The holidays are touted to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but for people in recovery, it can feel like the most stressful time of the year because the holidays can present many challenges to recovery. Holidays mean irregular schedules which can derail useful routines and practices people have to support their recovery. Holidays mean lots of food and usually lots of diet talk coupled with New Year Resolution promises. Holidays mean interacting with family, which can be supportive, but sometimes family can present tricky dynamics. All of this and the forced joyfulness of the season can be incredibly stressful for anyone, but especially those with eating disorders or mood disorders. So, here are some tips to support yourself during this holiday season.
1. Connect With Your Care Team
As we head into the holiday season, be sure to connect with the professionals that support you with recovery – a therapist, dietician, trainer, and any other professional support. Discuss potential “triggers,” anxieties, and any “fear foods” that you might be encountering. Brainstorm strategies to support yourself through any challenging situation you might predict.
2. Sculpt Your Schedule
Look ahead and create a schedule that provides enough “down time” and/or normal routines as possible. You may not be able to control other people or the food they bring, but you can control how many festivities you attend, how long you stay, and how much additional activities you’re willing to take on. You CAN also schedule self-care time and treat it just like you would an important meeting. It is non-negotiable. Your self-care is important.
3. Fire Up Your Friends and Family
Make a list of friends and family members who are supportive and helpful when challenges arise: people who can add connection and compassion as your ED demands isolation and black and white thinking. Reach out to these people beforehand and talk about ways they can support you through the season.
4. Hone Your Healthy Boundaries
You know what situations, topics and people who provide the most challenge for you. You might ask your family and friends to avoid diet talk or negative body talk while they’re around you. You might limit your interactions with certain stressors or time spent at certain holiday events. Remember, boundaries are a way to love yourself and others at the same time. They are not barriers to love, but instructions on how people can love you best. You are allowed to set healthy boundaries!
5. Step Up Self-Care Practices
Know that you might need more care. Holidays are hard and no matter how much you prepare unexpected things might arise and make them harder. Allowing yourself time in a safe environment, doing something that replenishes you is vital.
6. Charge Up Your Compassion
Have compassion for yourself. Recovery is hard. Holidays are hard. Unlearning diet culture is hard. It takes time and you won’t do everything perfectly and you’re not supposed to. Not being perfect is deeply human. Find ways to add compassion to your day with self-talk or writing down compassionate affirmations. Whatever way feels most supportive.
7. Shift the Focus
You also get to enjoy the holiday season! So, be mindful and present. Connect with family, friends and traditions you love. Eat food you enjoy! Play music that connects with your soul! Maybe start a practice of gratitude (if you don’t have one already) to really reinforce the moment. It will never be the holiday season in 2022 again, so savor the fun and happy parts. Record them. Remember them. You deserve happiness too!