Managing the festive season

Managing the Festive Period

As the festive season approaches, many challenges and anxieties may be heightened around this time of year, particularly for those struggling with an eating disorder.

Some of the things to consider might include:


This seems the obvious difficulty around this time for someone with an eating disorder which can be challenging in many ways such as the amount of food, the availability and variety, the expectation to eat certain types of foods, and at different times, such as Christmas lunch/dinner.

Challenging yourself with food can be a good opportunity at Christmas but too many can be overwhelming. Be realistic about what feels manageable and stick with this.

Plan in advance what you will eat and consider how you might navigate changes of mealtimes such as swapping snacks around but keep consistent with regular intake to keep blood glucose levels stable.

It might be helpful to share your plan with someone so they can support you with it.

Concentrate on what works for you regardless of what others might be doing.

Use distraction before, during and/or after food. You might want to have some conversation topics to reduce anxiety and keep the focus away from food. Once you have finished your meal it might be helpful to leave the table, and engage in something such as a puzzle, board game or a favourite film.

If you choose to drink alcohol, keep in mind this is not a meal replacement.

Expectation to be ‘merry’

Acknowledge that this can be a difficult time and you are entitled to your feelings, so be gentle with yourself.

Talk to someone you feel safe with if you are struggling. You might consider a code word to alert someone if things are overwhelming without having to seek them out and explain everything.

It’s okay to have these anxieties but equally okay to give yourself permission to enjoy the festive period too. It’s okay to be kind to yourself.

Change in routine

Around this time, it might be normal to have less structure and more flexibility although this can lead to anxiety. Even if it’s an internal plan, try to keep some part of your routine in place which will keep you feeling safe.

Distraction techniques can offer some relief when anxiety is high. Set some tasks that keep the mind focused such as playing a board game, reading or a favourite craft.

During quiet times, pre-plan a list of tasks to choose that will provide a focus such as going for a walk, making thank you cards, or perhaps something non-festive related if you need a break.

Giving and receiving gifts

It can be overwhelming to think about gifts at Christmas and more so about being able to receive presents from others when struggling with an eating disorder due to feeling unworthy. Planning with family and friends about expectations and talking through any anxieties can help.

Secret Santa can alleviate some stress and avoid too many exchanges. Equally spreading opening times over the day/s can feel less intense.   

Remind yourself that you are worthy and create some self-affirmations to assure yourself if these negative self-doubt feelings arise.

Comparing to others or attempting to find the ‘perfect’ gift can be a difficult feeling to manage. Try making something which always brings a personal touch that you can’t buy.

Pressure to spend time with family and be sociable

Set boundaries with yourself and with others to create the right balance between social events and time away.

Schedule in some down time where you can gather your thoughts and consider self-care. This might include practicing coping strategies that you find helpful such as colour breathing, 5 senses or the Jacobson’s technique.

Limited outreach support

It might seem that the country grinds to a holt over the festive period bringing fear and anxiety around receiving the same level of support.

Work with your support team/therapist/service to create a Christmas plan and write it down so you have something to refer to.

Appoint someone such as a family member or close friend to support you during this time and relay any anxieties through open communication.

Know your resources. Make a list and keep it handy with any helpful numbers that you might need when feeling overwhelmed or in crisis.


Helpful numbers


0808 801 0677 (England)

Helplines open 365 days a year from 9am-midnight. Christmas period 24th Dec-3rd Jan from 4pm-midnight daily. Outside these hours you can email-


116 123

If you or someone you know are in immediate danger, call 999.

TEDS will be closing for Christmas on Friday 17th December 2021 and resuming service on Monday 3rd January 2022.

We wish you a very happy Christmas and a safe new year!

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