Cabin Fever within my own body – Stuck inside with BDD for post-holidays

Christmas, the festive season and the New Year’s flew by with the snap of our fingers, but this means now we have to deal with the aftermath of what had come with such closely packed celebrations (even during the pandemic with little ways of celebrating to begin with!): Over-indulging and agonising over nit-picking our own body image and appearance afterwards it’s hard for anyone right now that might experience body dysmorphia on the average day.

Here’s the deal, a lot of you may be stepping on this post with problems with issues with Body Dysmorphia before the holiday season. Fret not this isn’t going to be a piece specified for Christmas and Christmas only, this isn’t just about feeling like you look bloated after the festive season, it can still help you any other day.

So what exactly is Body Dysmorphia or BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder)? It’s a mental health condition where you spend a lot of time worrying about your appearance. This could lead to doing things such as poking and picking at parts of your body, smoothing out your skin, comparing old to new photos, and spending more time getting ready. This is to name a few that could affect you in your everyday life.

The million-dollar question is, how do you cope with it all, especially post-holidays? Firstly, this all depends on the person. A lot of first searches online will direct you to talk to your GP or a mental health specialist that would offer several treatments including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), or a particular type of anti-depressant would be the most popular responses. 

But for those that need help right now or have no access to the above (and aren’t in urgent need for assistance, if you do, helplines are right here https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/crisis-services/helplines-listening-services/ ) Self-care is vital, and I don’t mean bubble baths and retail therapy. But now, post-Christmas and new years, it can be particularly rough for those with BDD or suffer from similar symptoms. 

Because this post is heavy on self-image after the holidays, I also presented some overlapping eating disorders advice. This doesn’t mean you have it, but if you feel like you may have issues with eating, please consult your GP or call one of the helplines at the bottom of the page. However, the two are not the same, some have similar symptoms, and as a precaution, I have put all stops here and hope some would suit you. Either way, here is a starter’s list on self-care to help improve your handle on your body dysmorphia: 

