5 Self-Help Tips For Managing Your Eating Disorder During COVID-19
The uncertainty of the Covid-19 crisis can make anxiety and worry, debilitating and confusing. This may nudge somebody for the first time into mental health concerns, and may push those already with a fragile mind into worsening mental health.
Although self-isolation and social distancing are crucial for managing the current health crisis, both situations can be particularly challenging to people struggling with eating disorders.
You may experience heightened anxiety due to the disruption in your daily routine and structure, that can leave you feeling sad, angry or out of control. You might be scared that being unable to exercise and follow your normal meal plan will worsen your eating disorder, and cause you to return to unhelpful behaviours, such as binge-eating and purging, in order to relieve your tension and cope with the uncertainty.
Eating disorders can often be accompanied with other mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, perfectionism and low self-worth. The current forced isolation due to COVID-19 can further add to the struggle of feeling disconnected from others, or feeling trapped in a negative cycle of obsessive thoughts around your food, weight and eating. Perhaps you are unable to engage in the activities that previously helped you distract yourself from your eating disorder.
We have put together 5 self-help tips to help you manage your eating disorder during the pandemic, so that anxiety and stress around food, eating and your weight does not become overwhelming.
Start small; do one small thing every day that makes you feel good – a healthy new mini habit – this then becomes the beginning of adapting to a new healthy routine, and will help prevent relapse.
1. STRUCTURE YOUR DAY
It is normal to experience feelings of anxiety, fear, frustration, boredom and loneliness as a result of being self-isolated. Are you worried that the lack of routine will interfere with your recovery?
Keeping some structure in your day, and having a plan of the tasks that you would like to accomplish each day, will help you feel in control and maintain a form of routine during this challenging period.
You could try small things like getting up and going to bed at the same time, eating at certain times of the day, and spending time with family or your housemates. Some people may find it helpful to create a plan for the day ahead, with activities they enjoy doing integrated around their work schedule.
If you don’t have a job at the moment and feel that you lack purpose in your life, taking up a new hobby or setting new goals will give you a sense of achievement and meaning during this uncertain period. Self-isolation has provided us with the gift of time to read more books, learn a new language or sign up for a self / professional development course.
2. SET ASIDE WORRY TIME
You may be feeling out of control and overwhelmed as a result of the pandemic and finding yourself reaching out for food to soothe or distract yourself from your emotions.
Acknowledge the emotions and distress you are experiencing, use an evening journal to note them down, and take deep breaths to ‘surf’ the peak of your emotions. This will help you both tolerate and soothe your emotions without the need to engage in emotional eating.
Set aside worry time each day where for 15-20 minutes you compassionately challenge your worries and thoughts with a rational mind, finding a more helpful thing to say to yourself. This will help to contain your thoughts, and build a series of positive things you can say to yourself.
If your anxiety feels a 4 out of 10, try to find an activity that calms you down, such as meditating, going for a walk, taking a hot shower or calling a friend. If your anxiety feels an 8 out of 10, it is important to have a close friend or family member you can reach out to share your worries, or contact Beat Helpline for extra support if you are in a moment of crisis.
3. PLAN YOUR MEALS
Are you worried that you won’t be able to follow your meal plan because of certain foods being out of stock? It might be a good idea to ask someone you trust to support you with planning your meals, and ask if they will go to the shops with you to buy some foods you feel safe to eat.
If you are unable to obtain some of the foods you like, make a list of some alternative options that you feel able to eat. You might find it helpful to use a traffic light system to choose foods, for example green for foods that are safe to eat, amber for challenging but manageable food choices and red for foods that are very difficult.
If you need to self-isolate and you are unable to go to the shops to buy groceries, you could ask a loved one who you trust to do your shopping, or do an online shopping order instead.
4. NOURISH YOUR BODY WITH NUTRITION & FOCUS ON THE BASICS
You might be feeling angry or anxious that you can’t exercise or go to the gym as normal, and scared this may cause you to gain weight. It is important to use the self-isolation period as an opportunity to slow down, rest and nourish your body with healthy foods to maintain good physical and mental health.
Explore some light exercise you can do at home, maybe an online class, stretching or meditative yoga to help you stay active. Remind yourself of your motivation and intention to recover from your eating disorder, and focus on small steps of change.
5. STAY CONNECTED WITH YOUR LOVED ONES
Maintaining contact with your family and friends is crucial for managing your mental health and staying positive. Even though we are living with social distancing, you can still stay in touch with your loved ones through scheduling regular phone and video calls.
You could plan to have dinner, watch a movie or play games with friends over Zoom, FaceTime, or Skype.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or worried, it is important to have someone to reach out to. Expressing your worries with someone you trust can help you feel calm and safe. In turn, this can help you access a more positive mindset where you can rationalise your thoughts.
The current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) global situation is affecting us all. If you are feeling very overwhelmed, it is okay to need that extra support. Our psychotherapists, counsellors, psychiatrists and nutrition team are standing by to provide you with online therapy and support through these difficult times.
The WeightMatters Team works with all aspects of mental health and wellbeing, combining psychotherapy and counselling to help you manage your eating disorder symptoms, with nutritional and lifestyle interventions to support you in building optimal physical health.
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