During times of social distancing, you may find yourself ‘sitting with your emotions’ more often, and may have not have access to tools that might have distracted from uncomfortable feelings.
Coronavirus is understandably causing a lot of stress and anxiety, and we know that things may feel very uncertain right now. If you have an eating disorder, or are supporting someone who does, you might have specific worries or practical concerns to do with the illness or treatment. We’ve listened to the issues you’ve raised and, with the help of eating disorder clinicians, put together the guidance below to try to respond to the most common ones. Carers can find out more about supporting someone during the current situation here.
We also want to reassure you that our support services will continue to be here for you during this time, including putting extra provisions in place, such as our new online group open during helpline hours for anyone with an eating disorder. Our Helpline team is set up for home working and we’ll be ensuring this works smoothly in the coming days, so please do continue to get in touch with us as usual and we’ll do our best to give you the support you deserve. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank our supporters who are fundraising and donating which has meant we are able to continue providing our services at this time.
People with eating disorders don’t necessarily have lower immunity but, per Government guidance, it’s a good idea to try to avoid unnecessary social interaction. It’s also worth speaking to a healthcare professional if you’re worried about your immunity – they can give you more tailored advice and things like recent blood test results may provide more information.
Eating disorders often work to minimise your worries, or make you feel as though your experiences aren’t as serious as other people’s. It may feel as though this concern is backed up by the huge focus on coronavirus, especially if you’re finding it harder to access regular treatment services. But other health issues are not any less important, and those experiencing them still deserve treatment and support.
Many organisations are recommending that people look after their mental health at this time even if they don’t have a current mental health issue. Being kind to and taking care of yourself is really essential now as much as ever, so think about the best ways you can do that, and always contact the Beat Helpline if you need some extra support.
Your therapist may offer telephone- or video-based appointments even if you can’t see them in person. If this hasn’t yet come up, ask them about what plans they have in place. We know it isn’t a replacement for therapy, but please remember Beat’s Helpline is also available if you need someone to talk to – visit our support services page to see what we can offer you.
If you need support urgently, get in touch with your local crisis team.
Services considered “non-urgent” are likely to be reduced and we know this is really concerning. Speak with your GP or a relevant member of your healthcare team as soon as possible to ask them about what they’ll be putting in place to accommodate patients’ needs.
If you’re having to stay in the house and can’t get out to pick up prescriptions, see if someone can do this for you or ask about whether your pharmacy has a delivery service. Remember that if someone picks it up for you they will need to confirm details such as your address.
It could be good to talk to people in your support network about meal planning, what foods you feel comfortable with, and what support you can put in place during mealtimes. They can also help you to think about substitutes for things you’re really struggling to get hold of.
Planning in advance and writing things down can help lessen anxiety and encourage you to stick to your plans. You could try a traffic light system on your meal plans, noting which foods are safe (green), challenging but manageable (amber), or very challenging (red) – meals involving more red or amber foods could require more support, and you could plan to have someone with you during those meals, over Skype or FaceTime if they can’t be there in person.
Think about which safe foods have a long shelf life – while we know there are issues with getting hold of non-perishable food in many areas, by planning as far ahead as you can, you may be able to gather the food you need more slowly. You could make a backup plan if you do have to buy more perishable food, and make things in bulk and freeze them. You could also let a group of trusted people know what foods you’re missing so they can pick them up for you if they see them.
If you find having your meals affected is causing you lots of anxiety and making you want to purge or over-exercise, it could be helpful to make a note of distraction techniques to use during and after a meal.
Lots of advice around avoiding the urge to binge is still helpful when thinking about coronavirus. You may find a meal plan helpful, and limiting the likelihood of bingeing due to hunger by eating three regular meals and three regular snacks a day. If your binges are triggered by emotions, a way to support yourself could be thinking through BLAST -are you Bored, Lonely, Angry, Stressed, or Tired? Try and make a list of distractions for each of these categories so you have an action plan for each of these scenarios. It may be that if you’re in isolation someone is there with you and will be able to help take your mind off the idea of bingeing, but there are lots of things you could do on your own, from reading to laundry to playing a game.
Think about whether you could keep food somewhere less accessible – could it be stored in a lockable cupboard that someone else has the key to, for example, or could you even think about storing some food at the houses of friends or family members?
Having to step outside your comfort zone or having to put your food shopping in someone else’s hands can be really scary. If you write your anxieties down or talk about them with another person, this could help them feel less powerful.
There are a few different ways to get hold of food without going to the shops yourself, including getting someone you trust to go for you or ordering online. There may also be a scheme in your area where you can ask a volunteer to collect food for you. Think about what you would feel the most comfortable with. If someone goes to the shops on your behalf, you could speak to them on the phone while they’re there if it would help.
Giving yourself permission to rest if you have to self-isolate is important, but we understand that this can be really challenging. It could be helpful to make a list of reason why it’s important to not compensate if you’re not able to exercise – remember your body still needs nutrition to carry out its normal daily functions. You could also refer back to anything you’ve found helpful in your journey so far so you can remind yourself why it’s so important to sustain positive changes you have made. This may include things like mantras and recovery goals.
The effects of being isolated from others are a really understandable worry for everyone, let alone if this is something that triggers you. Try to keep some structure to your day where possible – little things like getting up at regular times and getting dressed can help you feel better, but you may want to consider a more detailed structure with activities you enjoy or will find a positive distraction like the example below.
|Before 08:30||Wake up||Get dressed|
|09:30 - 10:30||Academic Time||Suduko, crossword, Journalling etc.|
|11:00 - 12:00||Creative Time||Needlework, drawing, play music etc.|
|13:00 - 14:00||TV Time||Box set episode|
|14:00 - 15:00||Chore Time||Laundry, minimal cleaning|
|15:00 - 15:30||Fresh Air||Garden if you have one, sit by open window|
|16:00 - 17:00||Support Time||Phone helpline|
|17:00 - 18:00||Planned Exercise Time||Yoga video|
|19:00 - 21:00||Social Time||Phone friend/ online book club|
|21:30 - 22:00||Wind Down Time||Listen to music/ watch film|
Think about the early warning signs that things are becoming more difficult for you and let other people know – then you can ask them to check in with you each day to see how you’re doing. Think about organising regular catch-ups with loved ones regardless of how you’re feeling, and make use of safe online spaces such as the Beat support groups – we’ve launched a new group, the Sanctuary, to help you stay in touch with people who may share your concerns, and this is open for the same hours as our Helpline.
If you need to self-isolate, the current advice is to do so for seven days if you live alone and fourteen days if you or anyone in your household is displaying symptoms. Try to see the goal of this time as to ‘tread water’: take each half day or less at a time, which may seem less overwhelming then a whole week or two stretched in front of you.
Like many of you, I too am battling an eating disorder during the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, I also lost my mum to end-stage MS two weeks ago.Read More