Life is challenging enough for most of us. However, if you are experiencing an eating disorder, or are recovering from one, the pandemic and lockdowns can have caused even more difficulties. Increased anxiety, empty supermarket shelves, and more time alone with our thoughts can all exacerbate managing eating disorder issues and challenge recovery.
Eating disorders and control
People who present with eating disorders sometimes focus on their feelings of control; however, many of us are now trying our best to exist in a situation that we have very little control over. If you are struggling to manage your eating disorder during this “new normal,” read on for some top tips to help you cope in this difficult time.
Social Media Safety
Social media can be a positive force. If you are feeling isolated, it can be a useful tool to allow you to connect with loved ones. Additionally, it can be beneficial to follow positive or informative accounts, such as those ran by mental health or eating disorder charities. But, social media can also have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing – especially if you are struggling with an eating disorder.
To minimise this, try unfollowing triggering accounts, such as accounts that promote diets and unrealistic body standards. Remember, it is always OK to remove negative forces from your life, whether that is offline or online. It can also be helpful to set limits on your social media consumption, to ensure that you are not continuously scrolling through content or refreshing news sites. Instead, focus on engaging in meaningful activities that you enjoy away from a screen.
Managing your routine
Many of us were used to a pre-existing routine to follow, such as for work, school or childcare. However, lockdown has removed this structure, which can make our weeks feel empty and long. Try creating your own routine using a digital or paper calendar. Make sure you set regular times for meals, enjoyable activities, gentle activity, self-care, necessary tasks and get plenty of sleep.
Be kind to yourself, always. Remember that thoughts are not always factual, and negative self-talk can cause your mood and behaviour to suffer. Make a conscious effort to avoid thinking this way about yourself. It may feel awkward at first, but positive self-talk is a skill that can be practised and improved over time.
Also remember, it is perfectly normal to be struggling in such a difficult time. If you are struggling to manage your thoughts, try noting down any common themes or thoughts that distress you. This could be about your body image or unhealthy behaviours like constant weighing and body monitoring. Being aware of how you think and act when feeling unwell may help you to avoid distressing thoughts and behaviours that exacerbate your mental health. You might need the support of a professional to help you process this further.
Eating disorders can thrive in isolation. Reach out to loved ones regularly, and schedule time to talk and socialise into your routine. You can also try sharing what signs someone might be able to notice if you are beginning to feel worse, and ask if they can check up on you regularly. There are online support groups and helplines that may help you to feel less alone.
If you think you may be struggling with an eating disorder, contact your GP as soon as you can. There are professionals and organisations who can help you to manage your mental health, such as BEAT Eating Disorders. Additionally, you can call the Samaritans FREE on 116 123 if you are ever in a crisis.
Locally, Dorset Mind offer their Restored Eating Disorder service for people aged 16 upwards, that offers 1-2-1 mentoring and an online support group.
Special thanks to Dorset Mind Ambassador Lucy Lewis for writing this informative blog.