Eating Disorders and Corona Virus 26/3/2020
This document has been written by myself as an eating disorder patient. I am not a medical expert and would always advise that you seek expert advice for your illness. I suffer from Anorexia, so I may not have covered everything which could effect other eating disorders. I am happy to take feedback to expand or amend this document where necessary.
Am I vulnerable?
At present eating disorders aren’t currently listed within the ‘very vulnerable’ list that the government has provided – this may subsequently change. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t vulnerable though. If you are in contact with your GP or are under eating disorder services it may be advisable to seek advice from them regarding vulnerability and what their recommendations would be. If you are working you may need to seek advice from your occupational health service. If you’ve not sought help before, but are still worried it is okay to contact your GP for advice – use email or telephone to make initial contact.
Looking after yourself
Try to go out as little as possible, only spend time with people in your household, wash your hands frequently – as soon as you get in the house if you have been outdoors or handled deliveries. Avoid touching things if you are able to when out exercising – use hand sanitizer if available. Wipe down surfaces and door handles regularly in home. Limit checking of the news and social media – made a commitment to only check news updates once a day if you are able to. Plan a relaxing activity before bed, such as reading or a bath – avoid checking your phone just before bed.
Remember that when things feel out of control it’s easy to think that controlling your eating can control the situation, but a better way to control your situation is to focus on staying well and using coping strategies to support this. Remember that you do have an illness and there is no need to feel guilty about needing support or food and finding things a struggle. It is a difficult time for everyone, but an illness does not stop because there is a pandemic.
The current government rules will have caused a significant change to daily routines. Be kind to yourself and give yourself time to adjust, it will take time. The following strategies may be helpful:
Check in with any support services you are under. If you cannot reach them by phone try email. Check how they will maintain support, they may be able to offer telephone or video support. Keep in contact with friends and family – don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice, look at different contact methods such as Skype, Zoom or What’s App. If you don’t like to be on video and don’t like the telephone there is also an option to use text messenger on various video chat services.
Beat provide chat room and telephone support https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk
ABC provide telephone support every day and Skype on Thursday. They are a small charity so you may need to try them a few times http://www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk
Plan your day
An entire day of free time can feel overwhelming if you aren’t at work or college. Plan your time the night before, giving timings if it is helpful. Research activities you can carry out from home. Try an include a variety of things in a day. If your studies have been paused consider contacting your education provider to seek advice about how you can continue learning, there may be recommended reading materials or work that you can continue with at home. You could consider setting up a learning group with some other people within your course.
There are many free online learning courses – Open University, Future Learn or free Level 2 courses which can be studied online and used on your CV.
Consider learning a new skill- use YouTube videos, mindful photography, gardening, card making for example. Many groups are using online platforms to keep their groups running such as well-being support and online choirs. Look after your own self care, it can be easy to not bother if you aren’t going out, but sometimes it can help. Take a look at films on I Player, documentaries on You Tube, free audio books, free prime trials and meditation or distraction apps on your phone. Try to avoid documentaries or films that are associated to your illness. The same goes for internet forums which aren’t recovery focussed. Some local organisations are looking for volunteers to make telephone calls to vulnerable or isolated people – you can contact them directly or the NHS are also looking for this type of support: https://www.england.nhs.uk/2020/03/your-nhs-needs-you-nhs-call-for-volunteer-army/
If you are spending time in your home a lot it’s important it feels comfortable. Whilst keeping exercise to a minimum you could consider sorting through items to go to charity shops once lock down is lifted, organising photos and files on your computer, sorting out your paperwork- getting rid of what can be shredded. Painting pictures to display on the walls or making collages of things which make you happy. Try not to use chores as incidental exercise.
Pull out any workbooks or notes which you have from therapy and review them. You could consider starting a journal or blog to record your experiences through this difficult time or even writing a book! Look up online workbooks – for example https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself
Read through any cards or letters you have been given to remind yourself of your strengths.
Panic buying, busy shops and limited food ranges will be challenging. Try to problem solve what can help these difficulties. Can you get a family member or friend to shop for you? Can you find out from other local people when a shop may be quieter? Try to plan for limited food supply options – come up with alternative things you could eat if your safe foods are not available. If you are struggling to eat because you can’t get your safe foods consider talking to a health care provider about nutritional supplements. Online shopping is hard to find, but you may be able to contact local shops to arrange for deliveries. If cooking or food preparation is difficult consider batch cooking meals or look into local companies delivering meals. Meal plan your week.
The current government guidelines state we should only be taking one session of exercise per day. If you’ve previously taken more that this plan how you could use the time instead. Ideally it is better to rest, but if you feel you need to take additional exercise try to access gentle guided exercise, such as yoga or stretching videos online. If you have an outside space consider finding ways to rest outside, such as bird watching, drawing, photography or gentle gardening. The amount of time or distance we can take exercise for may change if the government apply more restrictions, consider seeking support about planning for a change in advance and how you would cope.
A final acknowledgement that this is a huge struggle for everyone suffering from an eating disorder – please keep reaching out.