Tag Archives: coronavirus

How a global pandemic can trigger an eating disorder

Everyone is managing a changing world! It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and I’m writing this blog to give insight into the world of eating disorders, not to say “my struggle is worse than yours” but to say, you never know what someone else is going to through – most people have hidden struggles and it’s not always obvious what’s going to trigger someone’s difficulties. Measures imposed by our governments have been vital to keep us safe but at what cost?

Change in routine

A routine for many people can indicate safety. Most of us find a change in routine difficult but someone with an eating disorder, routine can be the difference between them eating enough/regularly each day or turning to disordered behaviours for comfort.

Encouragement to exercise everyday

When in eating disorder recovery, exercise can be difficult to manage. Many struggle with exercise addiction as a way to manage weight and recovery from this may include not exercising or restricting exercise. The UK government’s lockdown rules allowed 1 trip outside each day for exercise. If one of the few things you’re “allowed” to do each day is exercise, it can feel like you’re being told you “should” exercise everyday and this only adds to the battle already going on inside your head about what your should and shouldn’t be doing. How many adults actually exercise everyday?! Not many, but for someone recovering from an eating disorder, this is a minefield!

Supermarket stress

Recovering from an eating disorder can include a strict diet plan. Panic buying lead to limited stock and then restrictions on items we could buy. While to the average family, these restrictions may have been inconvenient and caused them to use alternatives. This may have caused chaos to someone with an eating disorder. If the food item you need is not available, this could have triggered days without food altogether. While the queues at the supermarket are essential to keep numbers within at safe levels, this could cause extremely high levels of stress for someone who already finds the trip anxiety provoking.

Encouraged obsessive actions

While washing our hands is vital to prevent spread of Covid-19, with the UK government telling us to wash our hands often, this can play into the obsessive compulsive mind of someone struggling with an eating disorder prompting further ritualistic behaviours around food.

The wrong type of “vulnerable”

Those most at risk of dying from Covid-19 have been put on a vulnerable list in order to ensure we can keep them safe from catching the virus. This has meant that some support systems are no longer available for other people who usually use them. For example, people who usually use the online supermarket delivery systems haven’t been able to get slots. Going to a supermarket, for some people recovering from an eating disorder, is simply impossible. What do you do if you can’t get a delivery slot, because they’re reserved for other people?

Lack of therapy or online therapy

Therapy is a vital part of eating disorder recovery. Some agencies have completely shut down due to lack of resources. Some, fortunately have been able to continue online. Some people may prefer this and there are benefits, such as not having to travel. However, at times technical hitches can delay sessions and talking through a computer means some subtle communication is lost. I’m not alone in having a violent dislike of seeing myself on screen and a therapists sensitive use of physical touch is completely lost.

While the social distancing and lockdown measures have been vital to keep everyone safe – the repercussions on those with internal mental struggles, I have no doubt, without additional support, will be extremely long lasting.

We should think before “returning to normal”

While I understand some people’s lives have not changed as the government has imposed lockdown, quarantine or social distancing measures because you continue to work on the frontline, many people have been afforded time and space to reflect on a pre and post covid-19 life and I have to say, I’ll be making some careful choices before rushing back to “life as usual” once the lockdown rules art lifted.

Some people’s lives changed over night while others have seen more gradual changes as employers have had to make difficult decisions each week as their income decreased over time; to be furloughed has become common parlance. Some are glad of the rest and try to see the silver lining while others struggle to makes ends meet and don’t know when, how or if things will ever get better. We’ve discovered children don’t need to be examined for them to continue into the next school year and actually, when it comes to it, being happy and healthy is more important than up-to-date book learning.

I’ve needed my GP more in the last month than I have done in the last year. Appointments have been available because, here in the UK, people who don’t need to see a doctor, are heeding the advice to protect the NHS. Surely, when this crisis is over, we should continue protecting the NHS? Why, pre-covid-19 were there people in A&E who didn’t need to be there? Don’t get me wrong, people who are having symptoms of life threatening emergencies, really should call for an ambulance.

I’m more connected to the people who matter in my life than I have been before. I’m not seeing them face-to-face and I want that to change but I’m connecting with some people on a daily (or near daily) basis and I like that.

People’s shopping habits give us food for thought… the initial panic caused by the unknown, when will the next trip be? And will the shelves be stocked next time? Were these actions selfish, greedy or anxiety driven?

Most people are now sharing positive changes in their shopping habits. A reduction in multi-trip shopping because people are reducing waste by using up left overs and making do with what’s in the house. People are finding locally sourced produce such as eggs and meat and having online groceries such as fruit, veg and store cupboard essentials delivered directly to their doors reducing travel. Shopping trips that are happening are less fraught because fewer people are permitted inside the shop at any one time, we’re standing back and giving each other space – surely this should have always been the case?

As soon as people realised they had more time they looked for ways they could help one another. Being community spirited should continue. Why did is take a global pandemic for me to get my neighbour’s as phone number? How come my neighbours didn’t know I played the saxophone until I played in the street as part of the Clap for the NHS on Thursdays? Why did it take such drastic measures for us to start to get to know one another?

I’ve discovered daily yoga, fresh air and being assertiveness are actually good for me. Previously I just thought they might be, since being given time and head space to actually try them, I’ve discovered it’s true! We’re all different, what’s now in your new daily routine that wasn’t before – why would you let that slip just because you wanted to “get back to normal”?

