Dear Blog Readers,
Holidays. Pretty lights all around. Familiar sights and smells. Family.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, it’s there, in your face, all the time. Every store. Every advertisement. You can’t escape it. For some, it is a beautiful time of year. For others, it is the exact opposite.
Whatever you celebrate throughout the year, I’m sure you can relate to the potential added stress of family traditions. It is joyous and exhausting. It is full of expectations and obligations. Warmth and love. Stress and anxiety, all wrapped up with a big bow made of good and bad memories.
This year will be very different as we celebrate with only the people in our households, or in some cases, on our own.
I reached out to the Toronto, Canada eating disorder community and asked for some strategies to stay safe, well and on-track this season.
Here are some of their ideas:
1. “I made myself a small soothing package I keep in my purse. It has a fidget toy, a special tiny stone I can hold without being noticed, and a fragrance I can sniff when I excuse myself to go to the bathroom.”
2. “I carry a self-care kit with me wherever I go. Then, all my things that calm me are in one place.”
3. “I wear a bracelet my Gramma gave me when I was 16. When I put it on, I feel safe.”
4. “There’s a couple of good friends who understand me. We text each other when we need support.”
5. “Using my dog as an excuse to take a break is awesome. He needs to be walked so I have built in breaks.”
6. “Boundaries! Set them. Keep them. Allow them to make you safe.”
7. “If you need to leave, then leave. Who’s going to stop you? Go outside for a few minutes. Go for a walk. Your well-being matters more than anything else.”
9. “Figure out the person who can run interference and confide in them. If you have a family member you trust, tell them your triggers and ask them to prepare to change the subject if needed.”
10. “Offer to take small children into another room to take care of them. Then you’re awesome and no one knows it’s your way of bailing.”
11. “Don’t join in? Just joking. I sit down prepared with broken record phrases like: “I’m not comfortable talking about that.” “Enough about me, how are things with you?”
12. “Stick to your routine. Plan ahead, but also be flexible. Participating in something you enjoy doesn’t mean you aren’t in recovery. The work is not letting guilt and shame crush you for doing what everyone else is doing. It’s okay to celebrate, you know?”
13. “If you’ve participated in more than you had planned or in more than feels comfortable, do not change your routine to overcompensate. Our brains lie to us. The rest of the world goes ‘oh no, I can’t believe I did that,’ and minutes later moves on. Tell your brain to shut up and get right back to your routine.”
I think it is important to remember the holidays are meant to be joyful. They are meant to make you feel loved, welcomed and that you belong. Your eating disorder will tell you that you are unworthy and unlovable. It is lying. It’s a liar. Tell that thought, “I hear you but I know I’m enough.” Surround yourself with people and experiences that bring you joy. If family obligations do not offer you that, make a point of finding that in yourself.
Above all else, remind yourself: You are not your eating disorder. Recovery is not linear. Every moment is an opportunity to stop and reset. You are worth recovery, so reset and keep going.
Take care of yourself, and remember to nourish your body, mind, and spirit.
Your blog moderator,
**Article first published on The Mighty. Participants contacted for updated edits and to fit the guidelines of Sheena’s Place online space.