Sponsored blog post: We at ANAD are thankful to Kirsten Muller-Daubermann, Community Relations Specialist, at Timberline Knolls for sharing this post with us!

Uncertainty seems to be the only thing certain, as of late. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year, much of what seemed predictable, certain and “normal,” has evaporated, and the number of unknowns about the future seems to increase daily. 

It is a comfort to know that we are all dealing with this uncertainty together – we’re all in the same boat. However, for those in recovery from an eating disorder or in treatment, the challenges our current situation pose can feel like a threat to derailing a steady recovery, and increase feelings of isolation and insecurity at a very vulnerable time. For those in recovery, and for their family, friends and support team, we need to pay extra careful attention to the ways we’re adapting, coping and supporting our loved ones. I believe that we can use this time to learn valuable things about ourselves, build stronger support networks and practice skills that promote a strong, long-term recovery. 

Here are a few helpful things to consider during this time of uncertainty: 

Stick to your meal plan. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, this may have been a bit challenging, due to the market adjusting to suit new or increased customer demand resulting in a lack of availability of some products in grocery stores. Thankfully however, much of that variation has balanced out by now. It is essential for you or your loved one to keep it simple as possible and stick to the meal plan provided by the treatment team or dietitian. It helps create order, structure and eliminate some of the anxiety surrounding one of the most difficult parts of maintaining a solid recovery – the food. Relying on a known meal plan helps free up emotional and cognitive energy to focus on self-care, work, or other priorities. It also helps combat the temptation to fall prey to the diet messaging bombarding us on social media – with every other Instagram or Facebook post promoting weight-loss methods, get-fit-quick schemes, and fear mongering about weight-gain during the lockdown/quarantine. Your body is wise and knows what it needs. Listen to your hunger and fullness cues, stick to what you know – that your meal plan is provided by professionals who have your best interest at heart. 

Create routines and structure in other areas of your life. 

Brainstorm ways you can create a morning or evening ritual that involves meditation, stretching, journaling, lighting candles, reading – things you enjoy and can look forward to.  If you are now working from home and/or taking care of kids and their schoolwork as well, create a schedule for the home and for yourself that will keep everyone on track. As you create a routine, be mindful to build in time for intentional fun, and self-care – and actually schedule it! If you don’t, it is likely that you’ll find some other busy work that is not as fulfilling or will let other tasks bleed into that precious time you need to reflect, to journal, to take a walk in nature, to call a friend. Mark yourself as unavailable for any other calls or work at those “me” times and stick to it. You can even call it “executive time.” Take it, you deserve it. 

Be Mindful – stay focused on the present. 

It is easy during uncertainty to start catastrophizing about the future, or getting so absorbed in the latest news updates or number of cases, that you find yourself unable to extract yourself from a negative, pessimistic outlook. This mental state can be especially triggering for disordered behaviors. To combat this, first, check your social feeds and “inputs,” – news, podcasts, TV, etc. Ask yourself: Do they promote peace or panic? Are they edifying or anxiety-provoking? Be relentless in how you curate what you see, read, and listen to. Protect yourself. Turn down the noise and practice mindfulness instead. Quieting some of the overstimulation can help quiet the mind, and help you remain present. A great way to practice remaining present when you notice that thoughts may be running away from you, is to bring attention to the things you can be grateful for, in that moment: the breath in your lungs, a roof over your head, indoor climate control, the sun, a family member or friend, your ability to move through space, vision, hearing, touch… there are myriad things we can be thankful for at any given moment, it just takes noticing and active attention. Remove yourself from toxic conversations on social media or even with others when the topics turn to rehearsing the worst of what the pandemic has wrought. It isn’t helpful – to you, or to them. Focus on what you can do to love yourself, to serve others during their time of need, and if you can, turn the conversations you’re a part of toward something that brings light, rather than dragging everybody down. 

These are extraordinarily challenging times. However, I believe we will see that just as tremendous heat turns coal into diamonds, so the intensity of these times can make recovery stronger and more resilient than what “normal” times ever could have. The entire eating disorder community – those struggling, those in recovery, family and friends and treatment providers have a tremendous opportunity now to grow strong, not despite the uncertainty but because of it. We can be fearless in the face of the unknown, and committed, no matter what, to hope and healing. 

Timberline Knolls is a leading residential treatment center for women and adolescent girls, ages 12 and older, with eating disorders, substance abuse, trauma, mood and co-occurring disorders. Located in suburban Chicago, residents receive excellent clinical care from a highly trained professional staff on a picturesque 43-acre wooded campus. An adult partial hospitalization program (PHP) with housing is also available in nearby Orland Park, Il., for women to step down or direct admit. For more information on Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, call 877.257.9611 or visit www.timberlineknolls.com