Coping with Eating Disorder Recovery in a Pandemic

While other people turned to comfort food to cope with the stress of the pandemic, I found myself faced with a different urge: the urge to restrict.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended routines, coping strategies, and support systems for people in eating disorder recovery. If you feel like you’re on the brink of relapse, you’re not alone: According to the NHS, hospitalisations for eating disorders are up 32 percent since 2017-18.

That’s not to say relapse is inevitable. Far from it. However, with the pandemic disrupting everyday life to its core, it’s more important than ever for people with eating disorders to find healthy ways to feel in charge of their lives.

Four Big Changes the Pandemic Has Brought to ED Recovery — And How to Cope

1. Disrupted Routines

Many of us rely on structure and routine to manage our eating disorders. Attending work or school, socializing with friends, and engaging in hobbies outside of the house keeps our minds focused on positive things and off of disordered habits. A daily routine also helps us figure out an eating pattern that works and stick to a meal plan.

When all of that gets upended, it’s natural to feel stressed out. However, you can recreate a healthy routine at home. Start your day with a walk to mimic a “commute,” follow set hours for working or distance learning, and plan your evenings around at-home hobbies, fitness, and virtual social engagements.

2. Social Isolation

Speaking of socializing: Many of us are feeling especially isolated from our support systems right now. However, social distancing doesn’t have to lead to loneliness. If you’re living alone, consider getting a COVID-conscious flatmate or moving in with family for a time. Eating disorders thrive in isolation. No matter where you live, you can socialize, attend support groups, and get help virtually thanks to video calling platforms.

3. Cabin Fever

Whether you’re quarantining alone, with flatmates, or family, being stuck at home likely has you feeling a bit on edge. You might not be able to spend much time out of the house these days, but you don’t have to live like a shut-in either. When stress and negativity start affecting the energy and relationships in the house, disperse bad energy by decluttering, cleaning doors and windows, and letting fresh air in. If there’s tension between you and your housemate, smudging and reciting positive affirmations is a fun, healing way to clear the air.

4. More Scrolling

Time on social media has spiked 36 percent during the pandemic, with young people ages 18-24 spending the most time online each day. While the internet can be a great way to keep up with the news and connect with friends during the pandemic, the wrong kind of media consumption is bad for your mental health. Not only are we spending too much time doomscrolling, we’re also falling back into social media habits that hurt our self-image. Luckily, this one’s an easy fix: If you’re not ready to delete Instagram altogether, remove any and all social media influencers who idealize thin bodies and replace them with body-positive and body-neutral follows.

The pandemic has been hard on everyone, but for those of us in eating disorder recovery, the stakes feel a lot higher. Remember that as isolating as life may feel right now, there’s a lot of support out there if you know where to look. Whether you need help accessing counseling and psychotherapy, group support, or content from people who know what it’s like, First Steps is here to provide non-judgemental support to aid your eating disorder recovery.

Contributed by Jennifer Scott