Big family meals, festive foods and social events are a typical part of celebrating during the holidays—but can also trigger anxiety for those in recovery for an eating disorder. And food isn’t the only issue. Many other emotional stressors can take their toll, which can trigger relapse. But with the right preparation and support, there are healthy ways to manage holiday triggers so that you can enjoy the fun and festivities.
Tips for Staying Focused on Your Eating Disorder Recovery
This year, we asked some of our Rosewood alumni what helps them get through difficult times during the holidays. Here’s what they had to say about how to stay strong and focused on recovery:
“For me, I need to stay close to my supports and my meetings. I have to be honest with whatever I’m feeling. I also need to use my coping skills.”
Plan ahead with your treatment team. Talk to your therapist and treatment team to discuss any pressure you may be feeling surrounding the holidays. Come up with some self-soothing strategies together to get you through difficult days. If you’re feeling very stressed, call your therapist or sponsor if you have one. They are there to help you, so don’t be afraid to reach out if you need to.
“I stay strong by having a plan, taking time to practice self-care, and by having a support system in my husband and best friend.”
Lean on a support partner who understands what you are struggling with. Whether it is your spouse, a friend or another family member, having someone to talk to when you’re feeling overwhelmed can be a huge help. The people who love you are there to listen.
“I try to stay present and in the moment with my kids. It helps my stress level to let go of all of the expectations of the holidays (especially as a mom) and not worry about all the little things. Me being present is what they want most.”
Being present in the moment and not pressuring yourself to create the “perfect” holiday can keep you balanced and centered. If the gravy comes out lumpy, the kitchen is a mess when your guests arrive and the relatives start bickering before you’ve had a chance to serve the pumpkin pie, take a breath and let it go. Thanksgiving is just another day. Going with the flow can relieve unwanted stress and anxiety. Try not to sweat the small stuff.
“Having a schedule helps tremendously. And being kind with myself and knowing what I can and cannot handle.”
The holiday season brings many social events, which can feel overwhelming. Be sure to plan your holiday schedule ahead of time to alleviate extra stress. You should only do what you can handle. If you don’t want to attend an event—don’t! It is perfectly acceptable to politely decline an invitation if you don’t feel up to it.
“Setting boundaries of my expectations when my family comes to visit. Open communication and giving myself space to know when I need alone time.”
Stressful family dynamics is a common trigger during the holidays. Setting healthy boundaries is key. Ask your family to avoid any remarks about your eating disorder. If someone happens to make a remark, think about how you will respond ahead of time and be honest with how you are feeling. This can set the precedent for how they communicate with you in the future. If you need some alone time, let them know. Remember, staying focused on what is best for you and your recovery is most important.
“Socializing vs. isolating! Get outside, visit with friends, go to get-togethers and celebrate holidays with those I love.”
Taking a time out is ok, but completely isolating yourself isn’t a good idea. Be sure to attend gatherings and events that you know you will enjoy. Take part in fun activities. Distractions can help!
“Solitaire on my phone. No matter where I am I can zone out!”
Coming up with some self-soothing strategies are great ways to decrease stress and anxiety. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, download a fun game to play on your phone, learn some relaxing breathing techniques, curl up with a book or squeeze a stress ball. These techniques are so simple—and they work!
“Taking breaks during the holiday events to watch a funny video, pray and re-center.”
Remember to enjoy the little things that make you happy on a daily basis. It will take your mind off any holiday pressures you may be under. Don’t push yourself. When you need a break, take one.
“No matter what, I am following my MEAL PLAN!”
Have your meals made in advance or offer to bring a dish that you know you will eat to family gatherings. Sticking to your meal plan will help take the stress and anxiety out of holidays meals.