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Hats off to a Better Christmas: 8 FREE Tips for Eating Disorder Support

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Holidays may be happy and exciting for some of us and for some, they are also very stressful.  Food is definitely a big deal during the holiday season for most people.  Gym memberships go up afterward, people are often found dieting or “cheating” on their diets.  Some binge, some restrict, some over-eat and some fall apart.  I’d like to help you find a bit of peace from my corner of the world during this time when Christmas is fast approaching.  If you haven’t already read them, check out some free tips on normal eating, getting grounded, reducing anxiety, navigating the grocery store… They should prove useful for you as well. 

Here are some tips specific to Christmas:

1.     Create an intention for this holiday

Remember that Christmas can be about celebrating spirituality.  It can be about enjoying family or giving.  It can be about service, love, bundling up on a cold day or anything you want it to be! 

What would you LIKE your intention to be for Christmas this year? 

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Find a purpose and go for it.  If your purpose is about service, think about how you’d like to be of service.  It could be as simple as helping to set up or clean up the party.  You could help the less fortunate through a soup kitchen or donating gifts to children who need them.  If you’d like your purpose to be about reading a great book and drinking tea, then go for it!  Any intention you’d like for Christmas is yours to have!

2.    Get Grounded:

BEFORE you leave your house.  Think about what grounds you?  Do something that feels very grounding for you and set an intention to keep checking in with yourself during the day.  One of my favorite ways to get grounded is to ask myself

“Where are your feet?”

– then look down at them; wiggle my toes, feel my feet on the floor or in my shoes.  When I do that, I can rest assured that right here, in this moment, I am safe.  In this moment, where my feet are, I am okay.  Here are some other examples of grounding activities:

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  • Prayer and meditation
  • Aromatherapy: earthy smells like cedar, bergamot, and pine can be particularly grounding
  • Yoga
  • Coloring mandala’s or other coloring
  • Going for a walk
  • Make a list: of anxieties, gratitude’s or plans, etc.
  • Have a bit of a plan for the day – perhaps write it down in the morning.
  • Journaling

3.  Create Foods You Love

Try a new recipe you've been thinking about.  Bring safe foods for you to the event you go to so that you have at least one option while you're there.  

4.  Don't Push Yourself

This is not the time for major challenge meals.  While I encourage you to taste some of every food you're interested in, if you know that a certain food will completely set you off, just avoid it for now.  Challenge meals are best done with the support of a therapist or a support community.  You can practice eating challenge meals until they're no longer as challenging.  Once you've accomplished taking the power out of the challenging foods, THEN you can incorporate them into your holiday festivities.  In this instance, it might be better to be safe than sorry - don't push yourself so hard that you find yourself wanting to act out in a binge-purge cycle.  Support yourself in enjoying Christmas as much as possible rather than pushing yourself into discomfort.

5.  Contain the food

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Do your best to eat meals at the normal times you usually eat them.  So instead of skipping breakfast and going to Christmas hungry, eat your normal breakfast. 

When you get to your event, check into your hunger cues.

On a scale of 0-10, with zero being extremely starving, 5 is having a light sense of satisfaction – being neither hungry nor full and ten being the most stuffed you’ve ever experienced.  How hungry are you?  Aim for letting yourself empty out to a 2-3 before eating a meal.  See if you can stop eating at a 5-7. 

Once you are hungry, rather than grazing on all the different foods, make a plate. 

Allow yourself to put at least a little bit of each food you love on the plate or foods you’d like to try. 

Skip the foods that don’t interest you much.  Sit down and really savor the foods you chose.  Check in with your hunger and satiety signals a few times while you eat your plate.  Once you are satisfied, tell yourself that you can have more when you are hungry again and follow through.  Making a practice of using hunger and satiety cues is extremely helpful in finding balance with food.

6.  Keep Your Boundaries

People tend to project their OWN food and body issues onto others’.  So if you notice yourself engaged in a conversation with someone who’s trying to talk you in or out of eating or commenting on your body, take a step back. 

Check in with yourself and see what YOU NEED, rather than what this person is trying to get you to do. 

Saying you need to use the bathroom is always an easy out to give yourself some time and space to check back in with yourself and get grounded.  Take some deep breaths, splash some water on your face and ask yourself what you need in that moment to take care of yourself before you leave the bathroom.  Here are some examples of things you can say to people who are pushing you:

  • “No, thank you”
  • “I’m okay right now”
  • “Yes, I’m going to enjoy this food right now”
  • “I’m not hungry”
  • “I’ll let you know when I’m ready for ...”
  • “I’d rather not discuss my body with you”

Practice saying these boundaries out loud BEFORE the holiday, so that when you’re in the moment, they flow easily and effortlessly.

7.  Ask for Help

Enlist a member of your support group to be ‘Holiday Buddies’ to practice what I call ‘Book Ending’:  Have a few agreed upon times you with check-in with one another throughout the day – perhaps before, during and after.  You could plan to call or text one another to report how things are going.  If you don’t hear from your buddy, shoot them a text to see what’s going on.  In this way, you have another person who has your best interest in mind to be accountable to.  This practice is also helpful in getting your mind off yourself and your own difficulties.

