Corona Virus Diaries: Episode 4— Wellness and Recovery During a Pandemic
Updated: Jun 16, 2020
In my last blog post, Corona Virus Diaries: Episode 3— Eating Disorders in a Pandemic, I talked about how the Covid-19 Pandemic has influenced the eating disorder community, and why it’s important to create an environment that is supportive of all people. I want to thank everyone who took the time to read this post and for engaging in this topic; I truly appreciate your support and I hope it was meaningful to you!
Today, I want to continue on the topic of eating disorders during a pandemic; however this time, I want to focus on a few ways we can stay well, in balance, and in true recovery during this time. Although this post is written through the lens of eating disorder recovery, it is meant for anyone looking for ways to create a supportive, compassionate, and healing environment for themselves—both during the age of Covid-19— and after all of this is over!
I also want to state that this is not a replacement for professional help, but a supplement that may create a more beneficial environment for you while living through the Covid-19 Pandemic. If you need more concrete support, the section in this post about the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) will hopefully be helpful to you during this difficult time!
And now, without further ado, here is my list of the best ways to practice wellness and recovery during Covid-19 and beyond!
How Can I be Kind to You Today?
Diet Culture teaches us that our bodies are things that need to change; that even during the depths of global pandemic, we should be focusing our energy on losing weight, doing the next best workout, and eating “cleaner” than we ever have before. We need to throw this kind of thinking out the window!
Our bodies are doing the best they can during this stressful and uncertain time. We have changed our routines, heightened our anxieties, and are experiencing something entirely unknown to us. If your body changes as a result of the *pandemic* remind yourself that it’s okay. You are loved. You are still a good person. You are enough.
We humans are the only species that are constantly at odds within ourselves. It’s like an everlasting tennis match with our minds on one side, and our bodies on the other. We like to think we can outsmart our bodies— that we know what’s best for them— but that’s not always the case.
The miraculous thing is that your body will tell you what it needs— you just have to listen. Take a headache, for example. Out of the blue, you get a horrible headache. This could be for a variety of reasons; maybe you’re tired. Maybe you’re dehydrated. Maybe you’re hungover? What your body is basically saying is, “I need X, please listen to me.”
So why is it when it comes to meeting our bodies' needs, we are so bad at listening?
Today, I challenge you to really listen to your body. Does your body really want to go on a run, or does it actually need a day of rest? Is your body craving something salty? Perhaps that’s because your body needs the sodium and it’s seeking comfort; remind yourself that food has no moral value attached to it and that it is not innately “good” or “bad” no matter how much Diet Culture tires to convince your mind otherwise. Put down your tennis racket, listen to your body, and give it some love today.
In a NEDA Connections video series, NEDA’s Chief Policy & Strategy Officer, Chevese Turner, gave a talk on The Impact of Weight Stigma during Covid-19. In this talk, she encouraged listeners to ask their bodies an important question:
How can I be kind to you today?
I encourage all of us to start asking our bodies this question, and really take in its answer. After all, our bodies are not there for us to change, alter, or coerce into a mold; instead, they are a part of us, and they deserve compassion, love, and a mind who listens to their needs.
It is so, SO important that we stay connected during this time. Eating disorders thrive in isolation, and they thrive when we keep secrets. If you are struggling right now, tell someone. Don’t keep it in. 💙
When I started having some ED related thoughts the other week, it made me really down. It was so scary for me to see that after 6 years of recovery, ED thoughts could pop up out of the blue. I am extremely fortunate to have a great support system, and a partner who is supportive during difficult times. I told him what ED thoughts I was having, and we came up with a little plan of how I can stay well and in recovery—and many of them are on this list!
The ability to connect and share your experiences and struggles with someone is both cathartic and needed during this time. Although it can be really scary to admit you’re struggling, it’s so important to be honest and open with someone you trust who also supports you. If you aren’t living with a person who supports your recovery or wellness, reach out to someone who does. Call or text a friend, use Zoom, or reach out to your treatment team if that’s something you have. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone!
One of the tings that really helped me feel calmer about the situation was learning that many, many other people in recovery have also experienced ED thoughts recently. This knowledge not only made me feel less alone, but it also gave me assurance that it’s actually completely normal and unsurprising given the current environment and stressful nature of the pandemic.
I recently listened to a podcast on this topic that I could not recommend more! It's called Peace Meal, and it is a program put on by The Emily Program (an eating disorder treatment center in the US). One of their most recent episodes was called Eating Disorders During Corona Virus and was with author and psychotherapist, Thom Rutledge. In the podcast, Rutledge talked about why eating disorders and eating disorder thoughts could be stronger during this time. He said, “In times of stress, expect it.” To me, this makes perfect sense. Often times, eating disorders act as a coping mechanism. They promise control, consistency, and stability. Of course, what you get includes none of those things, but when you’re sick, you really buy into it.
