How to Handle the Holidays Healthfully: A Guide to Overcoming Triggers

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Kerry O'Grady headshot

Kerry O'Grady

The holidays are meant to be the most joyful time of the year. If you suffer from disordered eating or body image issues, however, the holidays can be stressful, lonely, and difficult. Between Halloween and New Year’s Day, we are subject to thousands of marketing messages that make us question the commitment we make to ourselves to be happy, healthy, and safe. By adapting the following tips to overcome triggers – and leaning on this community for love and support – you can alleviate anxiety and focus on enjoying the magic of the season, instead.

Set (and Keep) Boundaries: No one needs to understand – or relate – to how you are feeling for it to be heard and valued. Set and keep boundaries that will ensure you feel physically and mentally safe. This can include walking away from a conversation if it makes you uncomfortable. Or, taking breaks from the table if you feel unnecessary pressure or anxiety. It can also mean taking someone aside and letting them know how you feel. Remember, anyone who loves you will take your feelings into consideration. Additionally, make social media consumption a boundary, too. Be mindful of who you engage with, and why. If something you’re seeing doesn’t help you become the best – and healthiest – version of yourself, consider unfollowing or hiding.

Self Care is the Best Care: During holidays, self care can be difficult, especially when family, friends, and other activities are competing for your attention. It’s why making time for yourself is critical to self preservation. Whether it’s taking a lunchtime yoga class, leaving work early for a doctor’s appointment, or saying “no” to events or invitations that don’t bring you joy, taking time for yourself helps fill your cup. And, can help you better manage stressful situations. When you’re tired or emotional, triggers tend to get the best of you. Don’t give triggers this power.

Play the Tape Forward: “Playing the tape forward” is a go-to practice in recovery. The phrase means predicting an ending and visualizing it into existence. In stressful holiday situations, this could mean having a ready exit strategy if things become too much. This strategy extends to feelings, too. For example, imaging how great you’ll feel keeping your boundaries in check, or sharing with someone that their words hurt you. In times of stress, we tend to lean into our emotions. This technique is a powerful way for your brain to fight back.

Ask For Help: There is no shame in calling in reinforcements when needed. Asking for help isn’t a weakness; it’s a strength. Send a text or call a friend if things get too stressful. Or, engage with a therapist or counselor who can provide tools to get you through difficult situations. Apps, audiobooks, and podcasts can be helpful, too. And, don’t forget that you always have NEDA in your corner. Support is at your fingertips through valuable website resources.

For recovery resources and treatment options, please visit our resource center. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, call  ANAD’s Helpline at: (888) 375-7767 or the National Alliance of Eating Disorders Helpline at: (866) 662-1235.

If you are thinking about suicide, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. In crisis situations, text “HOME” to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer from the Crisis Text Line.

Kerry O’Grady is the faculty director for the Master’s in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program at Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies. She’s also an Associate Professor of the Practice. Dr. O’Grady is a regularly sought-after media expert, as seen in The Washington Post, The New York Post, The Telegraph, and on ABC News’ digital podcast “Uncomfortable,” to name a few.  An award-winning practitioner, she’s been honored with President’s Club (Gannett, Inc.), Marketing Campaign of the Year Finalist (Meredith Corp.), the Public Relations Society of America – NY top “35 Under 35” winner, and NYU’s “Outstanding Service” award. An eating disorder survivor and former fitness blogger, she’s been the National Wellness Liaison for The National Eating Disorders Association since 2018. In this role, she assists with media relations, as well as nationwide education on body neutrality within the fitness industry.