Does it seem like for everyone else, the holiday season is a time for peace, love and joy?
Sometimes we believe that it’s perfect, love, light, fun, joy, sunshine and rainbows for everyone else. Usually that’s not true. In fact, my LEAST FAVORITE song is “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” Why? Because for many people it’s the most stressful, exhausting, conflict filled, anxiety provoking time of the year.
And that’s for families who don’t even have the added stress of a life threatening eating disorder!
In the USA this season of increased anxiety starts with Thanksgiving, which typically revolves around food and eating, and can be particularly triggering to sufferers. It can fill them with anxiety over, weight, calories, the food, how much they think they will have to eat, whether or not their family will be “watching” them for eating disorder symptoms. These anxieties, which are normally troublesome for those who struggle, are usually escalated during the holiday season.
Instead of focusing on time spent with family and loved ones, it is all too easy for sufferers to turn their focus to food. It could be that they are expected to snack all day, rather than sticking to the three meals and two to three snacks that are recommended by professionals. This can cause undue anxiety, as it may be an upset to their eating schedule.
So what are some ways caregivers can help loved ones deal with the holiday stress?
Parent/Caregiver self care (which is actually caring for your loved one in recovery too!)
- Get enough sleep
- Let enough be enough
- Focus on gratitude to help stop worry
- Consciously choose to give your presence rather than presents
- Plan for a non-traditional holiday
- Schedule sessions with your loved one’s treatment team for while they are home
- Say “No” to unnecessary and/or unenjoyable activities
- Say “Yes” to simplicity
- Spend time in nature
- Plan enjoyable movement at regular intervals
- Breathe consciously, try videos on my YouTube Channel
- Take a nap
- Watch a movie
- Take time for your hobby
- Use essential oils to feel calm, lavender on a pillow can help with sleep
Parent/Caregiver tools to support a loved one in recovery:
- Plan Structure for meals & time - this may entail help of the team
- Discuss all plans ahead of time
- Plan ahead for being with people who might be triggering or say triggering things
- Recovery totem - when triggering things come up
- Take focus off food - this needs to be intentional
- Offer distractions during and after a meal: play a game, take a walk, watch a movie, keep the conversation going.
- Encourage your loved one to have their meal prior to attending an event so that triggers are limited
- Brainstorm on self-care tools and create a list
- Keep your expectations in check, this is a very challenging time
- Find time for simply being present with your loved one
- Ask how you can best support them during the change in routine
- Remember to separate your loved one from the eating disorder
- If you see major changes, contact the treatment team
- Use this as a time to assess how your college student’s recovery is going
- Be prepared to set healthy boundaries around money and other privileges
For some, it also helps to be engaged in conversation throughout the meals, as it is all too easy for a person who struggles to get stuck in their heads and eating disorder thoughts.
While it is important not to be the “food police” during the holidays, it is also important to watch for eating disorder symptoms, such as restricting food intake, or purging after eating. If these symptoms are noticed, it is important to approach the person with the eating disorder to express concern in a constructive way as to help the person decrease symptom use.
While the holidays are a time for celebration, it is also key to remember that those with eating disorders may be having a particularly hard time. Using these tips may be a helpful way to guide your loved one through this stressful time.
If you need support to cope after the holiday and want some coaching, call me and schedule now as my rates are going up January 1 from $400 for 4 one-hour sessions to $500 for 4 one-hour sessions.
Let me know what you think in the comments section. And remember, January 2 will be here before we know it!