AMH EveryBODY’s Tips for Coping at Christmas

The festive season, with its particular focus on food, can pose considerable challenges for those of us affected by eating disorders. AMH EveryBODY is here for you, lending a little festive support with their 12 Christmas coping tips, helping you focus instead, on the fun of the season.

Responding to Diet Talk

Research shows that hearing diet and weight talk increases body dissatisfaction.

You can choose to remove yourself from the situation, it may be helpful to let your trusted person know you are struggling with the conversation (this could mean sending them a text so that they can come and sit with you while you take a break)

You can change the topic of conversation, of if it feels safe to do so you can be honest and let people know why their comment is unhelpful. Having a prepared response can help with this – “Can we please not comment on food or weight, I’m working on healing my relationship with both and find it unhelpful. Can we talk about something else.” Set your boundaries because your recovery is worth protecting.

Remind yourself of your reasons to Recover

At particularly challenging times when there can be an increase in stress or anxiety it can be useful to remind yourself of your reasons to recover and they can serve as hope to encourage you to keep going with your recovery.

Create a Christmas Coping plan

Communicate honestly with your support systems any concerns you have around Christmas and create a plan to reduce and problem solve around these concerns. This could involve identifying triggers, agreeing on meal times, who will be there, what will be served and how best to support you if you are struggling. Sticking to a similar structure around mealtimes can be helpful. Taking this time to plan and prepare can hep remind you of your choices and reduce anxiety.

Wear comfortable clothes

This can seem like a simple one but it can be really hard not to focus on your body if you are wearing something uncomfortable. Breathable, comfortable fitting clothes can be helpful to allow you to feel more relaxed in your body. It can also be helpful to pick something with a colour or pattern that you like and focus on this if you are struggling with poor body image.

Connect with support

Eating disorders thrive in isolation. Agree check ins with your trusted supporters. It could be the people you live with, a phone call or text with friends and family, your treatment team or helplines. Staying connected reminds us we aren’t alone.

Neutralise your language around food

Remind yourself that food has no moral value. You’re not a ‘bad’ person for eating your favourite Christmas cookie… just as you’re not a ‘good’ person for eating veggies. In both these instances, you are simply a person eating food.

Give yourself kindness

Be aware of your self talk – would you talk that way to a loved one or best friend? If you wouldn’t can you offer yourself some similar words of kindness you would give them.

Other ways to show kindness-

Ditch the comparisons – you are the only you and that is your superpower!

Give yourself a break- it’s been a difficult year of change. It’s normal to need more time to rest

Recognise your own strengths and achievements and give yourself credit every time you try.

Managing Expectations

Adjust your expectations and take the pressure off. Try not to draw comparisons with Christmas past as you have survived through a pandemic. This may also have meant recovery has felt more challenging. Christmas is just one day, no matter how it does go, it does end. Be patient, keep communications open and be mindful of your own feelings and emotions. Be gentle with yourself, it’s OK not to feel quite as twinkly, or in the festive spirit this year. Take each day as it comes, and remember that you are doing the very best you can, and that is enough.

Focus on the Fun

Although it is normal for Christmas to be more difficult it can also help to remind yourself of a few things that you do enjoy celebrating this festive season that have nothing to do with food.

Maybe it’s playing board games, watching your favourite Christas movie, listening to your favourite festive tune, or those new Christmas PJs. Some of the activities can be especially important both pre- and post- mealtimes to lessen the emphasis on food.

Self-Care Coping Practices

Over the festive period it is helpful to have some self-soothing practices in place. Easy to do self-care works best, that is easily accessible in time of discomfort. It might be helpful to create a list of-

5 people you can call or text when you need support

5 ways to relax – grounding techniques (5,4,3,2,1) deep breathing, journaling, meditation etc

5 places you can go to feel calm

5 coping statements you can read over to help to reframe distorted thoughts

5 distraction activities – de-cluttering, listening to podcast, doing a jigsaw etc

Self-Care for Carers

As Carers it can be easy to give at the expense of your own needs. This can lead to physical and emotional burnout. Give yourself permission as a Carer to take some time out for yourself over the festive period.

By modelling your own self-care practices, whether it is prioritising that 15 minutes every morning for a quiet cuppa, or mindfulness, you are also setting a really good example for your loved one and could encourage them to engage in self-care also.

Keep communication open

If in doubt, JUST ASK.

Don’t make assumptions, keep communication open and honest. Accept at times we’ll not always have the perfect response, we’re humans and not robots. Communication isn’t about being right or wrong, it’s about being open enough to try to understand.

‘Is there anything I can do to support you right now?’

‘How are you feeling about things, I’d like to try to understand how it feels for you.’

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