Hopelessness is a feeling I hear most family caregivers experience at some point (okay, many points) while caring about or for a loved one with an eating disorder. Sadly, it is common at most points along the seemingly endless journey. 

As this 2020 National Eating Disorders Awareness Week NEDAwareness Week wraps up, family caregivers can experience more hopelessness than usual after seeing all of the dire statistics and data about these most deadly of all mental illnesses. 

As always, hope is what I’m peddling and want more of for eating disorders caregivers. We need the facts and data to help fight misinformation and ignorance about our loved one’s illness and we need to hold onto hope that they can recover. 

So how to balance these dichotomous concepts so we don’t go down the rabbit hole of hopelessness and stay there? 

Today I have 3 tips for family caregivers to balance the facts and the hope.

  1. Breathing
  2. Grieving
  3. Gratitude

What does this mean specifically you say? Let’s break it down. 

Breathing

Caregivers O2 masks must go on 1st.

The data can be dire and overwhelming. Not only are eating disorders the most deadly of all mental illnesses, we still don’t have an agreed upon definition of recovered and the recovery rates sound dismal. And still too many universities are not including training on eating disorders for their medical students. 

So one of the first steps can be using whatever breathing technique you find the most helpful to reclaim a sense of calm and get re-grounded. Yes, breathing can sound overrated and it is really powerful how it calms our nervous system and so much more! Check out the benefits in this scientific article from NIH. It can’t hurt, right?  Here are a few favorites: 

  • Hand breathing – tracing one’s hand while breathing in and out 
  • 4 x 4 x 4 Breathing 
  • 4 x 7 x 8 Breathing

Grieving 

Once the nervous system is calmed down a bit and not in a fight or flight response, we can do some conscious grief work. NOT FUN I know…and very necessary. It’s painful and hard, and it’s worth it. You might be thinking, “Wait, my loved one is still alive so why should I grieve?” Here is a piece on grief when someone hasn’t died. Ambiguous loss is a big source of grief.  Ask me about tools I’ve used, I’m happy to share. The benefits are many, including feeling freedom from sadness. As this photo shows, the grief feels smaller when we grow our lives around it. That begins with acknowledging the grief and processing it. 

Gratitude 

Once we’ve found some sense of calm, released some grief then it’s easier to practice gratitude. Check out my blog post on gratitude here. Although, some would argue (including me) that gratitude can help make the path to calm a shorter road. 😉 It can be very tricky to feel grateful for ANYTHING when we are scared and worried. Practicing using gratitude can help us become Gratitude Ninjas which can help us shift out of a fear state more quickly. I find that being grateful for things we often take for granted is the easiest path into gratitude. Here are a few of my favorites: 

  • Being able to breathe easily
  • Freedom
  • A body that allows me to do what I want to do
  • Clean water to drink
  • Enough food 
  • Consistent shelter

What can you find to be grateful for in this moment? Feel free to reach out to me and discuss any of these tools. And if you’re ready to get some more support in using them, let’s talk about how coaching might benefit you.