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March 25, 2020

Maintaining Eating Disorder Recovery During COVID-19

As our world navigates the impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, one thing is certain – we are in uncharted territory. This is an unprecedented time, and we may not know how to respond. We may feel worried because there is no way to anticipate what may be coming next. It is only human to feel anxious and scared! During uncertain times we may feel a loss of control, on edge, and more vulnerable to negative emotions.

In times like these, our mental health can suffer and maintaining recovery might feel more difficult.

There are several things you can do to take care of yourself. Here are some things to help you remain grounded in a recovery mindset.

Maintain a connection with your treatment team.

While outpatient providers may be temporarily closing their practices, many are offering telehealth options. Discuss your options with your team.

Limit your exposure to media and social media.

How do you strike a balance between acquiring enough information to stay informed and feeling flooded with news that incites fear? This will be different for all of us, so take the time to find what works best for you. It may help to pick two news sources that you trust and only read those, or to pick two time periods in the day that you want to read the news (right before bed is probably not the best idea).

Maintain a connection with your community of support.

It is easy to feel isolated right now, especially with many people practicing social distancing. This might mean that you’re not able to visit with family or friends. Take advantage of FaceTime, phone calls, online gaming, and virtual meetup groups. Remember, this is temporary, and even if you are quarantined you are not alone.

Join a support group online.

This could be a great opportunity to join or even start a recovery-oriented online support group where you can connect in a virtual meetup space or Facebook group. Set group norms and expectations to ensure that the discussion remains recovery-oriented and firmly commit to no Pro-Ana or Pro-Mia chatter.

Get outside.

Even in the midst of social distancing we can sit in the sun, go for a walk, or garden. Fresh air and sunshine can do wonders for our well-being.

Practice mindfulness.

It can be easy to go down a rabbit hole of possible worst-case-scenarios during uncertain times. Do you best to stay in the moment. Practice deep breathing. Sit outside and color. Use your senses to stay connected to the moment (What do I see/hear/smell/feel/taste right now?). There are lots of free guided visualizations and meditations on YouTube if you feel overwhelmed and in need of some support.

Think outside of yourself.

What are some ways that you can give back to your community? Some ideas include making cards for elderly at nursing homes who can’t have visitors, sending postal mail to isolated loved ones, volunteering for meals on wheels, offering to pick up prescriptions for those who can’t get out, etc. Feeling helpful to others is one way to maintain a positive sense of self.

Identify one thing a day you feel grateful for.

Focusing on what we have versus what we do not can help us maintain a positive outlook. Don’t forget to appreciate even the smallest things; the bird singing outside, your favorite pair of slippers, or the way your favorite pillow supports your head while you rest at night.

Reach out if you are struggling.

If you find yourself, or a loved one, experiencing an increase of resurfacing of eating disorder or disordered eating behaviors, we are here to help. Our Admissions & Intake team is available at 855-875-5812 or at Do not hesitate to reach out.

Remember, even when the storm is raging around us, we still get to choose our response. Our thoughts control our feelings, so be aware of where your thoughts wander.

This won’t last forever. We are in this together and together we are stronger.

About the Author

Sydney Brodeur McDonald, PhD, LCP is passionate about providing best-practice, research-informed and multiculturally competent treatment to patients and their families suffering from eating disorders. She is committed to increasing access to effective treatment, training professionals to deliver gold-standard care, and empowering them to be the best providers and people they can be.