Struggling with a mental health condition is difficult all year round, but can become increasingly difficult during the holidays. Today, I want to focus on the struggles of facing an eating disorder during the festive period and what sort of things may help to lighten the load.
Christmas is very much centred around food, all of the additional adverts on the TV trying to entice you into buying all of your Christmas dinner ingredients and big fancy desserts from their stores. People tend to have more sweet treats to offer you when you visit, as well as alcoholic beverages too. It can become very overwhelming, especially if you are battling an eating disorder.
Some Tips for Coping:
- Remember that you have made so much progress so far in your recovery. Nothing and nobody can take that progress away from you, so try not to let Christmas send you back to square one.
- Adjust expectations – There is no such thing as a ‘perfect Christmas’, so try not to let all of the holiday movies, books and social media posts convince you that there are set ways of doing things in order to perfect your holidays. Try and step away from social media a little around this time of year, it can often do more damage than good.
- Do not change your coping mechanisms in order to ‘fit in’ with others and their schedules. Stick to your routine to the best that you can. If you need additional help and support with this, let a friend and/or loved one know so that they can be there for you to lean on if needed.
- Use/find distractions – If there is too much going on around you, try and take your focus elsewhere. Listen to music, read a book, take a walk… anything that allows you time to take a step back and take a breather.
- It is okay to say no – You are the most important factor in your recovery. If you do not want to do something, whether it is because it is causing your anxiety or discomfort or whether you simply just want to stay home, that is okay. Put yourself first, self-care is not selfish.
- Reach out if you need additional support / guidance. There are many resources out there for you to rely on and there is no shame in seeking help.
- Remember that your feelings are valid, no matter what time of year it is.
Helping a Loved One:
It can be hard to know what to say or do when a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder. Sometimes simply just being there for them, listening to them, understanding them and supporting them can be enough.
- Keep trying to include them in activities and events, but do not pressure them into tagging along if they are not ready. There is a fine line between gentle persuasion and peer pressure, so take things slow… if they say no, ask they if they are okay, ask if they are anxious about it and if there is anything you could do that would make them feel more comfortable in taking part. If they simply do not want to go, ask them if there is anything else they would like to do instead.
BEAT have many incredible resources available to people who are struggling with an eating disorder. They have support groups and chat rooms that will be running across the festive period and their phone lines will be open from 4pm until midnight on Christmas Day too!