This month, I am looking at all the resources our big world has to offer us. Looking at what is available at our fingertips seems a good place to start. So this week I am sharing with you what apps and tools are on my phone to help my recovery today. This is not a review of all the apps available out there, simply my choice for MY recovery. Would love to hear from everyone what you use and what you avoid.
Some phone apps designed for self-care in recovery are great, but be warned, you and your phone cannot do this alone so I will also be making some obvious suggestions on how to connect with your support team this week. Next week, we take this a step further as I will be on a hunt for online support groups, forums and fellowships that can connect us to more people who are going through what we are.
My favorite recovery app: Recovery Record
I came across the app ‘Recovery Record’ around 3 and a half years back before my wedding when I needed something to track my food and keep me motivated to stop my purging behaviors. I began by using the features with gusto. Logging my meals, clicking on the large choice of feelings I was having at the time and proudly clicking the no button to the ‘Have you Binged?’ and ‘Have you purged?’ options. Within three days when I purged I gave up and didn’t open the app again until my next period of white knuckling through my recovery. I did try log some of my binges once and a while and this was useful as a way to put a full stop on the cycle at times. Without other supports, myself and just the app were no match for the stage of my eating disorder. But it did remind me of the usefulness of logging meals, acknowledging feelings and using a variety of coping skills. It wasn’t a wasted download, not be a long shot.
It wasn’t until after my inpatient treatment that I became more willing to use the app to it’s fullest. And I found some great features I hadn’t even noticed before:
- The app comes in two versions. The one I have (yellow one) for the patient.; and another one for clinicians (white one). I can connect with my clinician (in my case my Psychologist). She sees my logs and can provide feedback and encouragement as well as request that I fill in the EPSI (Eating Pathology Symtoms Ineventory) questionnaire every four weeks to track where I am with various symptoms of the disorder as I recover.
- The app allows you to view charts over time periods (week, month, year) so you can see trends or patterns in your recovery. You can use the charts to track possible triggers like time of day, meal companion, meal type, feelings, day of week or even location. I learned that disordered behaviours like purging and binging were more likely in the afternoon and post meal cravings were more likely when I ate at my desk at work for example. This information is really useful for you and your treatment team.
- Logs are stored. I didn’t realise how useful this was until I relapsed and ended up back in hospital for a second time almost 2 years ago. By looking through the trends and patterns and reading my thoughts at times, I was able to recognize why I had relapsed. My relapse prevention plan second time round used real life examples of triggers and allowed me to ask for coping strategies specific for my circumstances. Well informed, I was set up for success.
The app also has a place to capture your coping strategies and can suggest some for you. Your therapist can also suggest some. And you can set it to trigger a reminder for a coping strategy for certain feelings or events. It is so rewarding to tick you have used or plan to use a strategy. For me, it makes me feel empowered to own my recovery.
The app has some really great affirmations and memes after each time you log a meal or check-in. Some are really cute pictures and some are really awesome motivators. You can like these and save them to go back to later when you feel down.
The more you put into your recovery the more you get out
It may seem like a lot of effort at first but remember that taking time to reflect after a meal or craving can be healing in itself. I still use the app now and have no intention of stopping any time soon.
Best for reaching out for help: My Dialler obviously, but messenger apps have sort of taken over…
One of the most effective self-help tools is calling someone when you have an urge, a troubling feeling or are in crisis. Or even when suffering from over-thinking.
It may seem obvious but creating these contacts in your phone and having a clear list of go-to people can be really useful in times of distress. Less chance for excuses like not having the number or not knowing if it is ok to call. Go-to people may be family member (I call my mum and my husband) or friends (who may or may not be in recovery. I opt for friends in recovery a lot.) or even your professional support team (your therapist or dietician may have urged you to reach out in times of need). In my relapse prevention plan, I made a note of who I was going to call and even asked them if it was ok to do so.
Phoning is preferable to messaging, remember we can make free calls using WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger, WeChat etc. If it is hard to connect (perhaps it is work time or there are time zone restraints) then I find leaving a voice message where I can explain what is going on really helps me more than a brief text, but everyone will have their own preference.
Best for planning: My Calendar (ok obvious again)
I hated being organized before recovery. I never used my calendar on my phone and often skipped or missed therapeutic appointments and social engagements. My calendar has been used much more in recovery. With appointments and the need to plan meals, it is often comforting to have an idea of how the day will pan out.
Consider blocking out time for meals or self-care time
I actually blocked out meals in my calendar when I first returned to work. I set solid boundaries that I was to get a break to eat. If I had to attend a 12pm meeting then 1pm was off the cards. This predictability of getting my meals was really comforting in the early days and the use of my calendar to make sure I get to my appointments and commitments has really helped raise my self-esteem. This seems like such a small thing but makes a world of difference.
Apps that drive me crazy sometimes
Social media can be a great way to connect. Especially as an expat, I love how I can keep up to date in what is going on back home. But these sites are minefields for eating disorder triggers. Constant streams of food porn and ‘happy’ pictures of other peoples perfect lives, bodies, jobs, children to trigger my need to compare. These can be a cravings minefield and a huge knock to my self-esteem. I know that reality isn’t reflected on these sites but this doesn’t matter at times when I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired.
Not to mention the temptation to seek validation through posting my own ‘perfect life’ or catching up with others. It is much easier to distort reality when messaging as opposed to talking directly with someone.
The only social media sites I still use personally are Facebook and LinkedIn. However, I have silenced messages from alerting me and have to limit my time scrolling, especially when I am not feeling good.
You Tube is a blessing and a curse. It is a great support for my recovery in that I can do a lot of at home guided meditations, yoga and even watch other peoples stories of recovery for encouragement. It can also be a good distraction for those times when you want to sit out a craving. The trouble is the constant stream of fitness and diet videos labelling foods as good and bad and messing with my view of a healthy lifestyle. The good news is that the recommendations are often geared well to what you have watched recently so after a short time you will not be as bombarded with the next fad diet or exercise regime. Beware of sharing a login with someone else though. I shared one with my husband on my TV and I found his healthy interest in these new diets triggered my obsession big time. I had to ask him to not watch these around me or try to convert me himself. Diets have no place in my recovery.
The temptation to search for calorie content, the weight of a celebrity, the most harmful or fattening foods was such a huge part of my illness. Information is readily at our fingertips these days and some of this is really useful, for those who don’t use it as a stick to beat themselves with. I am not one of these people. After some time on a healthy meal plan you may find the need to know every detail lessens. It may return (as it does sometimes with me), but I just acknowledge the eating disorder thought and continue with my day. It is ok to know the content of my food but my recovery goal is to weaken foods grip over my mood and thoughts. I can promise you there are so many days when food doesn’t feel like a challenge any more.
It is ok to switch off
Switching off is a great tool for serenity. Remember, your serenity is important for your recovery. With or without an eating disorder, sometimes being constantly ON can be a drain on ones energy. I personally struggle with this a lot.
Obsessive use of those cautionary apps
If you find yourself unable to stop scrolling for food pics on Instagram or calorie content hunting online or even comparing yourself to others online, it is a good idea to take the temptation away. Switch off and do something else like take a walk or write your feelings down. I need to do this often to avoid overload. This is probably why there was a ban on phones while I was in treatment.
Technology can be a friend in recovery or an enemy. It has been helpful for me to use my phone in a new way, avoiding usage that makes me feel self-conscious, lonely and hungry and using those that allow me to take track and stock of my recovery journey.