Self care for carers: the importance of looking after you

Self care matters. You can’t pour from an empty cup.  It’s all so very cliché. But when it comes to caring for a loved one with an eating disorder, you really do need to look after you. 

We’ve been where you are now. Feeling consumed by your loved one’s eating disorder recovery. Helpless. Alone. Afraid. From our own experience, we know just how important self care for carers really is. Sadly, looking after yourself so often falls to the bottom of the list. 

It’s our hope that we can give you the support you need so you can start to focus on yourself.

Eating disorder recovery is a long road

No matter where you are at in the journey of caring for someone with an eating disorder, you’ll know that there are no quick fixes. Early intervention can deliver good results, but there is still a long – and often windy – road ahead of you.

It’s not the case that you can throw everything you have at the eating disorder in an effort to reduce the recovery time. It’s like running a marathon. If you want to make it to the end of the race, you need to pace yourself or you may end up collapsing before you even reach the halfway mark.

The difference with an eating disorder is that you don’t actually know how far away the finish line is. And that finish line may move back and forward as you progress.

This is really hard to hear as a support person. All you want is to make it all better for your loved one. To fix the problem and make it go away. What they need most is your support. They need the best of you.

Your health matters too

When a family is dealing with an eating disorder, it can become all consuming. Every member of the family becomes laser focused on the recovery of their loved one. Rather than having their own individual health goals, they all merge into one singular goal – recovery.

Think of the marathon analogy again. You’ve run the marathon and made it to the finish line. But along the way, you didn’t stop to drink water. You didn’t sleep in the lead up to the race either. What’s going to happen to you at the end of the race? You’ll be dehydrated, exhausted and unwell.

How can you care for someone with an eating disorder if your own physical and mental health is struggling?

Self care for carers isn’t about embarking on a life changing health journey. It’s simply about taking small steps to look after yourself too. 

Eating disorder recovery requires a team

There’s two reasons why you need to remember that this is a team effort. 

The first is that your loved one’s eating disorder is not your burden to shoulder alone. Just as your loved one is relying on a team to support them in their recovery, you can rely on that team too. There are people you can reach out to for help. People you can speak to who understand what you’re going through.

 

Also, teams work best when communication is open and constructive. When you’re stressed, tired and absolutely pushed to your limits, you’re probably not the best communicator you can be. When you step back and take a breather – even just coffee with a friend or a 30 minute yoga class – you can get the perspective you need.

Self care for carers and making time for yourself

No one says that self care for carers is easy. Nothing about supporting a loved one with an eating disorder is. But it is important. You need to look after you so you can look after your loved one.

Learn more about EDFA and how we support carers just like you. We have a range of resources for parents, carers and family members to help you navigate the journey of eating disorder recovery.