  1. Acknowledgement: The first step is acknowledgement. It sounds simple enough, but we often dismiss when we’re falling back into bad habits. Catch yourself every time you feel like you’re spiralling into this, ask yourself and write these down: How do you usually cope/what helps you manage when you spiral? Is there anyone around that can help and support you? What are your main worries when it comes down to your appearances, and what are your triggers? You can reflect on that list as a reminder to help you in your time of need.
  2. Social Media: Social media isn’t the birth of BDD, but it breeds it, it manifests it. It just doesn’t help is all I’m saying. Now more than ever we’re probably juggling between refraining ourselves from going on social media to being bored not going on there because heck, where are we going in the middle of the pandemic? With that, there’s a lot more strain on the fear of missing out or comparing our bodies to others. Like with depression and anxiety and many other mental health issues, there needs to be moderation on these apps. Be aware of what’s coming up on your feed and triggering these feelings, how it affects you and set up boundaries. That mute button is now your best friend more than ever, trust me.
  3. Find a support group: The great thing these days is these things don’t have to be face to face (virtually or otherwise) as there are lots of Facebook groups, Twitter and Instagram accounts, or even YouTube channels that can act as your support group. The social media accounts would work as a hefty reminder when we’re stuck doom scrolling mindlessly through the abyss that there is help! Here are some specific help for you both physical and online support groups here.
  4. Mindful and breathing exercise: Meditation has gotten a lot of beef in the recent years, the meme of exercise as it were, but the suggestion that mindful and breathing exercises are end-all-be-all treatment is the wrong way about it. Instead, these exercises, such as deep breathing exercises and yoga, will help slow down your thoughts, help with spiralling and overthinking, reset your mind as it were. Overthinking and hyper-fixation are one of the most prominent symptoms of dysmorphia. We drown ourselves in doubts and willingly confirm that our appearance has significant flaws with flashing lights surrounding it! (which is not true, folks!) If that’s something you catch yourself doing, try a meditation exercise [If you want more tips on fitness when you have BDD check this article out!], do some deep breathing, yoga, short walks. Like all these tips it’s not for all, but it’s worth a shot if you want. Here a link to help you get started here.
  5. Eating healthy: This is a big one for this particular topic of post-festivities. Notice here I didn’t say the D-word (Oh, get your mind out the gutter, bud) Diet. Heck, I won’t even say stick to a rigorous all-healthy diet, unless you want to of course. I might as well throw in here; I’m talking about a balanced diet. From my personal experience, I don’t eject all the “bad” stuff out post-Christmas, or ever really. Feeling bad does make me want to go cold turkey on the chocolates, but this absolutism makes it harder to succeed. This is a process, not an instant shot of a before and after image. Remind yourself that there isn’t an immediate result, it’s a process, and any little progress is progress. Be kind to yourself, especially now more than ever. 
  6. Listen to a podcast about BPP: Podcasts are my all-time favourite thing. I know they seem overrated by now, but maybe that’s because there’s a podcast for literally almost everything. Plus you can multitask while proactively helping yourself. Here is one to start with here.
  7. Meaningful Activities: Do something that reminds you that you’re not just you and your BPP, you’re more significant than that. Work on your dreams, stay focused on your goals, projects, hobbies, what you enjoy and love. Distract yourself with these, know you have these even if it’s just planning and thinking about it when you spiral down your rabbit hole. 
  8. Spend more time (virtually if you have to) with other people: It’s hard to get out of your head when all you hear is just your voice. The more time with yourself, the more time you have to stare at your reflection, overthink and agree with your nasty thoughts. This isn’t to say no time with yourself, but having a fair share of both will do some good.
  9. Write in a journal or notes in your phone: Write down all your negative thoughts and emotions out, better if you’re doing it as soon as you’re thinking it. Don’t just write negative stuff though, what are things you do like about yourself? Don’t jump to “Well, Maria, nuthin’, I tell ya.” Try real hard here, bud, you got this. Write it down, surrounding in a pink heart, read it when you need to. 
  10. Don’t make impulsive decisions when you’re feeling down: A big no-no I’ve seen around when searching up for this piece is avoiding cosmetic surgery at all costs when you’ve got BPP or anything of a serious permanent (and impulsive) kind. If you have some serious concerns here, please check out the helplines below! 
  11. Self-help materials and leaflets online: You need to start building body acceptance somewhere. There’s a lot of these materials online that have a similar premise to how CBT work. Here is a link for some.
  12. Additionally, if you think you have eating issues or eating issues connected to your body image with eating these worksheets, give you some extra help.

Well, that’s that, a short beginner’s guide to helping yourself this new year. I wanted to finish this blog post off with a recovery story to remind you all, it sure as heck is possible!

Here are the resources and references I used but also direct links if you need further help:

  1. HELPLINES AND CRISIS SERVICES: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/crisis-services/helplines-listening-services/ 
  2. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/body-dysmorphia/#:~:text=Body%20dysmorphic%20disorder%20(BDD)%2C,are%20often%20unnoticeable%20to%20others.
  3. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/body-dysmorphic-disorder-bdd/about-bdd/
  4. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/body-dysmorphic-disorder-bdd/self-care/
  5. https://bddfoundation.org/resources/
  6. https://bdd.iocdf.org/
  7. https://bdd.iocdf.org/teens-young-adults/bdd-and-relationships/
  8. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353944
  9. https://bdd.iocdf.org/about-bdd/how-i-recovered-from-bdd/
  10. https://bdd.iocdf.org/professionals/therapists-guide-to-bdd-tx/
  11. https://www.seedlancashire.co.uk/blogs/coping-with-an-eating-disorder-at-christmas/
  12. https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Body-Dysmorphia
  13. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/body-dysmorphic-disorder-bdd/self-care/#collapse898f0
  14. https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Disordered-Eating
  15. https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Self-Esteem 

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