The key here is to use journaling in a way that relieves anxiety, instead of adding to your stress by making it a chore. “Sometimes people feel like they have to do it every day for it to count,” Catalano says. “But it’s OK to use your journal only for when you’re upset or stressed.”
“If you’ve ever thought about having a [mindfulness] meditation practice, this is the moment,” Hollenstein says. In mindfulness meditation, you practice observing your moment-to-moment experiences—bodily sensations, feelings, thoughts—without judging them, pushing them away, or getting lost following them. A regular practice can help you get in better touch with how you’re actually feeling, physically, emotionally, and mentally. That’s why “mindfulness is a wonderful tool,” for many people struggling with eating, Leon says. It can also help you learn to just sit with the difficult emotions that you may be trying to cope with through food, Leon says.
Mindfulness meditation can also be helpful in the moment if our eating behaviors are reactive, Leon says. Say you’re not physically hungry but you have a strong urge to binge. Stopping, pausing, and meditating for just five or ten minutes gives you an opportunity to make a more intentional choice, Leon explains. (And then you can still eat if you want to!) To get going, download a meditation app like 10% Happier or Headspace. “It can be hard for people [to get started], especially at this moment, so it’s helpful to have a voice talk you through it,” Leon says.
Keeping a list of things that always make you feel good
“Now is a time for taking care of yourself, any way you know how,” Catalano says. Have a list of self-care acts or distractions you enjoy. “There’s nothing wrong with distracting yourself using other strategies,” Leon says. She recommends activities that feel nurturing, including a few minutes of gentle movement (like yoga), a hot bath, getting some fresh air (if you’re safely able to), doing something creative with your hands (like drawing), or FaceTiming your BFF to see how they’re doing, or watching your favorite episode of a funny show. (Here is a list of low-lift suggestions for inspiration.)
3) If your appetite or eating feels all over the place, try getting back to eating regularly.
Providing your body with consistent nourishment is one of the most important things you can do right now for your physical and mental wellbeing.
While abandoning your usual eating patterns is seriously NBD if it’s working for you, chaotic eating patterns—whether you’re having trouble eating enough or in a cycle of bingeing and restricting—aren’t helpful if they’re just stressing you out more, Hartley says. Returning to some regularity may be a good idea if the way you’re eating is making you feel undernourished, affecting your energy levels, or making you feel crappy, physically or mentally.
Generally speaking, “Try to get yourself into the habit of eating every three or four hours,” Leon says, “because then your body will get accustomed and start to feel a little bit hungrier at those times.” You might try to mimic the routine you had before all this, Hartley says. If you used to have a snack at 2 p.m., for instance, Hartley suggests setting an alarm to have a snack or at least check in with your hunger at that time. Of course, you can tweak your routine so that it better aligns with the way your day flows now. “We want to leave room for being intuitive around food, but it can be helpful to try to get into a flow—while giving yourself a lot of grace,” Hartley adds.
4) Try a quick mindful eating exercise.
More mindfulness! “Sitting down to eat a meal and focusing on giving your body the food it needs to survive—that can be a really grounding act and a way to connect with yourself, even for just five or ten minutes,” Catalano says. But, “Sometimes we get so caught up in our work or our diet that you forget to taste your food and to just appreciate what you’re eating.” You can practice intentionally paying attention to your actual experience before, during, and after eating with a mindful eating exercise.