The holidays are full of family gatherings and social events and mingling over an array of tasty treats and holiday meals. For those suffering from an eating disorder, the season can bring additional stress, anxiety, and fear. It is often common for those suffering to experience increased symptoms of their disorder during this time. It could come from the additional stress of the season and all the associated events and activities, from challenging social dynamics or from the presence of food that accompanies the holiday events.
Unfortunately, many eating disorder sufferers dread the holiday season, but with these guiding principles, time with friends and family can be more enjoyable.
- Talk to your treatment team ahead of time and work together to identify what challenges you may expect and problem-solve some strategies for dealing with them.
- Try to stick with your meal plan that has been prescribed by your Registered Dietitian, and plan for situations such as traveling when you may not have access to your usual variety of foods.
- If you are traveling, pack some snack foods for the time in transit and to have upon arrival at the destination until you can go shopping.
- Make a list of relaxing activities. These activities may help you cope with uncomfortable physical sensations or challenging emotions or they may help positively distract you until those feelings or emotions subside. Examples may include playing a game, reading, doing a craft, making a gift, or visiting a friend. Bring some of your distraction activities with you if you are traveling.
- Have the phone numbers of your treatment team and friends available to you. You may want to increase the frequency of appointments with your treatment team or strategically schedule your appointments. Scheduling in advance is helpful in this busy season!
- While at gatherings or social events, plan ways to excuse yourself from anyone that makes you feel uncomfortable. Always put your health above anything else.
- If you feel yourself becoming anxious about food or social situations, remind yourself of the hard work you are doing, the wise words of your treatment team and the goals you are working on.
- Prepare responses to people who may say something to you that would make you uncomfortable.
- Set boundaries for yourself if you feel they are needed. Examples may include asking friends and family ahead of time to not comment on your appearance or your eating.
- Be sure to plan some time for yourself to do something that you enjoy. It is very important to take special care of yourself during the holidays.
“One of the most helpful things for any of us may to remember the true reason for the holiday and focus on that. We so often put additional pressures on ourselves trying to make things bigger and better or more special. In all of that we can lose sight of what is most important. If we put our focus on the true reason for the holiday and what we love most about it, we have a better chance of making great memories,” shares Jessica Ward, Director of Therapeutic Services.
The holidays can be difficult, and while there is no cure for the additional stress you may feel, mentally preparing yourself for the possible challenges you may face will make them much easier to maneuver. At Selah House, we understand the challenges that those suffering from an eating disorder face during the holiday season. Our professional clinicians use evidence-based research to guide our holistic therapeutic approach to treatment. We care about your whole being with treatment that supports your mind, body, and spirit and are passionate about engaging you with compassion, understanding, and without judgment.