Holidays & Recovery

Planning For A Successful Recovery During The Holidays” (By: Ashton Maguire)

As the popular Christmas song says, the holidays are “the most wonderful time of the year,” right? Well, for some the holidays are the most difficult and taxing time of the year. For those in recovery from an eating disorder or disordered eating, the holidays introduce high levels of stress and anxiety. The holidays introduce uncertainty regarding lack of routine, inconsistency, and a plethora of triggers. Thus, it is crucial to prepare for the holiday season to set you up for success in terms of recovery. By focusing on ways to set yourself up for success on the front-end, you open up capacity to focus on the joys that the holiday seasons offers. Thus, I am recommending a four step recovery plan for success during the holidays: prepare for triggers and plan for recovery activities, stick to a routine, be honest about your struggles, take time for you.

The first step for setting yourself up for further success in recovery during the holiday season is to prepare for triggers and plan supportive activities. It could be helpful to talk with your treatment team or supportive individuals for your recovery about a plan for the holiday and steps to take if a trigger occurs. In addition to setting a plan up with your team, it can be helpful to reflect on past holidays and identify challenging aspects in order to create a plan to prepare for activities to help manage these situations. This plan should be as specific as possible including who will be with you to support you, what you will do, how you will exit the situation, how you will continue to meet your meal plan/get in fuel, etc. By anticipating a high stress environment and triggers and planning a route of escape or management, you can be proactive in supporting your recovery.

In addition to anticipating triggers and a stressful environment and creating a plan of management, it is important to create and stick to a routine. A routine is crucial in recovery during the holidays in that it combats the inconsistency and unpredictable schedules. Some parts of this routine could include sticking to your meal plan if you follow one by scheduling regularly interspersed meals and snacks, potentially with friends or loved ones. Additionally, maintaining a steady routine as it relates to sleep and wake schedule. Importantly, since the holidays bring a high level of uncertainty, it is crucial to remain flexible in your routine. What is most important is the big idea of sticking to what you know such as meal plan, sleep/wake schedule, and daily activities that keep you grounded.

Possibly the most important step in planning for maintaining recovery during the holidays is to remain open and expressive to your treatment team and supportive loved ones. In this way, it is crucial to let your treatment team know how you are and what you need. It is important to get on top of these struggles, rather than letting them percolate. Additionally, focus on celebrating the little wins in recovery and sharing those with your team and supportive loved ones. In a time of such stress and anxiety during the holiday season for eating disorders and disordered eating, focusing on the wins and the strengths can refocus sights on recovery.

Lastly, take time for you. The business of the holiday season has a tendency to result in feeling overwhelm. This feeling of overwhelm can potentially result in a slip in recovery such as engaging in disordered eating behaviors. Thus, it is important to practice self-care to attend to your physical, mental, and emotional needs to keep you on track in recovery. By engaging in self-care, you will be more able to be flexible with your routine, adhere better to your plan for the holiday triggers, and be in tune with what you need from your treatment team and loved ones to keep you on track. By following these tools of planning, following a routine, remaining open, and taking time to pause, you increase the possibility of maintaining recovery during the challenging time that is the holiday season.

About the Author

Ashton is Renewed’s Outreach Coordinator. She is an alumna of Furman University where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Her passion for the study of eating disorders began in her undergraduate education where she researched eating disorders and witnessed disordered eating habits in the college environment. She currently attends graduate school at Vanderbilt University where she will earn her Master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling in May 2024. Ashton plans to pursue licensure as a professional counselor working with those recovering from eating disorders as well as co-occurring disorders.