A recovery skill for the holiday season!
By: Gabby Morreale M.A. LPC. DBT-C.
With the Christmas Holiday fast approaching, stress and anxiety about family interactions are often at an all-time high. I know that interacting with family can be fun and exciting but also challenging and difficult. It is a true example at dialectics at its best!!
Sometimes these difficult interactions make us want to engage with our eating disorder behaviors. Gentle reminder: not now- not ever, is your eating disorder the answer. Remember that engaging in your eating disorder only prolongs the goal of recovery and can be dangerous to your body.
Also know that if you do engage in symptoms, it’s ok. Beating yourself up helps no one. Just make sure to be open with your treatment team about it so they can help. If you don’t have a team, make sure you are honest with yourself and hopefully a safe person. Eating disorders grow in isolation and secrecy. That said, it’s always important in recovery to talk about whatever it is you are going through especially your symptom use.
Anyways, if you are like me when I was recovering, I know I would dread what other people were going to say when it came to my body and my recovery. Some of this was just my anxiety, but some of it was legitimate. It was based on negative interactions and comments I had received over the years. If this is you, know your not alone and I’m cheering you on all the way! Remember it is never ok for people to comment on your body, your food choices, or your life for that matter- however, we know it may happen, (pause for massive eye roll) so let’s be prepared!!
With all that said, let’s jump into the DBT skill we promised. This skill is called the GIVE skill. The GIVE skill is an interpersonal effectiveness skill and can help us when we may be in a difficult conversation with our loved ones over the holidays. By using the give skill it will hopefully disengage from their judgment or anger, and communicate in a way that everyone can feel seen and valued. Ideally during the holiday season maybe even feel merry and bright.
The 'G' stands for Gentle. When it comes to difficult situations or having to set boundaries, try and proceed with gentleness. Gentleness in both recovery and everyday life truly can go a long way!
The 'I' is for Interested. Although we may not like or agree with what the other person has to say, let’s at least try and be interested. This could look like putting your phone down and giving eye contact, or bringing up a related topic and taking the conversation in a new direction if needed.
The 'V' is for Validate. As a therapist and a human, validation is one of my favorite things to do. During difficult conversations this doesn’t always come easy! An example of validation could sound like, “I hear that you are concerned about me and I appreciate and love you for that- thank you. Please don’t comment on my body or food choices. It does not promote healing for me. Your concern however means the world to me.” Many times peoples' comments are well intentioned (I guess lol), they are just often uninformed, scared, or insensitive to the nature of eating disorders. That is not an excuse by any means, and when we validate, it can help lower others defensiveness and allow them to get out what they really mean. Which may be, "I love you and I’m concerned."
The 'E' stands for Eased Manner. This can look like relaxed shoulders, uncrossed arms, and hands off of hips. Often times we don’t even realize our body postures: one tip for this is if you start to feel defensive in the conversation take a breath- or a few, smile, and then proceed.
When we use the GIVE skill this can redirect the conversation to help our loved ones share what they are really feeling, which may be that they care for you deeply and want you to be well. It can also be that they don’t understand and may need help navigating your needs in recovery. Although it is not in any way your responsibility- these messages from loved ones are often messages of healing and love; not of hostility, just maybe a little misguided at times. Also if you try the GIVE skills, and you still feel as if your boundaries are being violated- or your recovery is not being honored and respected- you have every right to regroup and walk away if needed. This skill is not designed to allow you to be walked on, but to be empowered and to spread kindness this holiday season!
If you or someone you love if struggling please don’t hesitate to reach out! My team and I have been there- we get it! You truly are not alone and please know our holiday wish for you is that you have peace in both your heart and interactions this holiday season. Also that you ALWAYS remember healing is possible!! :)