Manage Triggers During the Holidays

The end of summer marks the beginning of the holiday season. With the twinkling lights, cider mills, apple picking, and hayrides, it can be a time filled with joy and excitement for many. However, between Halloween candy, Thanksgiving turkey and the Christmas roast, food can often feel like the main focus of the holiday season. This can be very difficult for someone recovering from an eating disorder. In fact, a simple meal with family can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety.

Those who suffer from eating disorders may begin to feel the stress of holiday meals preemptively. They will likely see an increase in the symptoms of their illness as the holiday season approaches. This is due to the stress over upcoming festivities and the anticipation of the presence of “challenging” foods (i.e., high carb, desserts) in the weeks to come. In preparation, someone suffering from an eating disorder may crash diet to lose a few pounds before the holidays in order to look their best and so that they can eat like everyone else. Unfortunately, this rarely works and the entire holidays season is filled with anxiety and triggering moments that can reverse any progress made throughout the year.

In order to enjoy the holiday season during recovery, it is important to be proactive about combatting triggering thoughts and situations. For instance:

  • Go to your treatment team and plan for potential triggers. In the planning process, establish problem-solving strategies to deal with the stressors.
  • If you are following a meal plan, stick to it. Inform family members ahead of time so that no one pressures you into consuming something outside of that plan.
  • If traveling, pack snacks and do your research. Determine where you can purchase the foods you have become accustomed to eating and stay within your regiment.
  • Make a list of things that can relax you during stressful situations, (i.e., walks, baths, exercise, reading, etc.).
  • Keep the phone numbers for your treatment team easily accessible and call as often as you need to. Remember, you are not alone in your recovery.
  • If you binge or begin to feel the desire to count calories, don’t. Set alerts on your phone that remind you that you are doing just fine and that you are in control of your recovery.

The holidays should be a time of relaxation and enjoyment. However, it can feel more daunting than exciting if you are recovering from an eating disorder and are struggling with your body image. With the help of your therapist/treatment team and your family and friends, the holidays can hopefully be something to look forward to, instead of filled with dread.

At Advantage Mental Health Center, we know the holiday season is filled with triggers for many of our patients so our therapists will be proactive in helping them prepare for the upcoming holidays. Are you starting to feel the pressure? Ask for help. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment before the holidays are in full swing.