The Center for Eating Disorders Blog

Tips for Overcoming Holiday Stress & Anxiety – Part II: The Stress

Thanksgiving, a holiday of gratitude and hopefulness, can also come with a large dose of frustration, worry and woes.  In an attempt to make this Thanksgiving a positive one, especially for those who are also struggling with an eating disorder, we’ve offered some ideas for overcoming and embracing the holiday season.  Yesterday, we posted Part I: The Food, the first in a holiday blog series that addresses unique challenges associated with eating and socializing during the holidays. Today, Part II in the series offers even more constructive ideas and concrete steps you can take to make your Thanksgiving a success, while still prioritizing your recovery.

Part II: When it comes to the STRESS…

If the place where you are staying is particularly stressful or triggering, carving out time for yourself is a necessity.  Try finding a quiet room to be alone for several minutes in order to clear your head and re-energize yourself for encounters with others around you. Taking five minutes out to breathe and re-center can make a big difference in your ability to maintain your composure and keep you focused on your goals of having a healthy and positive holiday experience.  If you’re worried that you will seem rude if you leave or have a hard time finding the time to be alone, consider offering to pick up or drop off elderly family members who can’t drive themselves.  

  • Depending on your preference, try to let those around you know what is helpful and what isn’t. The holidays are an important time to practice being assertive.
  • Reach out – we all know one or two people who can’t travel to their own family’s Thanksgiving event or just don’t have a place to go for the holiday – invite them along to share in your festivities.  
    • Bonus – An extra support person for you before, during and after the meal!  
  • Focus on the kids!  Get the younger generation involved in your support plan.  Round up the youngest family members for a post-dinner game of  Pictionary or puzzles.  Often, kids can be the most positive and least triggering family members.
  • In the event that someone makes a triggering food/body comment to you, have a plan for ways to quickly shift attention away from you in a positive way…respond strategically to the comment and then ask your cousin how her new job is going, or mention that your parents should tell everyone about their recent vacation.
  • Just because it is a holiday doesn’t mean you have to clear your social calendar – think about making plans with a friend to see a movie right after your holiday gathering so you can have something to look forward to regardless of how well your Thanksgiving meal goes. 
  • The same goes for your pre-meal schedule.  Sitting around, smelling food and just waiting for the meal to be ready can be a very triggering or anxiety-provoking time.  Consider offering to run a last minute errand or employ yourself as the family photographer!  Make it your goal to snap some great pictures of your family members arriving and socializing together. 
    • Bonus – The resulting photos could make great gifts when the next holiday rolls around!

Although the holidays can be difficult, try to place them in perspective and remember that no single day determines your worth, value, or potential as a person.  Regardless of what you hear from others, keep in mind that this is a season of hope and thanks-giving, so try to focus less on the stressors and more on the ability that you have to give thanks and receive joy this holiday season.

Find even more holiday coping skills by reading last year’s blog, Thanksgiving with an Eating Disorder: 10 Tips to Help You Get Through the Holiday.

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