It is not uncommon for the effects of an eating disorder to be felt not only by the sufferer, but also by their support network, making it all too easy for carers and family members to be left feeling overwhelmed. Far too often carers and family members report feeling as though they are unable to take the time to recharge their batteries. However, in order to avoid burn out and stress, it is essential that carers take the time to look after themselves so that they can continue to support their loved one effectively.
Below are some self-care strategies recommended for carers and family members caring for someone with an eating disorder.
Scheduling time for you
It is important to schedule time for some pleasurable activities each week. This may include catching up with friends, going to a movie, going for a walk, watching your favourite television program or taking a bath. It may helpful to write a list of your favourite things to do and then timetable in some time for them. Many parents/ carers do not feel this is necessary, however it can be helpful to view your loved ones recovery process as a marathon, not a sprint, and consider “me time” as your “water breaks”.
Notice unhelpful behaviours
Caring for someone with an eating disorder comes with huge responsibility and considerable personal strain. It is important to take note of your own behaviours to ensure that you are not falling into a pattern of unhelpful behaviours (e.g. drinking to escape, isolating yourself or stopping participating in enjoyable activities).
Seeking out your own support
It may be beneficial for carers and family members to seek out support for themselves. Increasing your own support is often vital to be able to continue to support your loved one. At BodyMatters Australasia we offer one off consultations for debriefing and/or to improve your understanding of eating and body image issues as well as ongoing consultations to build your skills in supporting your loved one. In addition, we offer parent and partner support groups on the first Saturday of each month.
Scheduling special time with your loved one
It is all too easy to lose sight of the non-eating disorder aspects of your relationship with your loved one. Whenever possible, carers and family members should try to schedule pleasant activities together that are unrelated to the eating disorder, such as going to see a movie together, going to the beach or playing a game. This will help you to nurture and cherish the positive aspects of your relationship.
Review your progress
It is important for carers and family members to take time to reflect on the progress they have made with their loved one, no matter how big or small. Sometimes we forget how far we have come by focusing too heavily on the setbacks and not enough on our successes.
Thank you for tuning into our parents and carers blog series. We hope that we have provided you with an understanding of how to better support your loved one with an eating disorder. If you would like any further information please contact us at BodyMatters Australasia.
Treasure, J., Schmidt, U., & McDonald, P. (2010). The clinicians guide to collaborative caring in eating disorders. London: Routledge
Treasure, J., Smith, G., & Crane, A. (2007). Skills-based learning for caring for a loved one with an eating disorder: The new Maudsley method. London: Routledge.