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The “most wonderful time of the year” can be tough for those suffering from an eating disorder. The holidays can be overwhelming and stressful with so much focus placed on food in social environments. As a result many, and especially those with eating disorders, become anxious, upset or engage in disordered eating behaviors to attempt to mitigate their anxiety. Here are suggestions to get through the holidays:
· Remind yourself or your clients of common self-soothing practices and avoid dangerous coping mechanisms.
· Identify or encourage yourself or your client to identify what is “happy” about the holidays. That simple reminder can help focus on the positive aspects of the season.
· Families can play an integral part in helping the holidays be joyful. Remind your family or your clients’ family what a trying time this may be. While food is an inherent part of most events during the holidays, families can help diffuse the focus by planning activities such as a craft or family game to focus on as a distraction.
· Remind your family or your client’s family that discussing your appearance may do more harm than good. Help close family understand that statements such as, “you look so much better!” can translate to “I look fat” in your or your client’s mind. Ask family to make other family members aware as well, so time with family can be remembered as positive rather than triggering negative emotions.
· If you or your client is taking a break from treatment over the holidays, be sure to address any concerns about being away and social situations. Be sure to strategize and discuss skills to continue recovery.
· Arrange a time to start back into therapy after the holiday to continue treatment in the New Year.
· Be mindful and encourage clients to be mindful of the positives of this time of year. Focus on time spent with people supportive in recovery, and to create new happy memories to reflect upon next year.
Janine Vlassakis, M.Ed. is the Mid-Atlantic Professional Relations Coordinator for the Cambridge Eating Disorder Center. Her role at CEDC is to provide clinicians and other professionals with information about the levels of care which CEDC offers. In addition, with her background in counseling and education, she speaks regarding various topics relating to the complexity and treatment of Eating Disorders.