Coronavirus mental health issues are very real.
UPDATED ON OCTOBER 26TH.
I originally wrote this article right after the United States went into lockdown in early March. Although things have gotten better many people after the initial shock, there are still many people suffering with depression, grief, anxiety, election stress, arguments with family and friends over politics, grieving the death of loved ones due to COVID19 and lots and lots of loss and disappointment and pain. Mental health is definetly being affected by the pandemic situation, not just lockdown. Whilst those in a depressed or anxious situation might have booked a therapy session from a place like the Honey Lake Clinic before the pandemic, in the present climate, many are scared (or unable) to go out of their homes.
Much of what I wrote back in March still pertains to what is going on now, and on top of that, I’ve added some more items to help with the vast amounts of trauma that people are going through.
There is a lot to talk about here. And you know that I tend to go long form, but I want to give you some mental health resources for being locked in the house.
I’m nervous about all my clients who are sitting home, isolated and with leagues of dried food in their homes spending their isolated days bingeing and purging. It’s obviously a really bad time to have a cardiac incident. There’s not enough care right now.
I want to include some tips for taking care of yourself at home right now. Your mental health is important.
- Make sure to eat enough and sleep enough. You need to nourish your brain and rest your body and nourish your body and rest your brain. Tired and hungry create more anxiety and stress. Tired and hungry also weaken your immune system. Eat enough and sleep enough. It seems simple enough to be able to do these basic things that we need to do for life, but these are the most difficult things for many folks when they struggle.
- If you are having trouble with your routine around eating and either forgetting to eat or eating all day long, it might be helpful to set an alarm on your phone to go off three times a day to remind you to eat your meals and twice a day so that you can check in and see if you need a snack. Block off time on your calendar for your lunch so people know not to put you in meetings, and try to plate all of your meals. Sit down and eat them away from your computer. Let yourself have a break and eat a meal. Too many of my clients are forgetting to eat and just working all day and then bingeing at night or eating haphazardly all day long and grabbing food out of boxes. Neither of these are satisfying or will give you the nutrition and brain power that you will get from full, intentional meals that you can sit down and eat and paying attention to. I want to help you keep your mental health in check. Your body deserves to be cared for right now. If you overeat or use food or restricting food or over exercise as a coping mechanism generally, it makes sense that your eating disorder behaviors will present themselves right now. That’s okay. That’s normal. A way to get on top of it is to create a little structure to give yourself some mindfulness around food.
- Try to move your body but don’t make a big deal about it. It’s not time to say that you’re going to use this time to get on some great exercise program and finally lose the weight and build your body. Those of us who come from an ED background tend to try to control out bodies when things feel out of control. You don’t have to do that. But DO try to move your body. Moving your body is great for your mental and physical health. That can be a walk outside if you feel comfortable doing so, a zoom date for an online workout or yoga class, or really anything. Try out something new each day. But it doesn’t have to be a regimented insane daily set up. Do it if you can. Don’t if you can’t. No shoulds. Right now there are a lot of folks doing plank challenges, sit up challenges, weight loss challenges and all the things…Keeping your mental health and physical health in check is of your highest priority right now. If these challenges are stressing you out and you’re stuck in the shoulds, allow yourself to let go. Just don’t let the shoulds fuck with you too much. Your mental health is super important and stressing yourself with extra tasks is not conducive to positive mental health. If you come from a situation where you are used to black and white thinking (most people with eating issues do have that kind of thinking pattern) you probably did an exercise class or a routine and then said to yourself “I’m going to do this every single day of lockdown!” and then the thought of it became exhausting and then you couldn’t do it the next day and you felt like you ruined everything. Don’t do that. Tell yourself that you will do your best to move each day if you can. But don’t be black and white about it. All the exercise studios are offering free classes right now, so you can do a different class every single day. Your body doesn’t even want to do the same routine every day. Your body will get bored and injured and so will you. Do different things. Most important is to let your body do what it needs to do. And some days that’s just gentle stretching and some days that’s laying in bed all day. And some days it’s a 5 mile run. And it might never ever ever be a 5 mile run. You are unique and your body is unique. Listen to your body for guidance. Don’t listen to anyone else’s advice. Your body knows what it needs. Just ask it. It will tell you.
