Recovering during a pandemic
Author: Katrina Wilson M.A. RPC
When clients leave Westwind’s residential program, we talk about potential obstacles that could come up in their recovery at home. Things like moving, changing jobs, and other major life events that could be stressful.
These are uncharted waters, and recovery is not immune to the stress of the unique situation we all find ourselves in. The change in routine, social distancing, and altered experience of grocery shopping are only a few of the challenges that could impact someone working on recovery from an eating disorder.
So how do you stay recovery-minded during a pandemic? Having realistic expectations for yourself and what this time means for your recovery (and for the eating disorder) is going to be incredibly important. Understand that the pace of your recovery may change – it may slow down, plateau, or even reverse itself. Keep in mind that during times of stress the eating disorder will likely show up in old predictable ways, and also in new and unexpected ways. It’s important to be honest with yourself and with your support systems about how the eating disorder is showing up, and to know that this is completely understandable and does not mean you are failing in your recovery.
It may be necessary to go back to the foundations of your recovery – those action steps that you know provide solid ground for fighting back against the eating disorder. This may mean recommitting to a meal plan and bringing in mechanical eating. This could be particularly important, as we know that during stressful times our body’s signals do not always come through. Anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and loneliness can mask our hunger signals, so being sure to eat regularly will be key.
Another important step could be to re-engage in the thought work that helped you learn how to challenge and talk back to the eating disorder thoughts. Bringing in old worksheets, reframing, and defusion techniques can help you continue to be aware of how the eating disorder is coming in, and build up your strength and resilience against it during this difficult time.
Because of the need for self-isolation and social distancing, it will be important to find a community that can help support you in your recovery efforts during the pandemic. This is where social media can really be an asset – there are many people sharing their recovery journey on Instagram and Youtube, as well as support groups through Facebook and Zoom. Westwind has a recovery support group on Facebook, where we post challenges and encourage members to share about their own recovery accomplishments and strategies. Feeling like you are connected to like-minded people can make a huge difference when working on recovery at any time.
The eating disorder may feel stronger right now, and this is ok. It’s important to remember that the work you have put into your recovery so far has not disappeared – it is still there, and you can choose to access it to help yourself maintain your progress during this time. Be kind to yourself, and know that the efforts you make now will increase your resilience in the long run. Remember, recovery doesn’t get time off, not even during a pandemic.