By: Gabrielle A. Morreale M.A. LPC C-DBT.
As the holiday season approaches, many of us look forward to festive gatherings, delicious meals, sparkly lights, and the warmth of shared moments. However, for those of us in eating disorder recovery or struggling with an eating disorder, this time of year can be stressful at times and bring up a whole lot of feels. The abundance of food-centric events, societal expectations, and the fear of what the new year could bring can feel less than holly jolly. In this blog, we will explore practical strategies to navigate eating disorder recovery during the holidays as well as look at ways to foster resilience and self-compassion. Also, if you are in recovery and you find this season hard, please know you are not alone and we are sending so much compassion to YOU!!
1. Nourish Your Body
Nourishment is an essential step in eating disorder recovery, and it becomes especially crucial during the holidays. We know this is difficult, especially in the early stages of recovery but please know we so believe in YOU! Often, we are caught up in the hustle and bustle of all that comes with the holidays. Therefore, we need nourishment to help us always but especially during this extra busy time. This may sound basic however it needs to be said. Busyness is not a prize nor is it a reason to miss meals.
Also, instead of getting caught up in the calorie counts or food labels, try and focus on the present moment. You are allowed to enjoy all the delicious food this season and every season for that matter. Food is not good or bad it’s just food. Our bodies know what to do with all the varieties of food we consume. Food is meant to be joyful, comforting, and fun, especially during the holidays. Don’t let your eating disorder or diet culture tell you otherwise. You never need to feel guilt or shame about what you consume. If you do please know you’re not alone and that voice inside your head doesn’t make you crazy. You’re human you’re struggling and it's ok. If you feel brave enough or have the privilege to that’s a great time to speak to a therapist or share this with your team. Also, one tip I like to share with clients about the act of eating is to try and be present by engaging in your senses during meal times. For example: savor the textures, flavors, and aromas of each bite. Of course, please only do this if this feels safe for you. Mindful eating encourages you to be attuned to your body's hunger and fullness cues, allowing you to enjoy the experience and hopefully decrease the anxiety.
2. Set Realistic Expectations
The holiday season often brings a surge of societal expectations, both explicit and implicit. My husband works in a church. This means we are very busy during the holidays. Although I feel so thankful for this community, there are times when we need to slow down and hit pause. It's vital to set realistic expectations for yourself, recognizing that recovery is an ongoing journey with its ups and downs. You are always allowed to say no, or maybe next time. Setting boundaries with your time and making time to rest is part of the healing process. Also, communicate your needs and boundaries to friends and family, helping them understand the challenges you may be facing. By managing expectations, you can reduce the pressure on yourself and create an environment that supports your recovery. It also may help you have your best holiday season yet!
3. Connect with your tribe
Recovery is not a solo journey. Surround yourself with a strong support system that loves, understands, and respects you and your path to recovery. Share your feelings, fears, and triumphs with trusted friends, and family members. If you are in therapy, plan with your therapist for how you can utilize your support system. The holiday season can be emotionally charged, and having a support network can provide encouragement and understanding. Also utilizing your therapist for how to access and make the most of your support is key.
4. Use the Skills in Your Toolbox
Healthy coping skills are great during any season. To be clear we don’t think coping skills will fix everything that may be going wrong. However, they may assist in decreasing your distress and that is powerful. Whether it's mindfulness exercises, journaling, or engaging in creative outlets, having effective coping strategies can be a lifeline during moments of stress or anxiety. Anytime we can decrease our levels of distress while holding space for our emotions is truly a win. We believe in YOU!
5. Take Time for Your Favorite Traditions
The holidays are about more than just parties and gifts. If you can Redirect your attention to traditions that make you feel good. Was there a favorite activity you enjoyed as a kiddo or a viral TikTok trend you have been wanting to try? Engage in activities that bring joy and fulfillment not that feel stressful or obligatory. Some ideas can be but of course, are not limited to…Join in on conversations, participate in holiday-themed crafts, or volunteer your time to give back to the community. Shifting the focus away from the stressful parts of the season can help create a sense of balance and foster a deeper connection with the true spirit of the season.
6. Make Time for YOU
This time of year can be filled with joy and sorrow. Extending yourself grace and compassion can go a long way. You do not have to do it all and it's ok to embrace all the feels. Personally know this season I will be making time for myself to show myself grace and compassion. For me, that may be a relaxing bubble bath or a night in as opposed to the traditional holiday party. Ask yourself as you navigate this time how can I take time for me? How can I hold space for all the feelings I may experience while making myself a priority? This may feel hard, but you can do it.
Also, if you find that you are struggling reach out to us. We are a team of recovered professionals navigating the holidays just like you. You’ve got this and remember it's okay if everything isn’t merry and bright there are many years to come. My hope for you is that you can find a little joy during this time.
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We offer a wide variety of services related to eating disorder recovery including trauma therapy! We offer Weekly Support Groups, Nutrition Services, and Family and Parent Therapy as well as Coaching, all tailored to meet the specific needs of the individual. We offer our services for Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating, and Orthorexia online in New Jersey, Delaware, South Carolina, and Florida! We are here to offer our support and understanding in a safe and non-judgmental environment.
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Recovered and Restored is an eating disorder therapy center founded by Gabrielle Morreale. We specialize in helping teens and young women heal from eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, and binge eating disorder and treat disordered eating, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. We provide eating disorder therapy in the towns of Horsham, Upper Gwynedd, Lower Gwynedd, North Wales, Lansdale, Hatfield, Blue Bell, Doylestown, and nearby towns with eating disorder therapy. Also providing virtual eating disorder therapy in New Jersey, Delaware, and Florida. Some towns served virtually but are not limited to Pittsburg, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Center City, Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Mount Laurel, Cape May, Avalon, Brick, Dover, New Castle, Bethany Beach, Marydel, and Oceanview