During this stressful time, it’s unsurprising that one’s old coping mechanism will pop up and promise the illusion of security. What’s important, is the ability to separate yourself from the ED thoughts, and ask yourself,
What need is my eating disorder trying to help me meet?
Control? Security? Love? Whatever the need is, remember to show yourself some compassion. Just because you have an ED thought, does not mean that it needs to become an action. Stay connected, and remember that you are not alone during this time!!
Watch Who You Follow
One of the most helpful things to do if you are starting to feel triggered by your eating disorder is to reconsider who you are following on social media. I recently took stock of the people I followed on my small-but-mighty Instagram account Katharinehn (sorry, shameless plug there) and was astonished to find that I followed about 100 influencers with the same face, the same body, the same hair— and all of these people wore the same designer shoes while traveling to the same exotic destinations. I mean, yawn! Not only did my scroll sessions as of late become wholly uninspiring, they also were making me feel badly about myself. That is not okay!
So, I started examining my feed, and unfollowed anyone whose page didn’t align with what I need at the moment and who doesn’t support my recovery. Here are a few guidelines to help you with your social media quarantine cleaning:
· Unfollow anyone who makes you feel badly about yourself!
· Unfollow anyone who promotes Diet Culture’s values. You do not need to change your body to
be worthy of love. Now read that 10 more times.
· Follow people with all kinds of bodies!!
· Follow people whose actions inspire you!!!
· Follow people who make you feel joyful!
Already this small change has made such a difference, so much that I now close Instagram feeling positive and inspired— I know. It’s a whole new world! Here are a few accounts I follow that I’ve been enjoying lately:
· Literally any dog account, ever
NEDA, NEDA, NEDA (I saved the best for last!)
The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) is the United States’ largest nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders. It is an incredible organization, and one that I’m proud to have spent over 4 years working with through their NEDA Walks division.
In ordinary times, NEDA raises awareness and educates the public on eating disorders. Additionally, NEDA funds research in the eating disorder field, instigates legislative advocacy initiatives at the local, state, and national level, all while providing support for families and individuals affected by eating disorders. If you are looking to learn more about eating disorders or take the first steps towards getting support, here is the link to NEDA's resources. 💙 If you follow the link, you'll learn more about the following resources that NEDA offers the public:
· Online Screening Tool—to see if it's time to get professional support
· Helpline— both online and over the phone
· US Treatment Database
· FAQs about Eating Disorders
· Ways to help a loved one
· Recovery and Relapse
· Free and Low Cost Support Options
But as we know, these are no ordinary times. In addition to their usual services, NEDA has created a list of Covid-19 Resources to provide support to those struggling during the Covid-19 Pandemic. My favorite? The online NEDA Walks!
Virtual NEDA Walks
NEDA Walks alone are incredible events that build community, celebrate recovery, raise awareness and funds, and support those affected by eating disorders. Since the start of these events back in 2009, there are now over 95 Walks across the US, including the Bend NEDA Walk that I founded back in 2016 (Go Bend!!) Of course, these events cannot take place during the current times, but NEDA is putting on virtual walks that are really fantastic! I have "been" to the past two Sunday walks, and it's great to feel connected with the community, acknowledge the difficulties the pandemic brings, promote body positivity, and celebrate recovery.
Right now, NEDA has a bunch of upcoming Virtual NEDA Walks that you can attend from the comfort of your own home. Take a look at this link to see if there is a date that works with your schedule, and get ready to be inspired!
NEDA Connections Video Series
If you're looking for a way to feel connected and supported during this time, I recommend checking out the NEDA Connections Video Series. Every business day, NEDA shares a new video covering all things related to eating disorders and Covid-19. Advocates, mental health professionals, NEDA staff and volunteers, and researches share their wisdom and provide support and valuable information related to staying well and getting through these tough times. I highly recommend this video series!
There are SO many other excellent resources on NEDA's website that are in direct response to the Covid-19 Pandemic. From an Instagram account that offers meal support to virtual living room talks with mental health professionals, this organization is really doing a lot to help those affected by eating disorders. If you are struggling, please consider NEDA as a safe place for you to get support.
Thank you to everyone reading this post. I hope it is helpful for you, and that it offers a variety of ways to create an environment for you that promotes wellness, balance, and recovery!
Be well and stay safe!