Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations are underway and the media is flooding us with images that portray only positive, happy and warm interactions among family and friends as they eat and drink together. Probably everyone would like this to be true for them, but often it isn’t. Preparing for the holidays brings with it stress simply because the preparations – shopping, cooking, wrapping decorating, etc., – are additional responsibilities above and beyond the many daily responsibilities we already have to contend with.

While there are good things to look forward to and be excited about, holidays can be particularly difficult for those with eating disorders. Typically, people with eating disorders have perfectionistic tendencies and are more concerned with making everyone else happy regardless of the effect that has on themselves. The overabundance of food and expectations for eating at gatherings can be more than overwhelming. Family rituals can cause discomfort and feel stifling, especially when arguing, drinking or hurt feelings are anticipated.

Here are 10 coping skills for recovery you can use to deal with whatever stressors the holidays present for you:

  1. Eat 3 normal meals and 3 snacks everyday. “Saving up” for the party at night by not eating during the day will lead to overeating and bingeing.
  2. Be sure to take time each day to “de-stress.” Make time for something you enjoy that isn’t connected to any responsibilities. It is crucial to have some rejuvenation time.
  3. Monitor your mood daily. High stress can cause depression and anxiety or increase mood problems that are already there. Just because the holidays are “supposed” to be happy and wonderful doesn’t mean they really feel that way.
  4. Feel your feelings, no matter what they are. Admit to anger, frustration, irritability, etc., if it’s there. Write your feelings or talk them out with a supportive person. Faking happy will result in relying on ED behaviors to keep the other feelings stuffed away.
  5. Be sure to eat snacks in the mornings and afternoons in order to prevent excessive hunger from occurring. This will help you to be able to have some holiday treats without the need to binge on them.
  6. Continue going to therapy, the dietician and your doctor. Even though time becomes a precious commodity, dropping support systems during stressful periods contributes to loneliness, not feeling understood and greater reliance on the ED.
  7. Set healthy limits. Use others to help you figure out what is realistic to accomplish. Don’t feel compelled to say “yes” to every request made of you. Others will survive fine if you say “no.” They won’t feel the pain of you saying “no” that you feel living everyday with an eating disorder.
  8. Prepare ahead for situations you anticipate to be highly emotional. If parties or family gatherings are difficult, decide ahead of time when to arrive, how long to stay, the time you will leave, who to go with and whether to go at all. Remember that your recovery and well-being are undeniably more important than pleasing others.
  9. Rely on your spirituality and faith to help you clear a hurdle, handle a struggle, accomplish an objective or endure a trial. Pray for the strength, patience and belief in yourself needed to endure through the recovery process.
  10. Don’t ever give up on recovery. It’s easy to lose yourself to the demands of the holidays. Recovery is always possible even when it may not feel that way. Take it one day, one hour, or even one minute at a time when things feel unbearable. The small steps will get you there!