Nov 9th 2020
Today we’re talking about Christmas and the holiday season. We know that for many people with an eating disorder (and their families), Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year. In fact, it can be a massive source of stress and discontent in families.
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. Here’s our key tips:
It’s okay to not celebrate: The holiday period is often full of obligatory celebrations, dinners, barbeques, drinks and kris kringles. It can feel overwhelming at the best of times, and after a year of social distancing, this year your friends and family might be extra eager to get together. If some, or all of the events are going to be too difficult for you, you are allowed to stay home! Really, you can! You can skip it all if you really want to! Try and let go of the concept of obligation and do what is right for you.
Acknowledge that some people may not understand this, but regardless of their opinion, you are entitled to attend all, some or none of the holiday related events. 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. Keep an eye on that people pleasing behavior!
Set boundaries: 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. We all have that relative who seems to have no filter, who may corner you and make comments on your appearance, love life, food intake or ask probing questions. 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”
“I find that comment inappropriate”
“Thanks for your concern but it really isn’t any of your business”
“I’m not interested in talking about this”
“This is not up for discussion”
“I am ending this conversation now”
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.”
Respect the non-negotiables: For some families, having non-negotiables over the holiday period is how they cope with your ED 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.
Ask for help: EDV might be closed for the holidays, but your natural supports aren’t! Lean on the people that care about you. Maybe you ask your parents to dish up your serving of Christmas lunch, or perhaps you play board games with your siblings while food is being prepared. Reach out, even if it is just to hold a hand under the dinner table. Use crisis lines and online chat support. You don’t have to do any of this alone, despite what your ED might be telling you. Keep yourself safe and seek support.