- Get help for your disordered behaviors with food. So what if you are needing to act out with your ED behaviors? What if you are heading toward a binge? Or a binge and a purge? There are tools that you can use to help you not engage in your behavior. A great one, especially now is to delay and distract. Set a timer for 20 minutes and tell yourself that it’s okay to do your behaviors when the timer goes off. But in those 20 minutes, utilize some tools that will help you engage your senses and shut your mind down in the same way that your eating disorder does. If binge eating has gotten out of control, I would definitely recommend the recoverfrombingeeating.com program.
- Many people are encouraging you to get up every morning and keep with your typical routine, shower, change your clothes, put on makeup, etc. I definitely find that I feel better when I don’t spend the day in pajamas and when I’m clean. That said, although I’m clean, I’m still just living in yoga pants and tank tops and definitely not wearing makeup. I’m comfortable. Think about what is best for you and your mental well-being. If waking up and getting showered and putting on work clothes and make up makes you feel great, then do it! If you’d rather do yoga pants and comfy clothes and no make up, then that’s your choice. No one can tell you your best way to shelter. I do find that the separation of night and day is important to my mental well-being. I had one day where I didn’t shower and saw clients all day long in pajamas and I felt pretty bad by the end of the day. So getting myself clean and comfortable is crucial to me. Continue with whatever skin-care, teeth flossing and hygiene routines you like. It will keep you feeling human and also cared for. Being cared for (especially by yourself) is so important to maintaining a positive self-esteem and self worth.
- Reach out to people. Don’t isolate. You’re stuck in your house but you’re not alone. Call people, set up zoom dates, talk on the phone… My friends and I have been doing Zoom happy hours. Which is pretty fun. That said, you might also feel totally over screens and not want to do those at all. You might prefer to just do phone dates if that. Do what you need to do to feel okay. If you are going out with people or vacationing with people, make sure that you feel comfortable. Don’t let people push your comfort zone. What you want and need to feel safe around Coronavirus is the most important thing.
- Don’t drink too much. Seriously. Which is what I say after I mention the Zoom happy hour. This is a really stressful time and our instincts can really be to down a bottle of wine or two. But ultimately it’s not great for your mental health. The next day, a hangover, feeling crappy, and ultimately, and as your serotonin and blood sugar drops after a night of drinking, anxiety and depression increase. Try to limit your alcohol intake. drinking increases anxiety the next day. So try to limit your alcohol intake.
- Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. This goes along with the shoulds. Right now, the biggest stress that I’m seeing around the comparative thinking is the fact that Moms have to homeschool their kids. I have seen people posting these photos on social media of their kids beautiful classrooms and the amazing and creative activities that they are doing with their kids. That’s great. But if you can’t homeschool your kids for various reasons, you cannot worry about that. This is very low down on the priority list right now. The priority is taking care of yourselves and your children both physically and emotionally. Another thing is people using this time to learn a new skill, learn an instrument, get in shape, write their novels… just don’t get into that comparative thinking. Something that lot of people try is learning a new language where places like UKLP have started offering online lessons post covid, so you can learn with a teacher and get the skilled support that you need. It is good to learn new skills because it can serve as a distraction but also as a method of relaxation therapy. Great if people can reframe and do that, but again, everyone has their own coping skills.
