Warning for slight discussion of my struggles with an eating disorder.
So, as the news keeps telling us… these are very unprecedented times (I did not even know what that word meant until COVID-19 wormed its way into our lives…)
I live in the UK, where we’re currently experiencing a three week lock-down before Parliament will review the COVID-19 situation next Monday to decide where to go from there, meaning besides one outdoor exercise a day, we can’t leave our house or be near anyone who we don’t live with. This can be a very difficult time for people struggling with mental health issues. We have uncertainty in the situation, our routines have been stripped, motivation can feel unreachable.
One of the main things I have struggled with is the expectations I put on myself. In these times, I’m believing that I should be as productive as I normally am, achieving as much as I can and making use of the sudden hefty amount of free time. Social media doesn’t quite help this issue as I’m scrolling through Instagram thinking Why am I not learning a new skill? Why am I still procrastinating my Uni assignments? Why am I spending so much time on Instagram instead of contributing to society?! I’ve kept the bar the same from when I could leave the house, ignoring the fact that the situation is completely different.
This also relates to my eating disorder; I’m feeling that my lack of productivity means I have no justification to eat whatever I like. Basically, my brain is telling me that I’m being too lazy to nourish my body. I can’t just do nothing for the whole day and still eat substantially?? That’s just not possible! I try to remind myself that eating food is a productive way to spend my time; if I can’t bring myself to do anything today, I can at least look after my body by giving it what it needs, but often the disordered part of me wants to creep back in. It’s difficult to distract yourself in these times, you can’t rely as heavily on social interactions or regular routines to get you through. I read a tweet by Matt Haig recently who said that this pandemic isn’t just a matter of physical health, it’s a matter of mental health too. And I know this is a really mentally challenging time.
But one of the most useful things I have read is in these times, we can’t hold ourselves to the same standards. It’s simply not possible – our normal way of life has completely shifted. It is not motivating to wake up and think wow, the only place I can go from here is my kitchen or living room, things do sometimes feel surreal and that’s okay. It’s okay if some days, you just can’t bring yourself to do work or do as much as you had hoped. We forget that by isolating ourselves, we are helping to reduce the spread of this virus and that in itself is pretty damn amazing! We’re all trying our best in a situation we have never experienced before and we can’t be too hard on ourselves.
I find going on a walk everyday helps to clear my mind and bring me a sense of normality. Sometimes I’ll read a few pages of a book and that’ll be enough. I even baked some tasty vegan cakes one day n then demolished them over the next two! You don’t need to feel productive and accomplished all the time, and on days where you’re on hour five of watching TikToks, or you’ve slept in a bit later than usual, you are still allowed to eat. I’m going to keep reminding myself of that, because keeping my body energised when a part of my mind is screaming at me not to, is a big accomplishment in itself.