Author: Justine Rickard M.A.
The weeks leading up to and during the holidays can sometimes be a tumultuous time for someone in recovery. While there can be a lot of excitement and joy, there are also a number of potential triggers for the Eating Disorder. This doesn’t mean that recovery needs to be paused or put on the back burner, but rather, planning and strategizing ahead of time can be helpful for continuing to prioritize and protect your recovery over the holiday season.
So, what could this look like for your recovery? Here are a list of potential strategies and resources that could help protect your recovery as you navigate the ups and downs of the holidays.
1. Create a recovery maintenance plan. Going into the holidays with a maintenance plan can help you feel more prepared and confident in your ability to cope with challenges. Make sure to include things like meal plan, resources and coping strategies, next best steps, self-care and self-soothing practices, helpful distractions, and whatever else feels important for maintaining your recovery. It may also be helpful to share your maintenance plan with your supports system in order to help with support and accountability in maintaining this foundation.
2. Call on your supports. Whether or not you create and share a maintenance plan, making sure to have a list of supports to call on can be helpful for those who have access to them. Maybe you have one person who can support you in several areas, or maybe you have a few people who can be there in specific areas including emotional support, helpful distraction, encouragement, accountability, meal support, etc.
3. Set boundaries. One way to help create a sense of safety throughout the holidays is to be clear with your boundaries. These may look like anything from setting clear limitations on unhelpful language and conversations around food, on body talk, on your time, etc. They may also include knowing what your limitation are in terms of energy and time spent with others or doing holiday activities and giving yourself enough space and opportunity to regulate and recharge.
4. Bring in value-based activities. Getting clear on what values you want to focus on over the holidays can give you some direction on how you’d like to spend your time and energy. When you are clear on your values and what feels most important to you, it becomes easier to know whether an action is aligned or misaligned from your intentions. Having a list of value-based activities can be helpful if you catch yourself becoming more disconnected from them.
5. Give yourself permission. Give yourself permission: to eat the foods you like, to say no, to say yes, to honour your emotions even when they don’t necessarily “make sense” or match with others’, to practice flexibility when it’s safe to do so, to stick to strategic structure, to play, to rest. You may even want to write out a permission slip or two to help you along your recovery goals (ex: a permission slip to eat the cookies, or a permission slip to speak up or leave the room when diet talk enters the conversation).
6. Practice self-compassion. Last and certainly not least, practice self-compassion. It is ok to be exactly where you are. Your experiences are valid, and you deserve your love and compassion as much as anyone else. The holidays can be challenging for a lot of people, and you are not alone. Being intentional about choosing self-compassion over self-criticism can have incredibly powerful effects on our brain. Making self-compassion a priority over the holidays can also help to create a sense of safety, knowing that no matter what struggles or successes come you way you are able to handle it and meet yourself with kindness and care. This may include guided and non-guided meditation, deep breathing exercises, journaling, reframing self-critical thoughts, practicing sitting and feeling emotions without attaching judgments or thoughts to them.
Whether you celebrate the holidays or not, try asking yourself “what does my recovery need over the next few weeks?” and see what answers come up.
Wishing all our past, present, and future clients a happy and healthy holiday season!