Clementine Briarcliff Manor Primary Therapist Dana Sedlak, LCSW discusses maintaining recovery during the summer holidays in this week’s blog post. Read on to learn some strategies to support recovery…
Celebration-The action of marking one’s pleasure at an important event or occasion by engaging in enjoyable, typically social, activity.
For those without eating disorders, summer holidays are full of excitement and pleasure. They often have been counting down for summer for as long as they can remember. They begin preparing for the event weeks ahead by going shopping for a new outfit, picking out a recipe to cook, and reaching out to friends and family to coordinate plans. However, if you are someone currently in recovery from an eating disorder or disordered eating, everything about a summer celebration might make you want to flee in the opposite direction.
You might currently be experiencing an absence of joyful emotions for the last several weeks, months, or even years. All of your previously enjoyed activities that used to bring you joy might feel as if they have completely escaped you. Because of this, you might question whether you will be able to have fun or enjoy yourself by attending a 4th of July celebration, a family barbeque, or a friend’s pool party.
Depression can increase your desire to engage in your action urge (the urge that appears to protect you), which results in withdrawal and isolation from others. Opposite action asks you to question whether this specific urge to isolate makes sense in the moment or whether acting oppositely could be more beneficial. If you have already decided that you are not going to attend the celebration, this is the time to reflect on whether isolating is more harmful than attending. If you decide that the benefits of going to the event outweigh the potential consequences of avoiding the celebration, there are certain ways to plan ahead to make sure you are as comfortable as possible.
- Identify an ally: Choose a family member or friend that can be your go-to person. Have a plan about how long you’re going to stay at the event and how often you might need to check in with one another to assess how you’re feeling. Think about creating a code word/phrase to share when you need additional support away from the group.
- Meal plan: Decide whether you are going to bring your own food or whether you are going to eat what the host has prepared. Do not allow this to be an excuse for engaging in eating disorder behaviors due to being unaware of what food will be available. Call the host or ask your friend/family to do this ahead of time if necessary.
- Prepare for social interaction: Reintegrating back into a social group after a period of isolation can be anxiety producing. Your family and friends are most likely excited to spend time with you. They may have several questions in regards to how you are and what you have been doing. They might even unintentionally make a comment about your appearance with the belief that they are complimenting you. Be prepared. Brainstorm safe topics that you can discuss if you’re uncomfortable talking about treatment or your recovery. Role-play with someone prior to the event in order to explore how you will respond to certain questions. Ask yourself how much information you’re willing to share and with whom you feel comfortable sharing that information with. Think of a statement to use if you need to remove yourself from a conversation that is no longer beneficial.
- Set an intention: On your way to the celebration, set an intention. What is the reason that you are attending this party? What is the desired outcome? Repeat this intention to yourself over and over until it resonates with you. When your eating disorder begins to distract you from this intention with attempts to engage you with thoughts related to food or body, challenge it by repeating this intention. Remind yourself of the initial purpose.
Managing these celebrations while being in recovery can often feel extremely overwhelming if you are without a plan. Take the time to recognize any obstacles that may arise in order for you to cope with potential eating disorder urges. While you are challenging your eating disorder over time, you will soon be able to return to enjoying fireworks, bonfires, and barbeques as a means for celebrating the milestones in your life.
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