The holidays are fully upon us, and with them comes a variety of emotions and challenging situations. Although for some the holidays may bring joy, for many others they are filled with scheduling uncertainty and the possibility of dysfunctional family members.
This is true especially if you’re working on recovery from an eating disorder. Where a holiday meal is joyous to some, people working on recovery may find the food celebrations encompassed by worry and difficulty.
But amidst this, there are many ways to not only manage the holidays but also ENJOY and flourish throughout the times. Here are our 4 best tips for helping you continue in recovery and enjoy your holiday season.
1- Don’t make it about the food.
Yes, this is a difficult tip. When it seems that everyone and everything is making it about the food it can feel almost impossible to refocus your attention on anything but that. But one of the best things we’ve found to help our clients not hyper-focus on food is immersing themselves in fun, enjoyable activities. Examples would be crafts, decorating, learning a new skill (knitting scarves for family members!), going out for coffee/tea with a family member or friend, or anything else you can think of! Although many people focus on meal times as bonding times during the holidays, see all the different activities and adventures you can have that don’t revolve around food.
2- Do make it about the people you care about.
Relating to tip #1, the holidays don’t have to revolve around food. When we focus our gatherings mainly around food, we lose sight of the people that are really important to us. In recovery, these supports help you keep going and feeling lifted up in the harder times. Carve out focused time to spend with these people. And put a big “no” up for those people who are toxic or harmful to your recovery; one of the best and important self-care strategies is to practice boundaries with those in your life that are harmful to you.
3-Get out strategy.
This tip is about as simple as it sounds, create a plan to exit when needed. Having good boundaries are key to making sure that you are taking care of yourself. If a particular family member is saying things that are inappropriate or triggering it is important to speak up, use your voice, and exit. An exit strategy often times looks like having a friend on speed dial who can help you take a break to talk, or being ready to run a quick errand, or to go outside for a breath of fresh air. It may also look like having an exit strategy simply from a conversation, such as having other topics that you are ready to change the subject to if the conversation is focused on foods or diets.
4- Be kind to yourself.
The most important thing is self-compassion. The holidays can bring a lot of stress and upheaval, and to expect perfection from yourself is too much. So you may struggle, that’s ok. But notice where your negative self-talk is holding you back, challenge it by reminding yourself that you are trying your best and that’s all anyone (especially you!) can ask for.
The holidays can be stressful, but you have the tools to make it a time that’s enjoyable and nourishing!