- Don’t beat yourself up about a messy house! Is your house a mess? So is mine. Do you have kids at home who are tearing your house shred to shred? Can you not even face cleaning? Don’t sweat it. Do what you can. My musts are having a clean bathroom and kitchen and having my bedroom be clean. So my bedroom is now off limits to my kids. The rest of the house is a war zone. But there is only so much I can do right now with small (and very, very hyper and one profoundly autistic) children at home all day every day. I have to work and I have to keep myself sane and I have to pay attention to my children. At the beginning I found myself cleaning in all my spare time– unfortunately, it became a task of Sisyphean proportions. My kids were bummed because the moment I wasn’t in front of my computer seeing clients or working, I was furiously cleaning and getting stressed out about it. Try to give yourself a break. Figure out what your most important things are – for me, I sweep, I make sure that the kitchen and bathroom are clean and I’m done. For other people, especially those without kids, cleaning is a coping mechanism. They are going full on Kon Mari and decluttering and having fun with it. If that’s something that you love and you find pleasure in, do it! But do what YOU can and what works for YOUR situation, not what everyone is posting on social media. You can only be you and you can only be part of your situation. No one else has the same situation as you do. We are all in this together yes, but we all have very different life circumstances. No beating yourself up for looking at your own situation and acting accordingly within what your life circumstances allow for.
- Discover things that help you to get the same feeling that you are looking for when you are using food and alcohol to self-soothe. Your coping mechanisms are your coping mechanisms, and often, they make you feel good in the moment but horrible on the other side. When you are about to engage in a coping mechanism that doesn’t serve you, tell yourself that you can certainly do the behavior, but give yourself some time first. Utilize the delay and distract method. Set a timer for 20 minutes and tell yourself that you can do your behaviors after the timer goes off. While waiting, try to deeply engage your whole sensory system to give your mind and body a break so that you can get some peace and relaxation – things to try:
- Make your own sensory deprivation tank! Get into a hot bath and fill it up with magnesium salts – put blinders over your eyes and listen to binaural beats. You can get these free on insight timer or on youtube. This will recreate the sensory deprivation tanks that people pay to use and it will turn your mind off.
- Get into a hot shower, listen to music in the shower, do self care things like face mask, hair mask, shave legs… do your nails – it’s hard to binge and purge with wet nails.
- Color in an adult coloring book while listening to loud music.
- Do self massage, I love this machine to lay on – it is sort of intense but I put in on my bed and lay on it and listen to music. It is so calming because it engages so many senses. I’ve never used this foot massager so I can’t vouch for it, but it might be the kind of thing where you can put on a Netflix while getting a grounding foot massage. One of my clients tipped me off on this vibrating plate which my whole family uses now to calm their bodies and minds.
- Do a gentle restorative yoga class like this one… https://www.youtube.
- Do karaoke! Get some youtube karaokes and do an at home karaoke party. Sing loud! Have fun! Invite your roommates, kids, spouse or if you’re alone, do it alone or videotape yourself and do a karaoke challenge. Singing is an amazing way to stimulate your vagus nerve and relax and release your tension.
- SCREAM AS LOUD AS YOU CAN INTO A PILLOW. This is going to give you the same type of release as a purge. All the tension that you are holding in your body has a chance to be released.
- Massage your jaw. Think about how much tension you are holding in your jaw. Your jaw is the strongest muscle in your body – and as such, it holds a lot of tension. I believe that women in particular carry a lot of tension in our jaws because we have spent our lives having no voice and holding back. Decreasing tension in your jaw and massaging it can release some of your tension and can mitigate the need to chew, swallow and vomit. I have a video on the bottom of the page demonstrating a quick jaw massage.
- Check out my blog post 101 things to do instead of binge eating for more ideas. And if you do binge, check out how to recover from a binge. Remember – it’s not a big deal if you binge, just be kind to yourself right now. This is really hard!
- Consider what your coping mechanisms are… you might find yourself doing things like online shopping, posting furiously on social media, texting ex-boyfriends or girlfriends or something equally unproductive… this lack of human contact and human touch is really messing with your dopamine receptors. All those impulsive things that you do that you wish you hadn’t that wind up making you feel worse after are usually the ways in which you are looking for a dopamine hit. But there are other ways to get that.. definitely music, either listening to it or playing music, getting into any kind of creative flow like writing or painting or anything where you are feeling as though you’re channeling, making and achieving goals – but when I say goals, I mean small and achievable ones, like cleaning out your junk drawer, or fixing something that’s broken. Small things. Cold showers are a big one that people like. It’s rough right now… all the things that we normally do, like basic human contact is being taken away from us.
