Surviving Christmas with an Eating Disorder

The festive season, with its bright lights and celebratory feasts, can be a time of joy for many. However, for those navigating the complexities of an eating disorder, Christmas can bring about a unique set of challenges that feel overwhelming. The pressure of social gatherings, the abundance of food, and the break from routine can intensify the struggle. At the Eating Disorder Recovery Clinic, we understand the intricacies of these difficulties and the importance of approaching this season with care and preparation. By laying out a structured plan tailored to your personal needs, you can find solace and strength during these times. Let’s consider some proactive steps that can help bring a sense of control and ease to your holiday experience.

1. Mindful Walking: Step outside and let the crisp winter air bring you a sense of renewal.  Pay attention to the sensory details of the world around you—the way the cold wind feels on your skin, the rustling of leaves underfoot, the patterns of frost on the windows. Mindfulness is about being fully present, and a tranquil stroll can serve as a useful distraction from eating disorder thoughts and a way to calm anxiety.

2. Finding an Ally: Identify someone within your circle who understands your journey and is willing to be your confidant and support. This person can be a family member or a friend who is available for a chat when emotions run high. Knowing you have an ally can be incredibly reassuring, especially when you need to step away for a moment of reprieve and understanding.

3. Planning Downtime: Amidst the festive frenzy, it’s essential to carve out time for solitude and rest. Plan activities that allow you to unwind and recharge. Whether it’s delving into a captivating book, expressing yourself through art, or engaging in calming colouring activities, these moments can provide a therapeutic break from the holiday chaos, giving you space to breathe and centre yourself.

4. Managing Uncertainty: Holidays can disrupt our routines, and with that comes anxiety. Anticipate these changes by creating a flexible but familiar schedule for yourself. Knowing what to expect each day can provide a comforting structure. Introduce small rituals that ground you, like morning stretches or an evening cup of herbal tea, to lend a sense of predictability and calm to your days.

5. Journaling: If the holiday emotions become overwhelming, consider journaling as a way to process your feelings. It doesn’t always have to be words; sometimes a scribble or a doodle can encapsulate your emotions just as powerfully. You could also create a visual diary with pictures and cut-outs that resonate with you, providing an outlet for expression when words feel insufficient.

6. Shifting Focus: Redirect your attention to activities that bring you joy and comfort during the Christmas period. Plan to watch films that warm your heart, engage in games that bring laughter, or any pastime that feels festive and fulfilling to you. This shift in focus can be a deliberate and proactive step towards a more enjoyable holiday experience.

7. Self-Care Time: Recognise the importance of self-care and listen to your body’s needs. When the energy wanes, consider it a signal to take a step back. A short nap, a relaxing bath, or simply a few moments of quiet can be restorative. Remember that self-care is not a luxury but a necessity, especially during times of stress.

As the season unfolds, remember that it’s perfectly acceptable to experience a range of emotions, and it’s okay to not always feel okay. The journey through recovery is rarely linear, and it’s important to acknowledge that the holidays may stir up feelings that are tough to navigate. If the cheer of the season feels out of reach, know that it does not diminish your progress or your strength. We encourage you to reach out and share your feelings with someone you trust, whether that’s a friend, family member, or professional. Your experiences are valid, and you deserve support every step of the way. You are not alone on this journey, and there is hope in every moment of courage, even in the simple act of asking for help. Let’s embrace the season with kindness towards ourselves, and remember that self-compassion is the most valuable gift we can offer.