Eating disorder recovery thrives when we feel supported by a community that fosters hope that things can get better. With Christmas and the festive season on the horizon, the pressure to perhaps ‘be recovered’ and ‘well’ at the dinner table may feel overwhelming. This can be difficult and can actually trigger behaviours that may not feel conducive to recovery. To aid anxiety and to help you prepare for Christmas, we spoke with Hannah, previous Orri team member and founder of Full of Beans podcast, to share her key tips…
Hannah’s tips for preparing for Christmas:
- Refocus the festive season away from food. Prepare activities for you and your loved ones which aren’t centred around food. This could be wreath or card making, a festive-movie-thon, carol singing, preparing a festive quiz or playlist, or decorating the tree. These are all activities which mean you can spend time together, without the anxiety around food
- Speak to your loved ones about how they can help, as well as their concerns. In recovery, we are very aware that the festive season can be a challenge, so speak about it. Make a space for open, honest, communication (from you and your loved ones), sharing your concerns, plans to navigate them, and how you can work together to enjoy togetherness rather than it being feared.
- Acknowledge it won’t go away for the day. It can be hard to face the reality that the ED will still be present on the day but being realistic with what you can manage and doing your best right now is key. Pretending it doesn’t exist or hoping it’ll disappear for the day will only make things harder in the long term, so think about what you can manage and throw in a little challenge if you can.
- Set your boundaries. The festive season can be an overwhelming time filled with lots of people and not much “me time”. Prioritise yourself by balancing social activities and self-care, acknowledging when you need some time alone and communicating this to your loved ones.
Orri’s specialist tips for preparing for Christmas:
- Reserve time for yourself. Go big on self-care! Family time over Christmas can sound overwhelming – that’s okay! Family time can be overwhelming for people regardless of whether they’re navigating an eating disorder or not. Just ensure you have a safe space you can return to for some self-reflection, quiet and peace. Perhaps you could create a safe word with a family member so they know you need a short break and need to be checked in with after a period of time.
- Practise ‘presence’. See if you can stay attentive and present to your surroundings, your feelings, and your embodied needs. Are you full? Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Try to practise ‘staying on your plate’ – in other words, being mindful of your individual needs and recovery, resisting the urge to compare where possible.
- Write down your coping skills. Self-affirmations or words of encouragement and motivation are great for moments of vulnerability over the holidays. Post-it notes are great for this! You can place them in locations you will see them often. Read here some words of encouragement our online community shared with Orri in Christmas, 2020.
- Plan in advance a support system. Choose a person or group of people who understand what you’re going through and discuss how they can support you during the day. If you are feeling low or anxious, tell someone. Don’t try to hold it all together by yourself! If face-to-face contact is difficult, communicate this via text or phone. It may help to plan a brief daily check-in call during the holiday. Remember, help can come from many different sources – a helpline, a parent, a best friend, or even a colleague! Tune into what your needs are and ask yourself: what do I need from myself today? And what do I need from others? We’re social beings and so much (so much) of our wellbeing comes from being connected and supported by others. You are worthy of this support.
About Hannah Hickinbotham:
Hannah Hickinbotham is the host of Full of Beans, the eating disorder awareness podcast. Using her MSc in eating disorders, lived, and clinical experience, Han is on a mission to share a range of experiences with eating disorders through Full of Beans to reduce the stigma and increase the awareness of eating disorders.