Sometimes we believe that it’s perfect, love, light, fun, joy, sunshine and rainbows for everyone else. Usually that’s not true. For many caregivers it’s the most stressful, exhausting, conflict filled, anxiety provoking time of the year.
For those families living with eating disorders, it can be one of the most stressful times of the year!
With so many late fall/early winter holidays, our loved ones in recovery can be filled 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, can be escalated during the holiday season.
This focus on family and food can cause undue anxiety for those in recovery and may be an upset to their eating schedule. Not to mention finals and relatives asking questions.
Here are 15 ways caregivers can help loved ones deal with the holiday stress by practicing your own self care:
- 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
- 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 (see my tips on communication) 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.
So get some support to cope during or after the holiday with some coaching, call me and schedule now. I won't be raising my rates again this year and for my birthday special from December 4 to January 1 they'll go back to $400 for 4 one-hour sessions for as long as we coach together and for those who begin coaching after January 1 they'll return 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!