Everything is so strange at the moment, everything is confusing, everything is uncertain.
No one knows what is happening, no one knows (really) how to handle the situation, no one knows what this means for the future.
But, I can tell you who certainly thinks they know, my eating disorder – (stupid) anorexia. She is harping up left, right and centre at the moment…
- Don’t go the shops, you might come into contact with someone who has the virus and pass it on to your family – why would you put others in danger for your own selfishness?
- If you don’t eat, you won’t have to go shopping so you won’t need to come into contact with anyone and there’s less chance of you giving the virus to someone more vulnerable.
- Okay, well just cut down on what you eat… skip your snacks (we all know that spiral), if you skip them then you’re saving food for your family so they won’t have to buy as much and so there will be more food available in the shops for those more vulnerable and in need than you.
- You’re not being as productive at the moment, your concentration isn’t 100% – you haven’t earned the right to eat.
- You’ve literally not moved all day, you don’t need food to keep you going.
- Food is not fuel, food is fattening.
The list could go on. But, although the eating disorder is doing everything it can to pull me back into its grips, I’ve noticed that (for once lol) I’ve not been listening.
I’m learning that in stressful, uncontrollable situations, it is only normal for my brain to lean back on the coping mechanism it has known longest – anorexia. So, of course, the eating disorder thoughts are going to be a bit louder and more disruptive at the moment. I’m learning to be gentle with myself and my mind. Instead of beating myself up for noticing the eating disorder more in these scary times, I’ve let myself have those thoughts, given the eating disorder some ‘air time’ and then thanked it for its useless advice (and ignored its crap).
I’m learning to sit with the feelings of overwhelming guilt that I’ve been feeling as a result of this, and instead of taking it out on food, I’ve been finding new ways to distract myself. I’m trying to see these thoughts and feelings as irrational. I am so lucky to be in the position I am during this crazy pandemic (at home surrounded by my family, distracted with uni work, with access to WiFi, surrounded by supportive friends – ONLINE ATM etc) so instead of feeling guilty, I’m learning to feel grateful.
So, from me to me (for when I forget to listen to rational Emma), and from me to you, here is my pretty boring advice on dealing with mental health right now:
While it’s important to keep up to date with Covid-19 developments, it is equally as important (if not, more so) that you keep a check on your mental health over the coming weeks and months, to ensure you’re best placed to handle any impending challenges with resilience and strength.
- Distinguishing between what you can and can’t control is a key component of managing your mental health and lessening anxiety. By focusing your energy and attention on the factors within your control, you’re giving your mind something practical and helpful to focus on.
- It’s important to acknowledge how you are feeling, rather than dismissing ‘negative’ emotions or beating yourself up for feeling them. Accept that you feel the way you do, and that it may be what you need to feel in this moment.
- Writing down your thoughts and feelings can be a great way to express emotions.
- Have self-compassion – be kind to yourself. Showing yourself a little kindness can often be the best way to help keep anxiety under control.
- Self-isolation might become a very real experience for many of us over the coming months, but that doesn’t mean we can’t stay connected with loved ones and the outside world. If you’re worried about being alone, try to prepare in advance by reaching out to your community, friends or family.
- Don’t force yourself to be productive. The current climate is crap enough without the added guilt of not learning Latin, doing Tai Chi or making artisan bread from scratch. If you woke up, brushed your teeth, ate something and spent 15 minutes not thinking about the Coronavirus then well done. That IS an achievement. Sometimes the best thing to do is just be, feel things and get through. Survive. That is more than enough.
- Talking. Talk about how you feel. You’re not going through this alone. WE’RE not going through this alone. It is okay to struggle. Struggling is understandable and reaching out for help does not make you weak.
- It is okay to feel what you feel now.
Ultimately, the difference in how we get through these uncertain times will come down to how we think about the situation. We can’t predict the future, and if we focus on our fears and doubt our ability to cope with what will happen, we will naturally feel anxious. If, on the other hand, we focus on the present and what we can control, as well as our strength and resilience, then together we will get through this difficult time.
Stay safe. Big hugs (virtually), E x
PS!! If you haven’t already – watch this: