Even for those who do not have an eating disorder history, sights of empty shelves and people hoarding food and supplies can cause a great deal of anxiety. For those who do or have struggled with disordered eating and exercising mindfully in the past, this challenge can feel like it carries with it an extra heavy burden. Isolation and unstructured time are two places disordered eating and compensatory behaviors can thrive, and thus it is incredibly important to prioritize mental health during these trying times. Although each person’s recovery and challenges are going to look different, here are some general tips that may be helpful to keep in mind when navigating this stressful new terrain.
Know This is An Unprecedented Event
Know first and foremost, this is an absolutely unprecedented modern event. Everything from work to school to our normal routines such as grocery shopping are turned upside down. I say this not to be another article that creates anxiety, but to normalize the chaos that many of us are internalizing. It is true that while all we can control is our response to the chaos, sometimes normalizing difficult external environments can in and of itself be a helpful intervention.
Make a Schedule
Make a schedule if it is helpful. Use the schedule with flexibility if it is helpful. Lose the schedule and mindfully tune into your needs if it is helpful. Only you know the right amount of structure for you and your recovery without learning into too much rigidity.
Talk to Your Healthcare Providers
Talk to your treatment providers if you can. Different healthcare and mental health providers have varying availability, but more and more mental health clinicians are turning to telehealth. If this is not an option and you are in active distress, there are many text and phone hotlines still operating. Mental distress is a normal reaction to this level of societal stress, and you are not alone.
Be Thoughtful About Social Media
Be incredibly mindful of social media. Technology right now can feel like everything. It connects us to the world, but it can also overwhelm us with too much information. Diet culture is rearing its head everywhere, from Coronavirus memes joking about eating all of the quarantine snacks to social media influences hawking harmful products. While humor can be healing, normalized diet culture can definitely be the exact opposite. Pay attention to your body and how it feels as you are moving through social media.
Check-in with yourself and your emotions. Take frequent breaks and do activities that you find healing and ground you in the present moment.
Take Care of your Mental Health
Know that while some may be learning an instrument or writing a novel, many of us are just trying to emotionally and mentally survive. And that’s ok. In our culture that all too often prizes overwork and production, consider giving yourself permission to rebel and unapologetically prioritize your rest and well-being.
Know that your eating and movement habits might look and feel different right now, and that is ok too. Practice mindful self-compassion; knowing that you are not alone in this experience, and being mindful of potential thoughts, feelings, and triggers that may arise. Consider working with a therapist.
Practice Radical Acceptance
This DBT skill calls for radically accepting all aspects of a situation, as well as one’s reactions and feelings to it. This does not mean resigning or liking everything that is going on. But it does call for acknowledgment and acceptance. Sometimes, that in and of itself can be an incredibly powerful place from which to start.