During the holiday season, it can be easy to get wrapped up in festivities and family. Thanksgiving can be especially stressful for those struggling with an eating disorder because most households celebrate with food. Having to navigate this food-centric holiday with an eating disorder just adds to the chaos often experienced around this time. This blog aims to keep you mindful of yourself and your recovery during the holidays ahead.
Take a moment to think about all the things you’re grateful for. Gratitude is important because it can make us feel genuinely happier and improve our relationships. Solely focusing on the negatives may put us in a bad mood and make our goals seem impossible.
Making a list of things to be grateful for can be therapeutic and helpful. Some examples include:
- I am grateful for my recovery journey.
- I am grateful I am receiving the help I need.
- I am grateful for my recovery team.
- I am grateful for my loved ones.
- I am grateful for acknowledging my eating disorder.
- I’m thankful that food nourishes me.
- I’m thankful for those who are patient with me.
- I’m thankful for my body and all it does for me.
- I’m thankful for those supporting me through my recovery.
Gratitude isn’t just about thinking positively. It could also mean making room for gratitude practice in our lives. Being intentional about recognizing the positives in our lives and committing to a gratitude practice may mean keeping your journal beside your bed or keeping a pen and paper close to you for whenever you are inspired to start journaling. Doing so can ultimately help you build gratitude into your routine. Practicing gratitude may mean looking at the silver linings and the good things, small or large, going on in your life, even if they feel like exceptions.
Gratitude is often most impactful when it is specific and personal instead of generic and vague. Saying “I’m thankful for my opportunities” is very different from saying “I’m thankful for the opportunity to volunteer at the dog shelter” or “I’m thankful that I received a commission for my paintings this year.” Being specific allows you to express your gratitude for exactly what you are thankful for. If thinking about recovery feels overwhelming, feel free to include things outside of eating disorder recovery as well. Consider the things you may normally not pay much attention to, like the fresh, clean fallen snow that doesn’t have any footprints yet, or the way the sun comes in through the windows. Make your own list with items personal to you. Everyone has different things to be thankful for. Your list will be a great reference and a reminder when things feel overwhelming.
Get Plenty of Sleep Beforehand
There’s no denying that sleep is incredibly important. Sleep allows our mind and body to rest, recharge, and relax. Not having enough sleep can be a contributor to anxiety and stress. When we feel we have stressful activities in the coming days or our to-do list is much too long, sleep can seem like a hard thing to achieve.
Think about your nighttime routine. Do you relax? Often, we use our screens or our phones right before bed. The blue light from our screens can strain our eyes and make it harder to fall asleep. A quiet activity before bed is a great way to wind down. Here are a few ideas:
- Read a book
- Write in a journal
- Practice yoga
- Listen to calming music
- Listen to a podcast
If you have a holiday event coming up in the next few days, be mindful of your sleep schedule, including what time you are going to bed and what time you are waking up. Feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day by getting a good amount of sleep can help you tackle stressful events like the holidays.
Make Choices That Serve Your Recovery
If food is hard to navigate at this stage of your recovery, be sure to create a structured plan to meet your recovery needs during the holidays. Seek insight and support from your recovery team and loved ones in developing this plan. Sticking to your routine will help remove some extra stress that may be building up from the holidays.
It is important to protect your recovery during this time. If you know eating with your extended family may be tough, perhaps you could ask your immediate family to sit with you and be there for you during that time. We recognize that sticking to your meal plan could be extra challenging when holiday meals are at odd hours. If you are nervous about food being available as you try to stick to your meal plan, you could always bring your own food to satisfy your meals and snacks. It is important to remember to fit your family’s holiday plans into your recovery.
Setting boundaries for yourself during the holidays is also essential. It can be overwhelming to be around so many people, especially if family members have questions related to your eating disorder or your treatment. Set boundaries that will help you. A few examples of boundaries are:
- I can spend as little or as much time with my family as I want to.
- If there is a person there who triggers me, I can stay away from that person.
- If I do not want to eat in front of others, I do not have to.
- I may leave the event whenever I want to.
- I do not have to explain my eating disorder, my recovery, or my treatment to anyone if I do not want to.
Practice Saying No
Please remember that you are always allowed to say no to an event. You are not obligated to spend time with family or friends. It is your choice to go or not. It’s no one’s business if you decide to skip a holiday for your own mental or physical health.
It can be difficult to tell a family member that you won’t be attending but be firm and don’t be swayed. Again, it is your choice. It’s okay to be saddened about missing a holiday event but sometimes we just need to do what’s best for our mental health. We know what is best for ourselves. If passing on the holiday is what will be best for you, then feel free to pass on it.
There are several ways to celebrate a holiday other than the traditional route. There are many different things you can do by yourself or with support people during the holidays. Some examples include:
- Watching holiday movies (or non-holiday movies)
- Playing fun video games by yourself or multiplayer games with others
- Reading a book
- Listening to music or a podcast
- Arranging wreaths or bouquets
Sometimes it’s easier to think of the holiday as a normal day, not a holiday. You may choose to celebrate the holiday by yourself or with a few close support people. In any case, do what is best for you around the holiday time and ask for support if needed.
Self-care is so important in and out of recovery. It can be a healthy way to find a moment of tranquility. Self-care can look different to everyone and can take different forms. Acts of self-care can range from taking a bubble bath to organizing your medications to attending a yoga class or learning new hobbies.
It’s essential to remember self-care around the holidays. We sometimes focus too much on other people, how an event will go, or the items we need to gather. We need to remember to take care of ourselves and prioritize our needs. There is no right or wrong way to practice self-care. It ultimately can improve your physical and mental health. Allow yourself to take what you need, even if it is time away from the holidays.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, please call Veritas Collaborative at 1-855-875-5812. We have treatment for children, adolescents, and adults. Recovery starts with the right level of care at the right time.