There's a war going on outside. The war has an invisible enemy, an almost unavoidable enemy, and millions of people are being confined to their homes. But there's also a war going on inside my mind. The fear, shame, and guilt that has filled my mind over the past few weeks is making me worry about relapse.
Coronavirus anxiety and quarantine can be especially difficult for people at risk of or with a history of disordered eating. When Los Angeles first went on lockdown, my mind started racing - what does this mean for my regular schedule? How will this affect the ways I'm able to move my body? How will this affect what I eat? Will this trigger old thought patterns and behaviors? How am I going to cope with all the uncertainty?
Trying to control something amidst all the uncertainty and change.
Not only the fear of passing on the virus to my family and loved ones, but fear of the downward spiral in my mind.
The quarantine and lockdown of hundreds of cities around the world, stripping millions of people from their regular routines, work or school environments, gym schedules, and livelihoods. Navigating my body image during this time of quarantine and change has been difficult, but over the past few weeks, I've been doing a few different things to keep me grounded (and well, sane).
1. Remove triggers and places that will provoke comparison.
I've noticed others struggling to navigate their body image during this time too. If you've been on Instagram lately, you've probably seen the livestream workouts, pictures sharing what someone eats in a day, sweaty pictures post-workout, or calendars of daily quarantine workouts. As someone whose relationship with moving my body (or to put it bluntly, exercise) has been both empowering and fueled by shame, I have been anxious to navigate how to move my body during this time of quarantine.
I have found that being exposed to all the ways people around me are moving only fuels comparison and confusion in my mind. As I struggle to find what intuitive movement means to me and how to move in a self-honoring way, being bombarded by other people's patterns and routines only causes confusion and judgment.
If I don't move my body in the same way as someone, am I doing it wrong? Does it make me lesser as a human? Am I not pushing myself enough?
All the comparison only fuels judgment and shame - things that I project onto myself and only tear at any sense of self worth I've worked to create. So as I am navigating this process of finding intuitive movement, I have removed all sources of comparison and triggers. I don't go on social media and watch what someone is doing, who followed what workout, and how much someone sweat in a day. My journey is my own, and for me to be intuitive with my body, I must focus on myself.
2. Journal everyday.
At the beginning of the lockdown, I signed up for a 30 day journaling challenge. Every morning, I wake up and respond to a new prompt. But I don't just think of journaling as a homework assignment, I use it whenever emotions come up.
If I am experiencing shame and guilt over a bad body image day, I write about it. Why do I feel that way? Am I comparing myself to someone else? What do I value? How can I work through the discomfort? Who can I reach out to and connect with?
In my journey of recovery thus far, I've learned that bad body image is rooted in insecurity and a lack of self worth. So now whenever I have bad body image, I try to look inwards and address the insecurity head on. Fixing my body image by having abs or toned arms is only temporary. Working on insecurity and self worth is much deeper than finding temporary relief, and will build a much more durable armor.
So check in, throughout the day. What do you need? What are you feeling?
3. Focus on separating my sense of self worth with my body image
Separating the two has been helpful in my recovery, and has allowed me to view taking care of my body as something unnegotiable. What I look like should not have the power to dictate how I choose to take care of my body today. Even if I am feeling insecure, fixated on a part of my body I hate, I don't have to abuse and punish myself in order to feel better. I remind myself that the process of working through the insecurity is not found in these quick fixes, and I try to focus on finding worthiness inside.
4. Reconnecting to my sense of purpose and passion
I remind myself that I was placed on this earth for a much greater purpose than to look a certain way. When I am fueled with a sense of purpose, my body image does not dictate my mood or self worth. When I feel passionate about something in my life, my body image feels irrelevant. When we are fixated by a sense of purpose and are acting in our truths, comparison and insecurity become irrelevant.
What does that even mean? How does one "find their sense of purpose and truth?" For me, the process began with looking at what I already have within me, and what activities fill me with lasting happiness. I found that I love helping people, having genuine and meaningful connections with others, and supporting my loved ones in reaching their full potential. I love writing, making art, spreading positivity, and having deep meaningful conversations. These things fill me with happiness and joy, and they leave me feeling fulfilled. So whenever I am struggling with bad body image, I try and engage in these activities and revisit this sense of fulfillment and connectedness.
5. Surround myself with positive affirmations and support.
One of the first things I did in my recovery was surround my living space with positive affirmations - literally. My mirrors are covered with collages promoting self love, my walls are covered with pictures and drawings of empowerment, and my phone background is filled with some of my favorite quotes.
The mind is a crazy cool place - and I have loved learning about neuroscience and our ability to literally rewire our brain. If you're like me, and you struggle with negative thoughts plaguing your mind and running your day, know that that can change. Surrounding myself with positive affirmations literally bombards my brain with positivity and positive thoughts, and I'm slowly rewriting the stories I tell myself on a daily basis.
6. Recognize the importance of a supportive environment.
I've learned that environment is so important in recovery, hell, in living a happy life. It's easy to live by other people's values, standards, and rules when you are surrounded by them and bombarded constantly. The harm comes when these values, standards, and rules don't serve you and where you are. When they don't align with your values, standards, and rules. The hardest part for me was having to draw boundaries. To only surround myself with people who lifted me up, pushed me to be better, and sat with me through the hard times. Not all my loved ones were able to support me, love me, and add to my life in a way I needed, and the hardest thing about this whole journey was having to draw those boundaries. To invest less time in things that were no longer serving me, to let go of things that were no longer serving me.
7. Focus on myself.
Well, focus on myself without... looking at myself. (I am trying to stop looking at myself to help aid the process of separating my sense of self worth with my body image)
At the end of the day, with all these lessons, I ultimately had to relearn what made me feel fulfilled. With everything going on in the world, I have to remember to focus on myself - my needs. Instead of focusing on what someone else needs and what they're doing, I am reminded that my life is in my hands and only I know what I truly need.
Disclaimer: My heart goes out to all the vulnerable populations during this pandemic, and I want to recognize the privilege I have of being able to stay quarantined at home with my family and not worry about putting food on the table. I by no means want to belittle the struggles of others, especially those whose livelihoods have been extremely compromised. The body image struggles I face during this time of quarantine are a privilege, and I wanted to recognize that but also provide support for others sharing my struggles.