How many of us blindly accepted our daily commute but have miraculously found that it’s not actually necessary? Perhaps remote working has its draw backs but many people have found ways to make it work. A reduction in travel has reduced pollution to levels no one could have imagined. Our planet is breathing a sigh of relief.

Has there been another point in history when we’ve had daily press briefings and held the UK government to account every single day? They’re making the science accessible, answering our questions and they’re being clear about the guidance and why it’s in place.

It’s gutting that it’s taken a deadly virus to do it but mental-wellbeing is being spoken about everyday. It’s not ok that the suicide rate is increasing and no amount of money is going to resource the mental health services sufficiently but let’s keep raising the profile of mental well-being and keep checking on each other. Let’s make it a normal conversation. When you train in CPR, make mental health first aid a priority as well – it always should have been.

Are you longing for your “old life” through rose tinted spectacles? Perhaps you’re miss seeing people face to face, at the moment you’re being told “no” and that naturally makes you want to rebel but don’t make the mistake of thinking everything about “the good old days” was better…

On the 23rd March in the UK and on other dates across the world, we were forced to adopt a new normal by governments announcing lockdown measures to keep us safe. As the measures are gradually lifted, we can choose to adopt a newer, brighter normal as we bring together the best of both the old and the new.

We can choose to hug people when we see them but also stay connected in between. We can choose to shop efficiently, not give into greed, continue to source local produce and ask our neighbours if we can shop for them when we’re going. Where we need to go back to previous ways of living, can we find compromise?

Who would have thought about broadcasting weekly church services on YouTube? Faith communities are reaching beyond their building walls like never before and although returning to gathered fellowship will be cause for massive celebration let’s not lose what we’ve gained from being forced to church technologically. How can we have the best from both worlds?!

For many, there’ll be financial consequences for years to come. There are many who have no choice, they can’t go back to life pre-Covid-19 due to bereavement, redundancy or other life event. Are there choices we can make as we find our new normal that will benefit anyone less fortunate than ourselves?

If everything about your old life suits you better and that’s what you want to return to and you can, that’s your call but I just ask that you make an active decision and don’t just go back to it mindlessly without thinking carefully about the true implications.

Are we doomed to divorce?!

These are strange times! I’m aware I have readers from all over the world and each country is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic differently, restricting movement of people to varying degrees.

Lockdown, quarantine, self-isolation, restricted movement, stay at home, social distancing, flatten the curve, work from home, slow down the spread, protect the NHS – these words are all now common parlance!

Since the epicenter was in China, we may be able to gauge where we’re heading by what’s happening there…China are seeing a significant spike in divorce applications from couples coming out of isolation.

Steve, my husband and I, obviously, love each other but like any couple, have our ups and downs! We prefer not to have blazing rows but we’re capable of a few harsh words. We’re struggling with this situation for different reasons but we know we’re going to get through it together because we work at our relationship.

I’m writing this blog because it would be sad to follow China’s lead, relationships don’t need to be doomed. Some of these suggestions may seem common sense but I think it’s fair to say in these uncertain times people are acting out of character and we can all do with a bit of reminding that sometimes the simple things are the best things:

Hold onto the things that are the same

Some people are working from home, try to home school children and/or manage an unusual living situation, these things will feel destabilising but there will be some things that are the same. Can you eat meals together? Is your morning or bedtime routine the same? Is there a TV programme you both like to watch together? Anything that anchors your relationship will help you feel stable.

Date times

You may think “but we’re spending too much time together, that’s the problem”. But date time is special time. If you have other people in the house it might be difficult but it’s important to set time aside, even if it’s just 10-15 minutes for a coffee together (but the longer the better!) to set technology aside and focus on each other. If you’re fortunate to have more time alone, you could play a board game or give each other a massage.

Self care

If you’re giving to other people all the time, you’re strung out and exhausted, you can’t pour from an empty cup! Your relationship’s going to suffer because we always take our frustrations out on those closest to us. Living on top of each other can be difficult. Don’t underestimate how beneficial going outside for fresh air is, whether it’s onto a balcony, the back garden or for a walk if permitted. You take this opportunity to learn a new hobby, crafting or reading may not have previously been your thing but maybe give it a go!

Give and take

With so many routines changing it might be difficult to stay on top of the household chores or you might find yourselves bit more messy than usual. As the situation changes people might need change the responsibilities they have. I don’t envy the parents suddenly home schooling and those who’ve never worked from home suddenly have to adapt. Sometimes, stepping back from the situation and writing a list or a timetable for who does what when might stop the situation from getting out of hand.

Communication – I’ve left the most important ‘til last!

Understanding what each other need is so important and this is only going to come if you talk to each other! This next part is so important – no one can mind read! If you’re feeling grumpy, fed-up, overwhelmed, sad or pissed off just say so. If you’re not sure how you feel and you’re not sure why, just say so! If you want to be left alone, say so. If you want to have a cry, say so.

Talk to each other about what you need! Are you an introvert or an extrovert? I’m an introvert, so managing the isolation fairly well. My husband is an extrovert so the aspect that’s hit him hardest is not being able to see his friends. My husband uses technology every day whereas getting to grips with multiple platforms (to stay connected with various people) quickly has been overwhelming for me. As genuinely fantastic as technology is, I’ve found large WhatsApp groups intrusive and long video conference calls exhausting!

I don’t need to remind you the most important part of communication is the listening part! Most people listen to reply – don’t be most people, listen so that you understand your partner.