The holidays are here, and that can bring both good and bad for those living with an eating disorder, or have a loved one who does. While the season yields festive feelings with family gatherings and some much needed time off, there's a catch-22 for individuals dealing with an eating disorder. The problem isn't so much that overindulgence is allowed during the holidays, but that it's encouraged.
Food or weight preoccupations can create stress enough with the series of holiday banquets and never-ending cookies; but that's often only the half of it. People living with an eating disorder often have underlying mental and emotional issues that can be aggravated by the holiday tension, rather than feelings of cheer.
Despite the anxiety the holidays can create, there are still ways to enjoy the time spent together and traditions of years past, or brand-new ones. There are strategies you can take to cope with the holidays, or recommend to help find relief for a close relative.
Avoid party overexertion
The holidays are uber-social. There's usually a bevy of friendly get-togethers, family nights and work holiday parties to attend — which can lead to more of a looming dread than an anticipative excitement when living with an eating disorder. New faces, unknowing-but-well-meaning relatives and elaborate food spreads can all provoke unease. But remember: You don't have to go to every single event. While the holidays are often associated with overdoing it, moderation is healthy and important to recovery and personal care. This guidance extends to social activity.
Don't feel obligated to accept every invitation; opt to go to the events where you will feel most comfortable, like in a setting with close friends. And if that panic does creep up before the date comes, which many expect it to, try to be strong by using encouraging reminders that reinforce self-worth and the right to enjoy yourself within limits around the holidays.
Plan relaxation into the schedule
It can be difficult to find a moment of peace and quiet with all the hustle and bustle of the holidays — especially if you're traveling. That's why it's necessary to make time during the holidays for rest, relaxation or just reprieves from the busy kitchen. Identify what makes you happy. If it's reading a book, maybe cozy up with one after a holiday meal. If it's caroling, go ahead! The point is to do things that you know you enjoy and can even provide some form of therapeutic effect when managing an eating disorder through the holidays. Being able to practice mindfulness is beneficial this time of year.
Lean on a support network
Taking a cue from the overall holiday theme of togetherness, having a support network of peers, friends, family, counselors or therapists is valuable to coping. This is a fact that's true for recovery in general, but particularly relevant for the holiday season. Harsh winter weather comes to a lot of the country around the holidays, which can make it all the more challenging to get out of bed, the apartment or home. A support network comes in handy when the snow and/or stress piles up. When in need of motivation, reassurance, advice or just a listening ear, reach out to someone.
The trick to a support network is that you have to be active with it to reap the benefits. While family may check in, being proactive is a lot better than anxiously waiting for a call or message. An idea is to ask a friend to accompany you to a party, which has the dual effect of being communicative and socially active.
Accept the role of food in the holidays
Food is, for better or worse, an inescapable aspect of the holidays. The sooner this fact is realized, the easier it becomes to find ways to mitigate or lessen the overbearing presence of food. Don't feel compelled, for instance, to take a portion of every single side dish on the table. Eating a holiday meal can be done, and enjoyed, within boundaries. Having snacks on car trips or before parties is a good idea, and something that can be planned for and met with healthy choices.
In any event, coping with the holidays can be hard, even with the right approach. Understanding treatment options is important, and at Fairwinds Treatment Centers, we can help you or a loved one become educated on the comprehensive strategy we take to treat the individual. Contact us today for more information.