This pandemic triggers many difficult emotions that can be overwhelming. As I had an eating disorder, which was a key part of the way I dealt with difficult emotions, I am anticipating their appearance, particularly as I am considered a key worker. I’m sure you are anticipating their arrival too.
Over the years, I have developed distraction techniques that help me to cope with these feelings. Hopefully these may work for you.
Now is the time to exercise your brain. Keep your brain active with hobbies and new skills. Reconnect with an old hobby. You have the time to pick up a craft or skill and have the opportunity to get it wrong until you get it right. Or if you’re like me then you can get it horribly wrong but have a great time doing it. Don’t feel pressured to create masterpieces. If you want to paint the Mona Lisa then go ahead, but if you want to colour in patterns then that’s the ticket for you. Keep it as simple as you want. Just get your brain working!
Social distance doesn’t mean social withdrawal. Technology can open avenues that self-isolation would prevent. Just hearing someone’s voice or reading someone’s words is a wonder. Seek out places where you can form bonds. Join Facebook groups or forums that are relevant to your area or your community. If you find the world is overwhelming you while you are struggling with your eating disorder then check out Beat’s new forum: The Sanctuary to chat with people similar to you. Vent your anxieties and frustrations about the virus. Then, stop and discuss something completely irrelevant.
When I was unwell, my first reaction was to be angry. In recent years, I have learned to interrupt the oncoming surge of anger. By recognising my anger, I can acknowledge that: yes, responding angrily may feel great initially, but it won’t in the long run. I write down angry feelings so I can learn how to respond to them in a more appropriate way next time.
My stress often develops into anxiety. This is the way my brain reacts. When I am stressed or anxious, my mantra is simple: you are okay and you are safe. Anxiety and stress can make us feel on edge and uncertain so acknowledging we are safe can make a huge difference. I also use a mindfulness breathing technique: inhale for one count and exhale for one count until I reach ten. If I lose track, I restart at one.
Exercising your brain can alleviate boredom. Exercising your legs can give you a boost of energy. Fresh air and movement is essential in self-isolation. When it gets to lunch, or you are on a day off from work, get out for a walk. Stretch out with yoga. Yogis are now taking their classes online. Open the windows to let some air in. We are now heading into spring, so feel that air on your face!
If you're worried about coronavirus, you can look at our guidance addressing some of the questions around the impact of the illness on eating disorders. You can also join our new online support group, the Sanctuary, set up to support anyone with an eating disorder who may feel worried and isolated right now.
Self-isolation is hard for everyone right now; everyone with an eating disorder is aware that there is pressure on every single person’s mental health.
These two posts, written two years apart, show how Mel managed to overcome a lot of the anxiety she felt around shopping for food.
Covid-19 is doing strange things to my perception, my lungs, my mind. And strangely, I am also thinking… “Phew, I’m glad I’ve been locked up before!”