college finishing up, I was able to take a step back and see all of the highs and lows of this year. I was able to reflect on my experiences and remember the good times I got to spend with my loved ones. Looking back though, I also recognize the numerous amount of times I was not present with my friends while having game night, instead being whisked away into thoughts of anxiety, insecurity, and uncertainty. 

When someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, it can be tempting to want to worry about them constantly and try to fix it your way. But, that tends to cause more harm than good. The most important thing you can do for yourself and the individual you love, is to stay grounded. One of the greatest ways to dothat is to practice mindfulness. “Mindfulness meditation asks us to suspend judgment and unleash our natural curiosity about the workings of the mind, approaching our experience with warmth and kindness, to ourselves and others.” (Mindful Communications & Such, 2021). Mindfulness is all about observing our experiences with a nonjudgmental frame of mind and with a loving perspective.

For example, when I got pulled away by future and past events while playing games with my friends, reminding myself that those are just thoughts and that what is most important right now is enjoying the time I have with my friends. Approaching those thoughts with a kind mind and recognizing that worrying is part of our brain will help you to detach from them and gain back power within your own mind. 

How do you start practicing mindfulness? Mindfulness meditation can take many forms. One of the easiest ways to start practicing is by focusing on your breathing. Start by taking a comfortable seat or lie on your back. Then, bring your attention to your breath. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. Can you feel your chest or stomach rise and fall? When your mind wanders, as it will do because its job is to think, kindly bring your attention back to the present moment with your breath. This is an easy exercise that you can practice anywhere, for any amount of time. The more you practice, the easier it will be to use the same skills in daily life.

Being a human is tough work. Especially when you have so much going on in your own head plus a lot going on with the ones you love. Take good care of yourself first, as that will help you to be able to take care of others. Be kind to yourself; each day you have the chance to reground and to start anew. You will always have your breath with you, so use it as a tool that will guide you to where your attention is supposed to be.