The holiday season is an exciting and cheerful time for most of us as we spent it with family/ friends making memories by playing games, baking, eating goodies, having parties, and opening gifts. However, for those who suffer from an eating disorder, the holidays become very stressful and anxious as social events and holiday traditions can be triggering.
Whether you are currently suffering from an eating disorder or recovering, it is important to have a plan and be ready to cope/ survive the holiday season coming up. Here are some things that can help you get through the holidays:
Start by Having a Plan: The temptation of canceling your holiday plans might be high for you to avoid the stress and anxiety, but if you have a plan, it could help ease your stress level and help you navigate the event. This will help you be more in control as you can plan and do things that will make you feel more comfortable during the event. Moreover, you could speak to the host/ hostess and ask them what will be served, so that you can be aware of foods that might trigger you. Also, you could ask them if they have a quiet place where you could slip away if you need a moment. This is important as taking a few minutes to take deep breaths can help lower your stress and help make you feel less anxious. If worst comes to worst, be ready to have an excuse to leave the event in case you are feeling way too triggered or too stressed out because at the end of the day your mental health is a priority and you shouldn’t have to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation.
Try avoiding negative talk when preparing for the event, instead try using these helpful statements to cope:
- Being scared in recovery is normal, and I don’t have to let that fear control my actions.
- No food is “good” or “bad,” and all foods fit.
- I am strong and I know I can do this.
- Being more flexible with food allows me to have a full life.
- Today, I choose recovery.
Have a support system: During the holidays it can get very stressful, which is why it is essential to have someone you can talk to. Having someone you can talk to makes a big difference in how you handle your triggers. It is recommended to talk to a therapist or a dietitian, however, you could also speak to a friend, family member, or someone familiar with your current struggles. Furthermore, if you feel like no one understands the challenges you are facing or you are not comfortable sharing your struggles with those around you, you can reach out to helplines and support services that are available online. National Eating Disorder Information Centre: 1-866-633-4220 (Toll-free) Visit website for more info and chat availabilities: https://nedic.ca/
Don’t Be Afraid to Say “No” Throughout the holidays it’s easy to over-extend yourself as we feel the need to be at every event, shop, bake, give back to our community, and overall try to please everyone. With the pandemic, it makes it easier around the holidays to say “no”, depending on where around the world you are and the restrictions. Nonetheless, no matter what we always get too caught up around the holidays, and it’s important to make a list/ plan of things you need to do or want to do. This way, you have made sure to not burn yourself out by giving yourself some me time and your mind is much more at ease as a schedule helps reduce stress and anxiety for most.
Whether this year you will be spending the holidays virtually or in small gatherings, conversations are great however it’s important to set boundaries for topics you are not comfortable discussing. If weight-related talks or anything that triggers/ makes you comfortable comes up you can try responding with these statements: “I’m just really thankful that I am here spending time with you today” Or “Tell me about what you have been doing in quarantine”. Try steering the conversation to be more positive and a topic you are comfortable discussing.
Practice Self-Care: As mentioned throughout this whole blog Tis the Stressful times and with that, it is necessary to practice self-care as it helps reduce stress, anxiety, and just very much needed as we get closer to ending the hectic year. Having an eating disorder or in the recovery of one isn’t an easy thing, especially during the holidays, which is why you need time to decompress and self-evaluate every now and then. Here are some things you can do:
- Take a bubble bath
- Blast your favorite holiday tunes
- Meditate & practice breathing exercises
- Go outside enjoy the cold, make a snowman or snow-women
- Do some writing (journaling/ diary), make some crafts
- Watch your holiday favorites
Whatever you decide to do, just make sure to enjoy it and be in the moment. Make sure to give yourself the freedom to have fun and to enjoy the time with your loved ones. We often allow our eating disorder to take over us as it controls our perspective and our moods, making us feel defeated and overwhelmed. Please remember that all food is fuel and that what you eat does not define who you are.
Overall, keep in mind that it is natural for you to want to isolate yourself during the holidays but it’s important to not let your eating disorder stop you from enjoying these festive times. When you isolate yourself it leads to a negative behavior pattern. Make sure to have a support system in place because it’s okay to fall down but only as long as you plan on getting back up! It’s normal to be concerned or anxious about the holidays, be sure to share how you feel with those around you, as it helps stack the odds in your favor. Keep in mind you didn’t choose your eating disorder, but you can choose to enjoy your life and the holiday season. You are brave and strong, don’t give up, you can and you will surpass your struggles!
Note: The Free Your Mind Mental Health Society is an independent youth-led organization. The contents of this blog are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In the event of a medical emergency, please call your doctor or 911 or other local emergency numbers immediately.
5 Tips for Coping with an Eating Disorder During the Holidays. (2019, October 22). Retrieved December 19, 2020, from https://centerfordiscovery.com/blog/tips-eating-disorder-during-the-holidays/
Christmas With An Eating Disorder – What Helps? How to Cope? (2018, December 19). Retrieved December 19, 2020, from https://www.newbridge-health.org.uk/2018/12/12/eating-disorder-at-christmas-advice-and-guidance/
Coping with Eating Disorders During the Holidays. (2019, November 15). Retrieved December 19, 2020, from https://www.magnolia-creek.com/eating-disorder-recovery-blog/coping-with-eating-disorders-during-the-holidays/