When you have an eating disorder, Christmas can be a nightmare. It is so often a time of challenging social situations with an overwhelming focus on food and having to navigate awkward and triggering conversations with well-meaning family and friends. So much of what is wonderful about this time of year gets lost to managing the gnawing anxiety and depression that the holidays can trigger.
Managing your expectations
If Christmas becomes a holiday that you are simply just trying to survive then something isn’t working for you! The most important thing to remember is that regardless of anything else, you are fighting for your life and whilst things might feel increasingly overwhelming during this time of year, your recovery is the most important thing worth fighting for. So many people get drawn into a ‘fight or flight’ pattern over the holidays and it’s important to pre-empt this by taking a step back and considering what YOU need. Planning can take an awful lot of pressure off and managing your own expectations about what you think you should be able to deal with and instead consider what might be more realistic challenges for you.
The Christmas Bubble
One of my favourite tricks for managing tricky or challenging comments from friends or family is to imagine that you are surrounded by a bubble of love. Although these comments might go on, see them bouncing right off you, unable to penetrate your little love bubble. It might sound naff but trust me it works! Do your best not to engage in unhelpful chat and be mindful that your eating disorder will try to use scenarios like this to attack and criticise you…see it coming, stay cosy in your bubble and it will pass.
A Time for New Traditions
Christmas traditions may take on a whole new meaning when you are in recovery from an eating disorder. Recovery is an opportunity to shift the focus from food and family to perhaps considering activities that cultivate gratitude and hope; making homemade gifts, donating clothing or your time to homeless shelters, carolling or spending time in the outdoors. This is a time for you to explore and perhaps initiate new traditions that will support your recovery year upon year. How would you like Christmas to look?