Easter, with its focus on family, food and disruption of everyday routine, albeit for just a few days, can be a particularly stressful time of the year if you are suffering from an eating disorder.
The shops have been full of chocolate Easter eggs and other Easter food goodies since the beginning of the year.
The most important message is that you don’t have to celebrate Easter if you are not at a point in your recovery journey where you feel you are able to.
You may be expected to eat meals or participate in activities (such as Easter egg hunts) with relatives or friends who are less aware of your struggles, leading to increased distress anxiety at meal times.
It should be an enjoyable time and although you may feel that you are missing out being with family or friends, the thing to remember is that Easter is celebrated every single year, so you will get your chance to enjoy it when you are ready.
Recovery varies from person to person but can be a long process. Every small step forward is so vital and there will be relapses at times, making the recovery journey even harder to face. Never put added pressure on yourself to do something you are not ready for, it will just put you back even further.
Whether you are at home or celebrating elsewhere, where there are opportunities to get copious amounts of chocolate and food, restriction, bingeing and purging are all potential behaviours that can occur.
Here are some tips for getting through Easter:
- Plan ahead of time what will happen on the day, who will be there and if possible, what food will be available, so you can prepare. Build in periods of time where you can be by yourself if necessary, and let whoever is hosting know that you may do this if you need to.
- Have a plan for when you feel overwhelmed. Preparing for a moment of anxiety or panic can help you to react in a more measured and useful way. If there is someone you can speak to about this, then preparing a plan together can be really worthwhile and comforting. Once you’ve removed yourself from the overwhelming scenario, practise mindful breathing, listen to calming music or a meditation in your room or whilst on a walk. People are normally concerned with themselves, so take your time! Come back when you are ready and feel able.
- Practise daily self-care. What do you enjoy doing in your normal daily routine? Prioritise behaviours that make you feel grounded and content. Ensure you carry on doing these things.
- Stay mindful. This will help you to stay grounded and will help you connect with your body, what you’re feeling and what you need. In response, act according to your body’s needs whether that is to eat and drink, to be alone, relaxation, sleep and so on.
- Eat slowly and mindfully, without guilt. Focus on the taste and texture so that you savour every moment. Try to listen to your body – it will also tell you when you are full.
- Foods should not be labelled as “good” or “bad” foods. If you are tempted to eat something – a fear food, but the voice in your head is saying “no” then be strong – go ahead, eat it if you fancy it. You can be in control, not your ED voice.
- It’s your body and your mind – you decide what food you can cope with. If you really don’t want to eat that chocolate Easter egg you were given just say no. Your family/friends should respect this answer.
- Try to resist restricting in order to compensate for other choices. For example: missing meals to enjoy chocolate, cake/hot cross bun, or giving up a food under the guise of it being for Lent, so you can binge at the end of this period. You need the nourishment of your meals to keep your blood sugars balanced and to give you energy. Choosing to restrict means that you are more likely to binge.
- If you end up bingeing or purging, do not beat yourself up over it. Just put it behind you and move forward. Try to get back on track at the next meal.
- Remind yourself that you do want to recover and that you can and will.
If you do feel ready, giving yourself permission to enjoy and celebrate Easter is a big step in your recovery process.
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