Nicola is a member of our online community
Change happens to all of us, and can bring on challenges to all of us: older, younger, those living alone, those living with family, employees, employers. Everyone’s story and how they cope will change is individual.
I wanted to write this article to reflect and to share some of the feelings I experience when change happens as someone with an eating disorder and what strategies I have personally found useful during this time of change. Many of the strategies that worked for me are not exclusively relevant for those with an eating disorder and I’m hoping that people can relate to them.
I love a good routine. Knowing what is happening and when. So, for example, when the pandemic happened, I told myself that because my lifestyle had changed and there were certain things I could no longer do, I would need to adapt my routine accordingly. I thought about a lot of things- what my new exercise routine should be like, when to schedule my meals, what to have for my meals, what to have for snacks, the list goes on. However, one thing I made sure to tell myself is that it is OKAY if this routine has to change. For example, during lockdown my morning did and still does start with a bit of exercise.
However, if I had an awful sleep the night before then I told myself that IT IS OKAY not to get up at the crack of dawn and do a workout that wouldn’t benefit me in the slightest. So, in summary; having a plan and a routine is good but being flexible with this plan is vital.
2. Focus on the Facts
During difficult times anxiety can increase and thoughts can become more irrational. Catastrophizing (assuming the worst will happen), Black and White Thinking (thinking in extremes such as “I am the best” or “I am the worst”, with no in-betweens) and Overgeneralisation (applying one experience to all experiences such as “I messed up doing that thing one time, therefore I will mess up doing it every time”) are just three of the thought patterns that I can and do experience from time to time. Therefore, to try and manage these thoughts I really try to take a step back and look at the situation objectively as an outsider. I reflect on the information that is fact with evidence and the information that is not. This helps to bring my brain back down to earth a bit, I sometimes even recite the facts or myths out loud that I am trying to get my head around. I find it really helps!
Finally, social connections are so important for those with an eating disorder, even more so at a time where we might be more inclined to shut off from the world and become consumed by toxic thoughts. I have tried to actively be the person who initiates interaction with others during this time, whether it is a phone call or a walk. Even though it can be hard to be the initiator, I NEVER regret doing it. Most of the time that connection is number one on my gratitude list for that day. It not only makes me feel better, but I am sure (or I hope) it makes the other person feel uplifted and better connected too. Having these connections has helped take me away from my eating disordered thoughts for a short while. However, at times it has also allowed me to talk about them and I have some fantastic friends who listen without any judgement whatsoever (thanks guys, I really mean it).
On a final note, as tough as the last few years have been, I have to admit that I am a bit scared of things changing again. I missed my friends and family and hobbies and visiting new places, but I had my new routine, which I adapted to and even enjoyed (well, parts of it). Yes, things are going to change again, but hopefully will be gradual, which is re-assuring. The human race can adapt to our surroundings super quick. So, try not think about three weeks down the line and just focus on three hours down the line. With a couple of strategies and tools in your kit bag you will adapt, you will cope, you will thrive.