Despite these challenges, there are ways to help manage your eating disorder struggles while sheltering in place and physically distancing.
Here are eight tips:
1. Accept that it's harder to manage your eating disorder right now. "It's OK to be struggling. You shouldn't feel guilty about it," Brooks says. This is a time more than ever to emphasize progress over perfection, Brannan advises.
2. Reach out. People with an eating disorder are usually good at isolating themselves, Mysko says. However, at this time, you should find ways to actively reach out to others for support. Aim to speak with a trusted family member, friend, support group or therapist each day, so you feel less alone, Brannan recommends. Conversely, if you know someone with an eating disorder, this is the time to reach out and see if they need additional emotional support.
3. Limit your social media and news feed. If news about the coronavirus is too anxiety-provoking, make plans to check the news just once a day, Brooks advises. Limit the number of media outlets you're checking. If watching the news is just too much, ask a family member or friend to keep you up-to-date on only what's necessary, Daniels suggests.
For social media, curate your feed, Mysko says. Unfollow accounts that provoke anxiety or negative feelings. Brooks also finds it helpful to log out of sites like Facebook or Twitter, so she's less tempted to check them so frequently.
4. Use teletherapy. Many therapists have switched to online sessions, so you can still make contact with a therapist even while staying home. In fact, online therapy is potentially great for those with eating disorders precisely because of the physical distancing, according to Daniels. One of her clients, she says, "felt so much shame about her weight that it was nearly impossible for her to come in for the first time."
However, not all clients have been able to continue online therapy due to financial concerns or lack of privacy due to others who are around them while in isolation, Daniels adds. Plus, "the insurance companies have been a disaster, so there is a huge amount of confusion about what's covered and what isn't," she says.
5. Take advantage of free online or phone-based resources. If you're not able to access teletherapy, there are online support groups and even social media feeds that can help manage eating disorder concerns. The National Eating Disorders Association has a series of Facebook Live videos that can help people cope, such as Eating Disorders in Midlife and Beyond and Family Dynamics During Quarantine.
You can also watch these sessions after they're live. There are registered dietitians on Instagram who are talking viewers through eating-related coping skills, such as how to eat a meal, Brooks says. In Brannan's area, the Houston Eating Disorders Anonymous group still meets twice a week by phone.
6. Practice good general health. This includes taking a walk, listening to music and practicing something to help keep you centered, such as yoga, meditation or journaling, Brannan recommends. Getting adequate sleep is important as well.
7. Keep a regular waking and sleeping daily routine. "This keeps your body working on a regular schedule," Daniels says. A regular daily routine can help keep some normalcy to your life and provide structure. It also gives you less time to think about what's happening in the world or to get distracted. In terms of hunger and a routine, make sure to check in with yourself regularly and eat when you are hungry to maintain your energy level, Daniels advises.
8. Call or text available helplines if you need them.
The National Eating Disorders Association helpline is open and available at 800-931-2237.
The Suicide Prevention Helpline can be reached at 800-273-8255.
The Crisis Textline is available by texting HOME to 741741.
All of these helplines are confidential and free. Many states have crisis and suicide hotline phone numbers as well.