- Tick marks are a great way to give dopamine without stressing yourself. If you have a list of things you want to do, rather than saying “every single day I’m going to workout, clean, read, work on art, “etc… make a google spreadsheet of all the things you want to do. Then, at the end of each day, just check off what you did. Even getting one thing done is great and super fulfilling.
- Consider some gadgets. If you are at home working and not getting out much, you might consider a light therapy device like this one. . I have never used a Vitamin D lamp, so I really can’t speak from my own experience, nor do I want to make any unsubstantiated claims or tell people to spend money right now. I have had friends and clients who swear by them. I am too tired to look through the literature right now… but do your own research. It makes sense to me that if you’re not getting outside, some light therapy could be helpful. But again, do your own research please before making any big purchases.
- Another gadget to consider is a CES machine.. CES stands for Cranio Electrical Stimulation. These devices actually have FDA approval for insomnia, anxiety and depression. What it is is low levels of electrical current that create neurostimulation. The electrical current is delivered through electrodes that you place either on your ears or your temples. Your vagus nerve is activated and then produces a vagal tone which then quiets down the over-stimulation of your Limbic System. That’s the part of your brain responsible for fight or flight. This in turn helps to decrease symptoms of anxiety, insomnia and depression. It also helps for pain. I personally use the Fisher Wallace machine and I love it. But there are others out there. Again, do your own research. Please take my recommendations with a grain of salt. Not everything works for everybody and I don’t want people spending large amounts of money right now.
- Another gadget that I like is the Kasina Mind Machine. It basically just turns off your mind without you putting too much effort into learning to meditate. That said, don’t pay for anything that you cannot afford or aren’t interested in. I also REALLY love insight timer, which is a free meditation app with thousands of guided meditations.
- Try your hardest to be nice to the people in your house and outside of your house. Everyone is really stressed out. Husbands and wives are at each others throats. Pandemic divorce is a real thing. Just try to be kind to each other. Your kids might be really temperamental right now. They’re scared and they’re feeling it really intensely. And those of us who are extreme empaths might notice that they are really overwhelmed with emotion. You are feeling the weight of the world. Try to take some time to block it out. Take hot baths, try to relax your mind and body. I’m taking a lot of baths with books or music.
- Get therapy online. Therapists are here to support you and almost all are doing telemedicine right now. I know I am. If you don’t have a therapist, call your old therapist. Or check out onlineatingdisordertherapy.com. Also remember that telehealth includes talking on the telelphone. If you are feeling overwhelmed with screen time, you can talk on the phone to your therapist as well.
- If you need to talk to someone and you don’t have insurance or the means to pay for therapy you can still get help! Call the Corona crisis hotline text HOME to 741741.
- Cry. Seriously. It’s okay to cry. Or scream. Or whatever you need to do. This is so intense and hard to deal with. because it’s just so unimaginable. If people tell you to stay strong, it’s okay to say, “I’ve been strong my whole life, I want you to tell me that it’s okay to break down and cry!” It is.
- Metta Meditation is fantastic as well. I’ve included a metta meditation video below, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to do a quick metta meditation. Metta meditation is also called loving kindness meditation and I find it to be the easiest and quickest way to lift my mood. I use it in every situation, when I am feeling angry, sad, lonely… it helps me to feel more connected to other human beings. Connection to humans is what helps us to feel alive and at peace. This is another reason as to why this lockdown is so darn mentally and emotionally taxing, we just feel so darn lonely and disconnected.
- Restorative Yoga is pretty easy going and helps you sleep and relax.
