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Handling Holiday Stress While in Recovery from Eating Disorders

Developing Healthy Holiday Traditions in Recovery

The holiday season means busy schedules and long to-do lists, whether you’re a busy parent trying to create a wonderful holiday for your family or a student cramming for midterms and wrapping up the end of a semester.

The holiday also brings high expectations – for how things are supposed to look and how you’re supposed to feel. From Christmas cards to holiday TV specials, we’re inundated with images of other people happily sharing meals, sipping hot chocolate around the fire, and opening gifts with bright bows.

When our own circumstances or emotions don’t fit this picture-perfect image, it can leave us feeling disconnected and depressed. For people struggling with eating disorders, this combination of stress and pressure to live up to an ideal that exists only in Hallmark commercials can be a recipe for relapse. Here are some tips and suggestions for handling holiday stress and keeping eating disorders at bay.

Eat regularly.
All around you, people may be indulging in high calorie sweets and casually talking about starting their diet or ‘starving themselves’ the next day to make up for it. This doesn’t work for people with eating disorders. Same goes for skipping breakfast or lunch to save up for a big dinner. Sticking to a meal schedule and routine and eating at regular times is very important.

Think creatively to manage your eating disorder and still enjoy holiday celebrations.
If you’re worried about feeling too anxious to eat at a party, you may want to have a quiet meal at home before going to a holiday gathering. If you’re not sure that you will be willing to eat the foods served, you can offer to bring a dish that you know you’ll like.

Step away from the gift wrap. Put down the garland. And take care of you.
We all put a lot of emphasis on these few weeks of November and December, maybe too much. After all, they’re just dates on a calendar, and are only as important or as special as we decide to make them. If you start feeling overwhelmed, give yourself permission to ease up.

Say no to invitations to gatherings that you don’t really want to attend. No time to cook for the potluck? Order from restaurant. Ran out of time to find the perfect gift? The people who truly matter to you will value your health and mental well-being more than any material item.

Be around people who support you.
People with eating disorders have a tendency to isolate when they feel stressed or anxious. Try to stay connected with people who provide you with the support you need and those who make you feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. This could be family, friends or your peers in recovery. If you’re having a hard time, share what you’re going through with them. They’ll be there for you and it may be enough to help you get a handle on how you’re feeling and avoid eating habits that can hurt your health.

Don’t go it alone.
If you’re struggling, reach out for professional help. Call your Recovery Coach, or call us at Rosewood. We’re to help you navigate the holidays, keep your recovery on track and resolve to make the New Year one of health and happiness.

About the author

Dena Cabrera, Psy.D., CEDS

Executive Clinical Director @

Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders

Web Site: https://www.rosewoodranch.com

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