Was I really practicing self-care during my eating disorder recovery?
Self-care makes a lot of people, including me at a time, think of the word ‘selfish’. Naturally, I steered clear because selfishness was not something I was striving to be. I drank water, I tried to sleep at night, I watched TV shows frequently and took hot showers daily. Surely I was doing enough for myself?
I was running on empty most days with barely four hours of sleep a night. The fact that I fell so far away from myself and my own care, and replaced it with running circles in the rat race, led me to where I am today – Recovering from anorexia for the third time, and battling depression and anxiety along with it.
Self-care feels awkward and uncomfortable for me and many other mental illness sufferers. Even now when I practice it on an almost daily basis, I still feel like I should be working or using my time to improve the house or doing anything else but spend time with me. I can never let myself just rest without my mind wandering elsewhere.
Eating disorders, specifically anorexia, are often associated with perfectionism and strict routine that don’t leave room for self-compassion or understanding. We are inscrutably hard on ourselves, harder than we would be on other people, and this is especially true if we feel like we are failing or feeling inadequate.
When we start to go through recovery we’re left having to be compassionate to ourselves and having to learn self-acceptance and love as we are. This is when self-care, along with self-soothing, becomes infinitely important in order to help us overcome difficult emotions and situations without the need to fall back on our previous disorders. Without it, we set ourselves up for relapse again and again.
The purpose of self-care is to help you tune into your mind and body, and it gives you a chance to relax from the inside out. It doesn’t have to be expensive, it’s just simple and thoughtful ways of nurturing yourself physically, emotionally and mentally.
Tips for self-care during recovery
Spend time with the people that support you.
This is one of the key elements of self-care. Spend time with people who bring you joy, and avoid those that leave you feeling drained and take effort to be around.
For me, this is my grandparents, my best friend and, sometimes, my partner.
Take time to chat with them. It doesn’t have to be about your disorder or your struggles, if you’re comfortable with them it can be about anything. Sometimes just taking our mind off it can help us to feel ‘normal’.
I know that sleeping isn’t exactly an extravagant self-care method, but while we sleep our bodies repair themselves. This is especially true between the hours of 11 pm – 3 am.
Set time aside for sleep.
I know it’s not on the top of most people’s lists but it should be, especially in the early stages of recovery. If you feel like you need to nap, do it. If you can’t get to sleep try and wind down from electronics etc half an hour before the desired bedtime.
I wrote a blog post a number of weeks back in regards to how to get yourself off to sleep if you’re a bit of a night time dweller.
Take time to sit with your emotions.
Sitting with our emotions is a big thing for any recovering from an eating disorder, mostly because the majority of us are scared of them. That’s why I found it easier to numb difficult feelings through starvation rather than dealing with them.
The problem with smothering the negative is that you also end up smothering the positive too. Self-care in recovery gives us the opportunity to pay attention to what we are feeling and respect what we need.
Listen to yourself! Do you need time alone? f you read a book, would it help you switch off? Do you need to take a hot shower with a podcast? Go for it!
Step back from social media.
As a blogger, I love social media. I can’t deny that for a second since I spend so much time on it. That and I find Twitter to be the biggest help to me in my recovery in regards to support.
That all being said, even I need to take time off sometimes. Giving yourself a separation from the virtual world will remind you what you love about your life. Read a book, go for a walk or even just take a nap with your cat on the sofa.
As long as it’s not connected to social media, give it a go.
Write it down.
I started keeping a personal blog back in January. I would write down everything from how I was feeling to what I was eating (or not as the case may have been). It helped so much just it out onto paper, or screen as the case may be.
We’re hard on ourselves and engage in so much negative self talk on a daily basis. We need to invest time into being more positive to ourselves and by writing it down we can actually begin to do this. Not to mention writing helps reduce stress levels, can be cathartic and can enable us to thrive in recovery.