- IF YOU CAN’T STOP BINGEING AND PURGING- PLEASE READ: if you are bingeing and purging, and you feel like you can’t stop, or you don’t want to stop, please, please, please take precautions to keep yourself safe. Drink a good amount of water to keep yourself hydrated. Make sure to replenish your electrolytes, drink gatorade or pedialyte. DO NOT workout after you’ve been bingeing and purging. You need to rest your body and not tax your heart. Don’t brush your teeth after a purge, instead use baking soda and water to rinse your mouth. If you have wounds on your hands and knuckles, please treat them with neosporin Reach out to people. Try really hard not to be alone. It’s going to be very difficult to get good medical care right now and you REALLY don’t want to end up in the hospital right now. The other thing that I want to ask you is not to beat yourself up. If you are bingeing and purging because this is your coping mechanism, the last thing you need to do is to beat yourself up more or hate yourself because you can’t stop. Try your best to be kind to yourself and give yourself compassion. We all have coping mechanisms, some are healthier than others and some are pretty harmful. The worst though is when you use a coping mechanism and then you beat yourself up for it or you hate yourself for it. If you are using a coping mechanism it is because you were looking for a way to feel better. Hating yourself after just makes it worse. Remind yourself that this coping mechanism was utilized because you felt horrible. And so the best thing you can do is tell yourself that you deserve to be loved and treated with kindness and respect. Forgive yourself and tell yourself something like, “wow, this is really hard, you were trying to make yourself feel better…” getting stuck in the self-hatred makes things so much worse. Kindness to self can often be extremely comforting.
- MINDFUL SELF COMPASSION – The work of Kristen Neff, Mindful Self Compassion is one of the best things you can do for yourself right now. The quickest way to describe is that you are intentionally treating yourself the same way that you would treat your best friend or a small child. I use the world intentional because it is a practice. It does take time to rewire your brain for self-compassion. If you are used to thinking of yourself as not good enough or not smart enough or not pretty enough or not thin enough… those are the recordings that your brain plays on repeat over and over and over again. Instead, set an intention for self kindness. And this can be as simple as putting your hand on your heart and saying “This is really hard, I’m having a hard time. It’s so difficult for me to not like myself and to be mean to myself, that really hurts, doesn’t it?” the hand on your heart is important, making connection with and to yourself is how you begin to implement the parts of kindness to self that you might not have been using or have never used. You don’t have to pretend to love yourself, especially if that feels really foreign, but instead, finding a part of you that can serve as a nurturing mother, or if a mother has a bad connotation, a fairy god-mother or someone who feels loving. Have that person be right there, on your shoulder, loving you absolutely unconditionally. No matter what you’ve done, no matter how much you hate yourself, no matter what your body looks like no matter how much you’ve eaten or haven’t eaten, no matter how many times you’ve done or said things that you regret, you deserve love and respect.. and most of all from yourself. Falling on your face and looking stupid and royally embarrassing yourself is one of the supreme honors of being human. And it happens to all of us. I can’t even count how many times it’s happened to me. But learning to tell yourself that it’s okay, that you are still worthy of love reduces shame and increases positive self-esteem and mental health.
- During this whole Coronavirus fiasco, I am putting my binge eating program on a choose your own discount for all payment plans. COVID100 for 20% off or COVID200 for 40% off. I want everyone to be able to access the help that they need. This discount be available through the end of the year. The fall cohort starts on November 2nd, so sign up now!
I LOVE YOU ALL.
I CARE ABOUT YOU ALL.
I WANT ALL HUMAN BEINGS TO FEEL A SENSE OF INNER LOVE AND INNER PEACE AND TO TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES AND EACH OTHER.
KINDNESS AND GENTLENESS TO YOURSELVES AND OTHERS WILL CHANGE THE WORLD….
This I can promise you.
Lastly, I’m giving you all a free hypnotherapy session. This one is called hypnosis for anxiety. Use the coupon code “COVID’ to get it for free. Just go here and where it asks for a coupon, use the coupon code COVID and it will be yours for free. I hope you find it helpful and calming.
Please please please take care of yourselves. I care about all of you and I’m sending you love. I’ve included some videos below of some Facebook lives, the first one is just a little talk I gave about everything I included above. The second one is a short little metta meditation… it only takes a minute or two and you will feel so much better after doing it. That I can promise you. Sending you so much love.
For eating disorder therapists who are seeing patients via telehealth, go to: www.onlineeatingdisordertherapy.com
Posted by Recover From Binge Eating on Monday, March 23, 2020
Metta (loving kindness meditation) for positive mental health, (self) compassion and inner peace.
Posted by Recover From Binge Eating on Thursday, March 26, 2020
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