Holidaze: Surviving When in ED Recovery
Tips to Manage the Season NOW!
While the holidays can be a time of joy, connection, and memory-making, when you are recovering from an eating disorder, they can also be a time of stress, anxiety, and possibly fear.
During the early years of my recovery, I was in the closet with my family about my treatment. I wish I could tell you why. I think that they would have been supportive enough but maybe not quite understand or validate my experiences. But that was the way it was so control of the environment was critical to me so I hosted Thanksgiving (which was the biggest feast for my family).
As you might imagine, this caused me a great deal of stress that I eliminated only through planning. I needed to prepare the family faves AND as the hostess I could send them home with the bulk of the leftovers so I would not have some elbow-deep dressing and cranberry binge later.
The holiday season was where I really learned to rely on my mindful eating skills–particularly around satisfaction and how beneficial planning and permission to enjoy the foods were to keeping me building a positive relationship with food.
I want to share some strategies that worked for me and my clients. If you have any experience, I would love to hear what has or is working for you!
Plan for You
The plans you make are for your benefit. You cannot expect the same people not to do the same things whether they are aware of your struggles or desire to change. Family and friends often mean well but can cause you stress and anxiety without knowing.
- Know where you will be going and who will be there. If there are allies, recruit them!
- Planning your events will help you anticipate your triggers and reactions so you can rehearse a different reaction beforehand. It is near impossible when you are completely caught off-guard at every turn!
- Have a self-care survival kit on-hand. This can include a snack or excuses to take a walk or sit quietly. You do what you have to for you.
Present Moment Is Key
Staying in the present moment is key to getting through this time. It is not helpful to dwell in the past or let your loved ones drag you down memory lane if it is not helpful. Additionally, these times are meant to be enjoyed so allow yourself to savor the flavors, the smells, the laughs, and the hugs!
- Bring your new self–and the skills you are learning–to the present moment. Do not feel like you have to revert to patterns of the past when you didn’t have the skills you have now. Your loved ones need to see you now.
- Don’t forget to breathe. A few deep breaths can be grounding and give you an opportunity to get your bearings enough to recall and apply any tools you have in your recovery toolkit!
- The holidays are a few days and will not break you although it may feel like it. The very next day is a day to start over. Recovery is a journey and not a destination. Be compassionate with yourself–you deserve it.
Mindfully Manage Your Expectations
If you are trying to heal your relationship with food and your body, the holidays can be challenging enough without you having the pressure of meeting the expectations of others or the ones you impose on yourself. This goes hand-in-hand with focusing on the present moment–that what is versus what should be!
- Avoid making major decisions (as possible) until the second week of January. The influence of holiday cheer (and eggnog) may not lead to the wisest choice.
- Avoid overscheduling yourself too. Spreading yourself too thin can make it easy to fall into old patterns.
- Practice non-judging others and yourself. Don’t enter into situations with any expectations, just a positive attitude.
Hopefully, these strategies will help you enjoy a wonderful holiday season and keep you making progress with recovery or change this year. Bonus: these tips can be useful year-round for other gatherings like weddings, graduations, and reunions!
Wishing you the best of the season and wellness!
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