Ellern Mede has visited US unit Eating Recovery Centre (ERC) and found their work with eating disorders to be successful. Ellern Mede Katie Bendel works in Family Liaison for ERC. Here we share her tips for people who are self-managing after receiving an eating disorder treatment.

Katie writes: “What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word self-care? I used to think it  meant “I need to get better at that” or “I don’t do it well.” That’s actually where most of us go wrong. What we need to focus on is self-compassion — being kind and understanding towards one’s self during times of distress.

“I now consider self-care to be an act of self-compassion, with no room for judgment. For many people with eating disorders, self-care can feel awkward, uncomfortable, and somewhat foreign. Eating disorders often present as perfectionist, orderly and inflexible personality traits that don’t leave much room for self-kindness or understanding. It’s even harder when you feel as if you are failing, suffering or inadequate. However, there is room for kindness and self-love in recovery — provided you take the time to practice it.

1# Do what has worked for you in the past

Common symptoms are social isolation and loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable. Do what you used to enjoy that you may have forgotten about or withdrawn from, for example supportive friends, a movie, the theatre, reading or volunteering.

2# It’s okay to say “no”

If your days are busy, take a step back and say no to some activities that would steal time from your ability to think. Practice mindfulness.

3# Be yourself

We are all unique and the important part of our self-care practices is that we make them relevant to you. It might be allowing yourself the time to tidy your room or buy new cozy socks. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. For those of us that struggle with black and white or perfectionistic thinking, this is a way to practice flexibility.

4# Let go of perfectionism

Letting your self-care not be perfect is self-care. Be casual about your me-time. You can relax in a bath without having the ‘perfect’ amount of time, special products and so on. Learn to let go of perfectionism.

5# Be flexible about your self-care time

Take self-care opportunities as they present themselves, even short periods of time. Read a small portion of an encouraging book or blog. Take five minutes for a short daily meditation or to listen to feel good music.

6# Believe in the power of music

Create an uplifting or relaxing music. Music can shift our mood, decrease anxiety and link us to hope and healing.

7# Make a list or picture book of what helps.

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves about what self-care resources we have and what works best. Make a list of the books, songs or quotes that inspire you. When you feel low, reference your list or look at your picture(s) that remind you why you want to recover.

8# Post your list where you’ll see it

Your list could be sticky notes on the fridge door, posters, chalkboards, or on your phone or laptop! Allowing yourself the time to create these reminders is an act of loving yourself.

9# Be self-compassionate!

Take notice of your needs and be patient with yourself. At first, meeting them may feel uncomfortable. Fight the impulse to think it means you are selfish or don’t deserve to take care of yourself. Just know this: practicing mindfulness and self-care takes time.

10# Accept your own pace of recovery

Don’t push yourself too fast or berate yourself for not getting it right. Your own pace is okay. Self-care requires letting go of expectations or rules that are just too hard to reach. Let go and have fun. Don’t listen to the voice that says fun is not allowed. You will find it’s worth it in the end.