Finding Joy With Recovery this Christmas
Christmas can be full of joy and merriment, but it can also be incredibly overwhelming. Especially if you have an eating disorder.
There’s a lot of sadness in the world right now, and it may be that your ED is the cherry on the figgy pudding of misfortune. But this makes it even more important to remember that it’s ok to struggle at this time of year. Particularly when there’s added pressure to be happy and present.
My ED can make me feel quite childlike and withdrawn at Christmas. This year, I want to try to use that to my advantage by reminding myself of how excited little Beth felt about the joy of the festive season. I want to de-centre the focus on food, thinking of it as the side dish to the main course: celebrating how far I’ve come this year, and how lucky I am to be here.
I find it can be helpful to create a Christmas action plan to alleviate some of the stress of the season. Here are some tips I’ll be including in mine which you might also find useful:
1. Make a list of activities which bring you comfort and don’t involve your phone or social media. This can be helpful to refer to in moments when you’re feeling anxious, alone, or in need of a distraction. Some favourites of mine include: taking a bath, playing a board game, knitting, and stretching.
2. Think about whether you want to plan some or all of your Christmas meals in advance. This doesn’t have to mean making a meal plan, but it can if that’s what’s going to work for you. If someone else is going to be preparing most of the food, they might be able to support you with this.
3. Create a snack stash! I like to make sure I have plenty of my favourite snacks with me so that I know that something I enjoy is always readily available.
4. Acknowledge that you may hear comments about weight and dieting. Think about how this might make you feel in the moment, and what strategies you can use to self-soothe. Give yourself permission to switch off and prioritise protecting your mental wellbeing when the conversation takes an uncomfortable turn.
5. Have someone close by, either in person or virtually, who is on your side. It’s important to try and avoid isolating yourself too much, as this can cause negative thoughts to spiral. Remember that Beat has helplines and chat rooms open throughout December. Wherever you are, someone will be there to listen.
6. Take breaks and let yourself feel the feelings. It’s ok to be upset, angry, overwhelmed, and everything in between.
Having an eating disorder does not make you a bad person. It makes you someone who is especially worthy of compassion and support. Whatever your Christmas looks like, keep in mind that you are not choosing to struggle, and doing what you can to cope at your own pace is more than enough.