The holiday season is upon us. For those who struggle with an eating disorder or body image issues, the joyful holiday dinners, time-honored traditions, and religious celebrations can bring increased anxiety. The holiday season may feel like the two-to-three months out of the year that are almost completely centered around food and come loaded with triggers, but it is possible to get through the holidays while maintaining your recovery from an eating disorder. How can you get through the season and enjoy it in the process? Here are some important things to remember.
Stick to your eating disorder program
Structure every day, regardless of holiday plans, keeping your usual recovery routines and practices. Keep your appointments with your providers and, if possible, consider scheduling additional appointments for more support. Avoid over-booking yourself with commitments. Choose the gatherings that you’re most comfortable with, and try not to schedule events back-to-back. Make sure you have time to de-stress, relax, and take care of you.
Looking forward, anticipate situations, settings, people, and particular foods that you think might be problematic. Talk about these triggers with your therapist, dietician, or other provider. Write down healthy coping strategies that work for you, such as positive statements, natural anxiety relievers such as breathwork, meditation, or other methods. Who can you call in a moment of high stress? Program this number and a at least one eating disorder crisis line number into your cellphone’s favorites list. Make a list of friends, family members, online support groups, or other supportive resources that will be available to you if you need help.
Set healthy boundaries
You might be very aware of what triggers you, but remember that others may not be. It can be difficult to be around so much food and participate in conversations about food, diet, and weight can throw you into anxiety. Prior to an event, predict how you might respond, verbally and otherwise, to stressors. Plan and practice some empowering responses to difficult lines of conversation. If a discussion starts taking you down the anxiety rabbit hole, redirect. If you need a break, step away and return to your plan.
Though you’ll need to take courage and step out of your comfort zone during the holidays, being gentle with yourself is where you will find your strength. Replace negative self-talk with messages of self-empowerment. What would you say to a friend who is struggling? Say it in the mirror. Nurture yourself through positive music, books, and online entertainment. Have an at-home spa night. Schedule a manicure or a massage. Plan restorative activities following a holiday activity. Compliment yourself on having gotten through it.
Most importantly, remember that you are not alone. Your holiday activities may bring stress, but it’s important to make peace with holiday meals and gatherings. This season, find ways to embrace the traditions and events that bring you joy while loving yourself. With planning, support, and courage, we can all enjoy this holiday season.
If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder and need help getting through the holidays, please give us a call. We are here for you.