TYPES OF SELF-CARE IN EATING DISORDER RECOVERY
Updated: Nov 11, 2022
In the first post in this series, we wrote about what self-care is and why it's so essential in disordered eating recovery. You can read this here.
This blog will give you an insight into the types of self-care and examples of each. We have also included practical tips to implement a self-care routine in disordered eating recovery.
Types of self care
There are 6 tips of self-care:
1. Physical self-care: Activities that improve your physical health.
Getting enough sleep
Having regular health check ups
Having days off when sick
This can also include the ‘stereotypical’ self-care activities such as:
Taking a bubble bath
Having a nap
Doing a face mask or hair mask
On some days the smallest things count. Such as cleaning your teeth, eating a meal, and taking a shower.
Maybe even organising your emails or cleaning your house - I know, not exactly riveting stuff. But cultivating habits over time might be a major improvement to your life e.g. limit social media usage in the morning, sleep better, decluttering your space etc.
Ask yourself what makes your body feel calm and balanced. Or what do you need to do to feel slightly more in control of your day?
2. Emotional self-care: Activities that help you reflect on your emotions - positive and negative - and process them.
Having time for self-reflection
Seeing a therapist
Having comfort activities and places
Having compassion for yourself and others
Ask yourself how am I really feeling? And am I trying to escape that feeling?
3. Interpersonal and relationship self-care: Activities that nurture our relationship with others.
Even if you’re introverted, we all need a little bit of socialising to thrive. And it’s easy when life gets busy, or if we feel a little overwhelmed, we tend to cancel plans and withdraw into a little social isolation.
Spending time with people who support you
Having people in your life who listen to you and who you consider important
Such as scheduling a regular meet up or phone call with a loved one
Having a date night with your partner
Writing a note or letter to a loved one
And the opposite - if someone is draining your energy it may be time to step away from that relationship, or enforce some boundaries with that person.
Ask yourself who around you fills your energy up and who drains your energy? Who is no longer serving you?
4. Spiritual self-care: Activities that allow you to think bigger than yourself. Although the name implies some form of religion this is not always the case - but can be.
Taking time for reflection - maybe away from social media
Spending time in nature
Volunteering for a cause you feel strongly about
Creating a vision board to inspire yourself
Religious self-care can include going to a place of worship, meditation, or prayer
Ask yourself have I stopped to reflect on where I am and what I want?
5. Mental: Activities that stimulate your mind and foster a ‘healthy psyche’. This tends to focus on what we can control, and seeking out professionals for things that we can’t, and knowing it’s okay to ask for help.
Stimulation via reading a book
Going to a museum
Writing out thoughts and feelings
Working on mental self-care might also means learning to manage thoughts & feelings. Especially those that bring a ''charged response'' to you
Setting boundaries and putting practices in place to help with this. This might be recognising the need to work with a professional to help with your mental health
Ask yourself how are you mentally talking to yourself and how does that make you feel? If negative thoughts start to arise do you know how to deal with them?
6. Professional and environmental:
Professional: Setting clear professional boundaries while ensuring your work needs are met and your professional life feels fulfilling.
Environmental: Creating a space that helps you feel calm, often a focus on being clutter-free and tidy.
Ways to use self care during recovery
Self care requires a little bit of reflection and tuning into what you need. This can be really important in recovery, helping with stress and avoiding burnout. Some have even described self-care as a form of self-preservation.
Follow whatever meal plan and nutritional recommendations you have in place for recovery. Especially if you are restoring weight this may be the first and most important step in your recovery.
Find a way of moving that you feel benefits you - maybe it’s walking, yoga or something slightly more strenuous. As long as you are approaching exercise from the perspective of self-care and not a form of control or punishment then it can benefit you.
If you are sick take a day off / take it a little easy. And this doesn’t just mean with a fever or down with a cold, if you’re struggling with your mental health or having a hard day in the recovery process take a step back and look after yourself.
Check in on yourself in terms of how much you are sleeping, drinking water, moving etc.
Start a form of journal to help you see what you are feeling and start to process them, for many journaling in the morning helps set them up for the day but find a time that works for you.
Book a therapy appointment. Therapy is self-care and may be vital in helping you move away from a place of guilt in regard to your eating. A professional will give you more tools to work through your emotions.
Find activities you find comforting such as certain movies, reading, colouring,
Work on your self-talk. If you often speak negatively to yourself, focus on reframing this. This might be imagining you're talking to your best friend, or using affirmations to change the language you use with yourself.
Stay in the present moment. Notice if you start to scroll on social media when you start to feel negative emotions creeping in, start to take note of them and how you normally cope. Maybe limiting your social media usage might be helpful here. Especially if it feeds any negativity.
Practice saying the word ‘no’. Something I think most of us struggle with, but over time enforcing clear boundaries allows us to look after ourselves and take time to focus on what we need to for our recovery.
Set a boundary with friends / family in regards to speaking about diets / negative body image talk. Enforce these boundaries as you need to.
Join an eating disorder support group, this will help recovery feel less lonely.
Schedule a regular phone call or meeting with a friend who fills your energy and who supports you. This could be once a month even.
Avoid people that you feel drain your energy, make you feel bad, or encourage any of your symptoms. Protecting your energy is a form of self care.
Reduce the time you spend on social media, if it is your only form of connection it could have a negative impact on you, especially if it has previously fuelled disordered eating.
Write a letter to yourself or a loved one, whether you send it or not is your decision. But this could act as a form of journaling or connection.
Take five minutes every morning to reflect on your day, what you need to focus on. Maybe this is through some form of structured meditation, maybe it’s journalling or just sitting with yourself for a minute.
Create a vision board to inspire you, what things do you want to aim for. Maybe it’s goals that are not recovery related, or maybe they are.
Volunteer for a cause you care about, this will help you connect with things outside of yourself. And maybe socialise along the way.
If you are religious, take some time to attend a religious event or practice.
Find things that you find mentally stimulating - maybe it’s reading or learning something new. Maybe set a goal such as reading a certain number of books.
Seek out a therapist if you need some help with your mental health. It’s okay to ask for help, and a professional will help support you.
Make note of anything that arises in terms of your mental health, notice things that may trigger you or help you. Build a mental health toolkit.
Write a stream of consciousness style article on your thoughts, don’t edit or try and dictate it. Just let it out onto the paper. Do what you want with it after but get it out.
The most important thing - know what self-care works for you. What works for one person may be another's nightmare. But knowing what works for you, and practising this repeatedly will allow you to best support your recovery.
5 ways to establish a self-care routine:
Make a list of what has worked in the past / is currently working for you: even though you might have a mental list, making it physical just helps you visually see what might help when you’re not in the headspace to think back.
1. Think about any skills / hobbies you want to work on. This might be food oriented - Some people report enjoying cooking as a new hobby in recovery as it allows them to build a positive relationship with food. Or it may be completely separate from food / eating.
2. Establish a routine that works for you - morning routines of meditation / journaling / yoga just aren’t feasible for everyone. If two minutes of reflection on the way to work is what works for you then lean into that.
3. If in doubt, start with a walk. Walking can be seen for many as a form of walking meditation, as it allows you to get out of the house and notice things around you while maybe working through some thoughts and feelings.
4. Know that what works for others won’t work for you.
5. Know that you will mess up. Many forms of self-care are the first things we drop when we don’t feel 100% - whether it’s withdrawing from social situations or letting our room become messier and messier. It takes time to build these practices.
We hope you can keep taking care of yourself,
Team Ease Nutrition Therapy x