We know that for many people with an eating disorder, Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year. However, with the right preparation and a flexible approach, we want to assure you that you CAN get through this period with your recovery and relationships in tact.
It’s ok not to celebrate.
The holiday period is often full of obligatory celebrations, dinners, barbeques, drinks and kris kringles. If some, or all of the events are going to be too difficult for you, you are allowed to stay home! Some moments of challenge and vulnerability are great, but don’t wear yourself out trying to manage event after event when you just aren’t feeling it. Try and let go of the concept of obligation and do what is right for you.
Boundaries are always an important thing to consider, but also difficult! Social boundaries are particularly important over the holiday season so take some time to think about how you want to manage the unwelcome or inappropriate comments that may come your way. Ready yourself with some pre-prepared, firm, assertive & boundary setting phrases. It can also be good to have a friend or family member who can support you with these phrases or can intervene on your behalf if you are struggling.
“I am not going to discuss that today”
“I find that comment inappropriate”
“Thanks for your concern, but I’m not going to talk about that today”
“That is not up for discussion, let’s talk about something else”
Give yourself permission
Perhaps you are eager to get into the festive spirit, but the ED voice is trying to drown out the joy. Try and see if you can give yourself permission to have a break from the ED. This might just be an hour, a day or a week. Setting boundaries with the ED can feel strange but can give you great relief! Decide on an affirmation or phrase that works for you and keep coming back to it when the ED thoughts strike.
“I am allowed to enjoy this”
“Today I do not have to listen to ED”
“I give myself permission to celebrate.”
Take time to self soothe
If you feel overwhelmed at an event or gathering, take some time out to self-soothe. This could be doing some journaling, breathing exercises, meditation or other grounding techniques – whatever works for you. It might also help to have a mantra to ground yourself in stressful situations such as “Today I’ll be kind to myself.”
Respect the non-negotiables
For some families, having non-negotiables over the holiday period is how they cope with the eating disorder and their own distress around the illness. A common non-negotiable might be that if you come to Christmas lunch, you need to eat. Non-negotiables can feel unnecessarily strict or as if your family is setting you up to fail, but this is not the case. Try and understand that the eating disorder has effects on the people around you too and they are trying to set a boundary with your ED, just as you might do within yourself! If you feel as though you cannot stick to the agreement, that is ok too! Let your family know, organize a FaceTime with them instead, make plans to see them in the next week, and practice some good self-care at home.