When caring for a loved one with an eating disorder it’s common to feel overwhelmed, exhausted and isolated. The demands can be monumental, so much so that your own physical and mental health may deteriorate. Eating disorder care-giving is shown to result in levels of anxiety and depression higher than carers of people requiring palliative care, suffering Alzheimer’s disease or ovarian cancer*.
So, it is important to remember in the midst of the battle, your own well-being is a priority. This may sound near impossible but if the carer sinks then the whole family, including the loved one with ED, will suffer more.
It’s also common to feel guilt about needing time out from caring, however providing emotional and psychosocial support for our loved ones can mean we are on-call 24/7 for many years on end. To stay the distance, time out is not only necessary, but vital.
Carer to self-soothe and model self-care
People with eating disorders often find it hard to regulate emotions. Self-soothing is something we try and teach them. One way to demonstrate healthy emotions is for the carer to also self-sooth, and model self-care. Participating in emotional care is vital for a carer’s welfare, and the powerful message it sends.
Self-care tips for carers:
- ask for help when you need it…most carers need help but don’t ask
- take time for yourself…respite services, exercise, or put yourself in ‘time out’
- eat healthily…with so much focus on diet, your own intake reflects good recovery practice for you all
- maintain your friendships to keep links to the world outside caring
- try not to become socially isolated…friends and family may distance themselves believing you need space; reach out because they may not know how to
- seek support from other carers/attend a carer’s group…the lived-experience is a powerful tonic
- acknowledge your feelings…guilt, anger, resentment, fear, stress, anxiety, depression and grief are some of the emotions you will have…accept them
- sleep well, sleep when you can…a nap can be the difference between floating and sinking
- seek professional help for yourself…you are equally important.
National Carers Week 2022 is from 16 to 22 October. Make a promise to yourself during this important week: to accept and model self-care.