Eating Disorders are among one of the most challenging mental illnesses to live with. And managing eating disorders at Christmas can feel like an impossible task.
The holidays can be a very difficult time for many people. It can be a sad occasion due to loss or loneliness, stressful due to family feuds and challenging in regard to our mental health. But this is especially true for those of us who are struggling to manage eating disorders at Christmas.
Although a ‘season of joy‘ for many, coping with this very food-focused holiday can feel more like hell than joy on earth. Food can easily become the main focus of every situation, which can leave us feeling smothered!
8 Ways to Cope with an Eating Disorder at Christmas.
1. Set clear boundaries.
The holidays are usually a time filled with work outings, family gatherings and spending time with those that we love. But you can’t be expected to attend everything, and that’s perfectly fine. Remember that NO is not a dirty word. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by a situation, then you have the right to politely decline or excuse yourself.
Go out for a walk, spend time with your pets, take a breather with some Netflix, or even go for a nap. Self-care is so important during the holidays in general, but especially when you’re surrounded by potential triggers.
To read more about the importance of boundaries and how to politely set them, check out this post.
2. Take some time out for yourself.
During the holidays we’re expected to be present both physically and mentally. Depending on the dynamic you have, this can be easier said than done. Some of you may be able to escape during the day, while others may be expected to host throughout. Either way, it’s important you prioritise your own well-being.
If you find spending time with people, especially family, to be overwhelming, it’s a good idea to schedule some me time. Take yourself off for some downtime to read a book, play some video games or even take a nap. If you’re fit and able you could even do some yoga or go for a walk in the fresh, December air!
3. Plan distractions.
From my experience, it’s always best to have a planned distraction following the traditional holiday feast. This can be in the form of colouring, reading a good book or even partaking in the annual Monopoly minefield.
Make sure you have something in mind prior to walking into the situation but don’t be afraid to change it up a bit if prompted. Maybe Monopoly isn’t your thing, maybe you’re more into video games? If so, here are some of my top cosy games for you to seek out and try!
4. Have an ’emergency contact’.
Not everyone can be there for you during the holiday period. We all have our own lives and families to attend to. If you can possibly manage it make prior arrangements with a friend, a partner or even a family member to be there just in case.
For example, I know I can always rely on my husband to help out of a bad situation, whether the threat is real or fabricated. Three years ago he even attended our family dinner. He was able to be there for not only me but everyone while we navigated what would be our last Christmas as a family.
Even during the holidays, BEAT is on hand to answer any distress calls. Helplines will be open between 4 pm – 8 pm from December 24th 2019 until January 1st 2020.
5. Be kind to yourself (and others).
This shouldn’t need much explanation. Be nice, be kind and be mindful of others during the holidays. For some, this could be the first year without a loved one or perhaps they’re lonely and have no one to turn to. No matter where you are, at work or at home, be kind.
How can we mention kindness without also thinking of ourselves!? Impossible! The kindness you put out into the world needs to also be displayed in how we treat ourselves.
Allow yourself to feel overwhelmed, but deal with it appropriately. If you’re feeling scared or anxious, talk about it but don’t act on it negatively. Communication, vulnerability, and honesty are your best friends right now. Use them.
6. Let go of expectations and detrimental thinking, even just for one day.
I always expect big events like Christmas, Halloween and the new year to be perfect. Where these expectations come from, I’m not sure, but I know that I’m always left feeling sorely disappointed. The truth is nothing can be perfect and we need to let go of that expectation.
Equally, we need to let go of the expectation we hold for ourselves. It’s okay to eat a little bit more than usual, and it’s certainly okay to get up at nine instead of six! Challenge the negative thinking patterns that are telling you that it’s not, and tell them exactly why it is!
Eating Disorders are challenging at the best of times. But eating disorders at Christmas feel impossible to manage! But, remember, it’s just one day!
7. It’s going to be challenging.
The holidays are always going to hold some sort of dread because it’s largely about eating and being in the company of others. To expect it to be easy is setting yourself up for failure.
Be aware of the fact that you’re going to be challenged more than normal. You’re going to have to fight (and fight hard) against your internal critic. Be mindful but don’t allow it to ruin the season. If we can identify the triggers and do our best to either avoid them or safely challenge them, then it makes the experience that bit easier.
8. Stick to the plan.
No matter what goes down, if your meal plan says eat 6 times a day, stick to it. I appreciate that routines become mixed up over the holidays, but attempt to stick to the plan as much as possible to prevent major disruption.
This doesn’t stop with meal plans. It also includes other important aspects of your life such as medication times. Of course, a lie-in or a late-night is warranted, but try to keep it as similar to your normal routine as possible.
When we step outside normality it can be overwhelming and cause unnecessary distress. This is especially true where food or mealtimes are concerned. But, the good news is that as your time in recovery progresses, so does your ability to step outside the norm. It won’t be like this forever, and someday you will be able to enjoy being spontaneous!
Eating Disorders at Christmas with Dawn Recovery.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Eleanor from Dawn Recovery about managing eating disorders at Christmas. We talked about the holiday season and the fears we both feel going into December. If you’d like to hear the full podcast episode check out the link below! I couldn’t recommend Dawn Recovery enough both as a person and as a fellow eating disorder recovery advocate!
Of course, if you have any further tips for managing eating disorders at Christmas, feel free to leave them in the comments below! The more the merrier!