Clinical Director of the Adult Partial Hospitalization Program Bonnie Brennan, MA, LPC, gives advice on finding better ways of dealing with the way eating disorders can flare up during the holidays. Read an excerpt from the interview below, or to read it in its entirety click here.
How to Cope with Holiday Weight and Eating Stress....Without Triggering an Eating Disorder Relapse
Twinkle lights, snowmen, menorahs, trimmed trees, presents, and some of the greatest movies ever made–‘tis the season. Unfortunately, the holidays also bring stress and, for many, relapses and triggers for mental health issues, including eating disorders. Even the most balanced of people feel the anxiety of the holidays creeping up on them as they start gearing up for the season. Eating disorders in particular can be triggered, not only by the stress and anxiety of the season, but also by all of the focus on food (and holiday weight gain) at so many holiday events.
I felt this first right before Thanksgiving this year. The minor panicking moments, the small flare-ups in my temper that made me feel my control was slipping. But before I had a serious relapse of my eating disorder, I got an email. The message was from the Eating Recovery Center in Denver and it reminded those in their community about how the stress of the holidays often triggers relapses in eating disorders. I’d made it onto their email list-serve from an interview I had done with them on a previous article. Funny how you get paid forward, but not always in the way you think you will be.
For me, just the knowledge that the feelings I was going through were totally normal made such a difference. It was just a reminder, more than anything, that my brain was retreating back to its habitual coping mechanisms during a period of extra stress. So I want to remind those reading, whether they have suffered an eating disorder, are still suffering, or are supporting someone they love through recovery, that there are ways to mitigate how you react the stresses of the holiday season. I interviewed Bonnie Brennan, MA, LPC
, clinical director of Eating Recovery Center’s Partial Hospitalization Program
to find better ways of dealing with the way eating disorders can flare up during the holidays.
One of the best pieces of advice Brennan gave was to take a step back and think of the big picture during the holidays:
“For individuals in recovery from an eating disorder, now is a great time to remind yourself that recovery is an ongoing process. Struggles at this time of the year are perfectly normal and does not mean that a complete relapse will occur.”
Remind yourself to take each day as it comes. Striving for perfection, particularly in your plans for the holidays, doesn’t help the healing process. Recognize what you’re going through is entirely normal. Be kind to yourself, particularly at this time of the year.