4 Tips for Navigating the Holiday Season Without Compromising Your Recovery Journey

recovery journey - profile of female wearing a scarf and smiling, standing in front of holiday lights

Regardless of what specific holidays they celebrate, I’ve noticed that this time of year many of my clients find their recovery journey suddenly seems more precarious than usual.

It’s easy to see why. The unfolding holiday season often bombards us with events that seem to focus on food, gray skies, cold weather, media advertising about the latest and greatest diets, questions and comments from family and friends, and more.

Here are four actionable tips you can take to protect your recovery journey this holiday season:

1. Be proactive: know your vulnerabilities

As the holidays approach pause for a moment and reflect on potential areas that could make you more susceptible to strong emotions and urges. I encourage my clients to think about this from a biological, social, environmental, and emotional standpoint:

Biologically: Are you getting enough sleep?

Socially: Will you be spending time with family members and friends who energize you or who drain you?

Environmentally: Are there painful memories that often resurface this time of year?

Emotionally: Do the holidays bring up emotions that are hard for you to sit with or accept?

Slowing down to recognize your vulnerabilities can help you build a proactive plan to address issues before they become problematic.

2. Remind yourself that recovery is a journey

Recovering from an eating disorder takes consistent effort and determination over time.

I frequently tell my clients that slip-ups are data points to learn from, not reasons to self-criticize.

I would say this rule applies even more strongly during a challenging time like the holidays.

If you do slip up during the holiday season, remind yourself that this doesn’t change all the progress you have made so far. Treat each day, meal, snack, and moment as a new opportunity to work on your recovery.

3. Practice kindness – not comparison

It’s easy to get caught up in thinking about the way you wish things were versus how things are. Notice when your mind drifts to comparing and be gentle with yourself.

I cannot say enough personally or professionally, about the impact of slowing down to take a deep breath. Continually remind yourself that although a situation may not be ideal you’re human and doing the best you can.

4. Utilize your support system

Eating disorders, depression, and anxiety all thrive on isolation. Make it a priority to attend your scheduled therapy sessions and self care activities – even if your schedule gets hectic.

Reach out to the friends and family who offer you support during this time. Plan activities with friends and family that aren’t food or body focused.

Remind yourself again, and again, that there’s no shame in needing a little extra support to make it through the holiday season.

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