WHILE Christmas is a joyful time of the year, it can also be incredibly difficult for someone living with an eating disorder.
For those in recovery it presents huge challenges and for the friends and family of anyone affected it may be difficult to know how best to offer support.
One of the country’s leading experts in this area fears tens of thousands of people face suffering in silence this Christmas.
Counsellor and author Lynn Crilly says a lack of support, coupled with a lack of awareness, are leaving many vulnerable people in danger.
Lynn, the author of Hope With Eating Disorders, who has supported her own daughter Samantha through an eating disorder, says: “For people with mental health issues and their loved ones, Christmas can be an extremely challenging time for everyone involved. The Christmas period can be particularly difficult for those affected by eating disorders. The build up to the season, changes in routine, expectations around socialising and food can contribute to stress, pressure and conflicted thoughts and feelings for both the sufferer and their loved ones.
“My daughter Samantha fell into the clutches of Anorexia and OCD nearly 20 years ago, so I know only too well how I used to dread Christmas and all the extra stress and anxiety it used to cause.
“Trying to navigate the holiday period to make it as easy as possible for Samantha whilst also remembering that she had a twin sister, Charlotte, who loved that time of year was a huge challenge.
“For the person suffering the eating disorder, Christmas can be the ultimate nightmare and for their loved ones it can equally be challenging trying to navigate the ‘joys’ of Christmas, other family members while sharing it all with an eating disorder.
“Whether you are suffering or caring for someone with an eating disorder, and probably dreading the Christmas period for your own individual reasons, there are some steps you can take to get through it together.”
Sharing her eight tips on how to support some with an eating disorder at Christmas, Lynn said:
- Leading up to the Christmas period sit down together and talk about how social events and family get-togethers can be made easier. I know it is hard but being open and honest with each other will help to create a more relaxed time with less anxiety.
- I know it’s hard but try to keep it simple with less expectation of the day. If it’s easier not to do the traditional Christmas dinner, then don’t, we had a barbecue one year and I have to say it was fun and a whole lot less stressful.
- Focus on activities that do not involve food, like going to the cinema, a garden centre or National Trust sites that have some lovely decorations and lights, or think sharing some creativity activities like crochet or knitting.
- By accepting that Christmas will be different in the family, a lot of the pressure from all sides will hopefully be less. Have some quiet days, remembering that there are other people in the family too that may want to join in some gatherings and celebrations but the person with the eating disorder does not have to. Creating more flexibility for everyone will help.
- Social Media, television and the internet can portray Christmas as a happy jolly time, but for many if you just make it through then that is enough. It is important to know that ‘it’s ok to not be ok’ at Christmas.
- Try and keep to food routines and times as much as possible to alleviate anxiety around food as much as possible.
- Go out for walks for a change of environment and fresh air and maybe use that time for catch up chats to make sure you are both on the same page
- Be Kind to yourself, I learnt very quickly that perfection does not exist, do what is right for you and your family, don’t compare yourself to others, try not to worry about everyone else, take time out for you,
For more information visit lynncrilly.com