5 Self Care Tips To Navigate Body Image Issues
Self care is never not important. But as the year has basically dialed up the stress factor by the month, there’s no time like right now to stock up on some self-care essentials and tips.
The goal? Avoiding high levels of stress, burnout, anxiety and low self-esteem. Especially when it comes to dealing with our body image, it can certainly be the culprit behind the development of more compromised wellness. So staying healthy means doing what we can to ensure our minds and body are cared for. Even if the world still needs work, we can simultaneously work on ourselves.
Still, sometimes it can feel trivial to want to focus on yourself, right? Wrong! If we completely ignore meeting our needs in today’s health and social climate, we will burn out. Self care is meant to continue to nurture ourselves and make sure we’re in this for the long haul and not just something temporary.
One of the most effective self-care is having a guide—which is what a therapist is, essentially—to help you navigate life’s challenges takes some of the weight off your shoulders. However, sometimes, you just need some soothing right now, which is where having a self-care kit with simple practices you can incorporate on how to deal with body image issues into your day-to-day comes in. Here are some self-care tips that you can navigate in your life.
- Explore what’s behind any negative feelings towards your body
Negative body image isn’t always about the body itself, often there are deeper feelings of unworthiness at play. If you find yourself having harsh thoughts about your body, take a minute and dig into why that might be. Ask yourself, what is it that I’m really feeling here? What am I looking to prove or not prove to myself in this moment? Is it that I have value? Is it that I’m okay?. The act of turning that critical lens on ourselves is just a defense against feeling those deeper feelings. If we can stop ourselves, get in touch with those feelings, acknowledge them and perhaps write about them instead of tearing ourselves apart, we’ll get some insight into what is really going on internally. This will also help avoiding harmful behaviour such as emotional projection to the people around you.
- Celebrate what makes your body powerful
Next time you feel negativity creeping in, we recommend thinking about all of the cool and amazing things your body can do for you. Maybe your mind helps you write beautiful poetry, your legs carry you through thousands of steps a day and run 5 kilometers, or your big heart makes you a great friend or cat mom. When we’re in a negative mindset, we lose the perspective of the other things that are valuable about us. Everything gets reduced down to the size of our jeans, which is so diminishing and dismissive of the holistic creatures that we are. If you have trouble being kind to yourself, we suggest you try the “best friend test”: Are you talking to yourself as kindly as you would if you were talking to your best friend? If not, make a point to do so going forward.
- Limit harmful social media consumption and focus on supportive communities for body image issues
In a recent research, it was shown that among adults and children, social media has the greatest impact on how they feel about their bodies—a greater impact than traditional media or in real-life relationships. If you’re feeling more down on your appearance than normal, consider that it could be linked to your scrolling habits. The need for social comparison right now is quite great because we’re in this situation together and we want to see how other people are doing it, says Campbell. So, when we’re on Instagram and we see somebody who has the body type or the skin or the hair that we think we should have, then we turn a critical lens on ourselves.
However, of course, not all social media accounts feed negative body image. In fact, online communities can provide valuable support for those who feel alone in their body image concerns. Until we can dismantle this oppressive system that demonizes certain bodies and puts certain bodies on a pedestal, we have to support each other.
- Check your attitudes toward food and exercise
Many people with body image issues suffer from anxiety—like so many of us during COVID-19—have perfectionistic tendencies when it comes to their wellness habits. What we usually see is people being hyper-fixated on doing things ‘the right way.’ They feel like if they aren’t doing the right things, their body image is going to suffer and it’s their fault.
This is why it’s important to approach food and exercise from a place of non-judgment. There’s a difference between saying ‘I want to exercise because it lifts my spirits’ and saying ‘I have to exercise because if I don’t, I’m worthless.’ It’s about perspective and reframing the way we look at it. You can set goals of wanting to exercise because it makes you feel good and also not beat yourself up if you’re not able to do it on a certain day. For someone who has body dysmorphia, it is not going to be beneficial if it’s reminding me every hour how many calories I didn’t burn.
On the food front, our nutritionist advises us to avoid labeling any meal as “bad” or “good,” as this can create feelings of guilt. Instead, she says to pay attention to how your body is feeling and to feed yourself accordingly. Find ways to comfort yourself that don’t include food. But if you are eating more every now and then, let yourself enjoy it. It’s really hard to deal with our emotions if we’re not nourished. If you have to schedule times to eat and put a reminder on your phone, that’s okay. Just make sure you’re getting some form of nourishment throughout the day.
- Stay connected to loved ones
If you’re prone to ritualistic “checking” behaviors—looking at yourself in mirrors, weighing yourself, etc.—you may be tempted to do more of that while self-isolating. The more time we spend isolating, the more time we spend in our own heads, and when you struggle with how you feel about your body, that isn’t always the best place to be. As an antidote, we suggest scheduling regular virtual hang-outs with friends and family, doing things like virtual games, movie nights, or scavenger hunts.
And while you might not want to talk to everyone in your life about your body image concerns, we have found it helpful to share your feelings with those you trust. Sometimes, talking to a friend about your issues could make you feel better. But, remember to ask for their consent before you speak to them so that they are ready and have the mental capacity to speak about a topic. Really rely on your community and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable when things go wrong.
Above all, don’t forget that it’s important to forgive yourself for any not-so-nice thoughts about your body. This can be such a traumatic time for someone with food or body issues, and the last thing we need is to beat the crap out of ourselves on top of those struggles. Remember that your body is meant to change at different parts of life, and it’s okay if it changes during quarantine. After all, everything else has.
If you or someone you know is experiencing an eating disorder, contact the International Psychology Center hotline at +603-2727 7434.