8.  Breathe

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Remember that Christmas is only one day out of the year.  Breathe into the gifts you receive whether they are material or spiritual, gratitude or emotions - breathe into this experience of life and know that you can get through this.  You don't need to be perfect and neither does your holiday.  When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, focus on your breath.  Remember you can start your day over at any time.

I hope you've found these Christmas tips helpful.  If you're still feeling overwhelmed, please feel free to give me a call at 610.314.8402 - I'd be happy to help.

Merry Christmas from Tiffany Spilove Psychotherapy in West Chester, Pa!

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Sure Fire Ways to Get Grounded and Reduce Anxiety

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Your body feels jittery and like you want to crawl out of your skin.  Your heart races, your mind goes a million miles a second and you can't sleep.  Sometimes, you just wish you could find a little peace - a little reprieve from this constant state of feeling charged up.  Anxiety, social anxiety and panic are such difficult things to have to deal with.  The good news is that there's hope and some sure fire things you can do to help calm your nervous system.

What grounds you?

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Getting grounded, as in, feeling your feet on the earth rather than in your head - starts with your intention at the beginning of each day.  The things that help people feel grounded can be different for everyone, so you need to find things that work for you.  The first place to start is to think about what you can do each morning, upon awakening that will help you get centered and begin your day with a peaceful intent.  Some mindfulness meditation could be helpful, reading from a daily book of inspirational readings, praying, doing some deep breathing, singing, chanting, walking or exercising in a mindful way - these are a few ideas you can begin with.  

As far as inspirational reading goes, I personally like these two:

West Chester Therapy Meditations Inspriations

A Deep Breath of Life by Alan Cohen

The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie

Whatever you choose to do to help you get grounded in the morning, make it into a ritual.  

Our bodies find comfort in repeating the same actions on a regular basis.  You will be teaching your body that every morning, you find peace through grounding and it will set you up to stay grounded and calm through the rest of your day.

Here is an example of a morning ritual:

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Mindfulness Meditation Candle
  • wake
  • go to comfortable spot in home designated to meditation
  • light a candle or incense
  • drink warm lemon water
  • read from daily inspirational book
  • say a few simple prayers for help with staying calm through the day
  • set timer for 5 minutes 
  • practice deep belly breathing for 5 minutes while focusing on flame of candle
  • After breathing, spend 5 minutes making a gratitude list
  • blow out candle and go for a 15-minute walk

Something as simple as this can really get your day off to a great start.  

Maintaining Balance

As you go about your day, when you notice your anxiety rising, come back to the breath you started with at the beginning of your day.  

Feel your feet

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This is a tip I learned a while back that always seems to help.  As yourself "where are my feet right now?" and then look down at them and see them there on the earth.  Wiggle your toes a bit and feel them moving around in your sock.  Acknowledge that right now, in this moment, your feet are right there and they are safe, therefore you are safe.  When you start to feel panic and your thoughts race, remember to ask "where are your feet?"

Reduce or eliminate caffeine

caffeine is addictive and it's very activating.  If you are trying to eliminate anxiety, you might want to consider eliminating caffeine.  Many people will say that they use caffeine to help them find energy throughout the day and keep them going.  Well, it's a catch 22 because when we use caffeine, our bodies use cortisol to help regulate our adrenal glands.  When we over tax this part of our systems, it leaves us depleted and more tired than we started.  Therefore, if we eliminate caffeine, we may be a tired for a few days while detoxing, but after your body adjusts, you will find that you have more energy and that you sleep better.

Speaking of sleep

A large part of mental health when dealing with anxiety is getting a good amount of sleep.  When we sleep, our bodies do a lot of healing.  Our organs do their cleansing, our hormones rebalance and we are able to function more effectively during waking time.  Also, dreaming is very important for our psyches to process material from our conscious and integrate it with our subconscious.  

Here are a few tips on sleep hygiene:

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  • target bedtime for the same time every night
  • eliminate all electronics from the bedroom
  • reserve your bed for sleeping and sexual activity only - don't do work in bed
  • if you are having trouble falling asleep, get up after 15 minutes and do something non-electronic for 15 minutes, then go back to bed and try to sleep again
  • create a wind-down routine for the last hour before bed

For more information on sleep hygiene contact me at TiffanySpilove@yahoo.com

Anxiety reducing techniques

Here are some proven techniques to help your body and mind relax:

Tense and release

Tighten every muscle in your body.  Start with your head. Tense up your face, your jaw, your eyes, your neck.  Tense up your shoulders, your chest muscles, your stomach, your biceps, make fists as tight as you can.  Tense up your butt muscles, your thighs, your calves, your ankles, your feet and your toes.  Keep all these parts of your body as tense as possible and keep them  tensed up for a full 60 seconds.  Then release.  This tense and release will help your body reduce anxiety symptoms.

Deep Breathing

Put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.  Take a deep breath in and try to push your belly hand all the way out with the breath into your diaphragm.  Inhale slowly to 4 counts, then hold for 4 counts, then release slowly for 4 counts and repeat.  When you practice breathing slowly, it will help to slow down your heart rate, thus reduce anxiety.

Bi-Lateral Movement

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Any kind of bi-lateral stimulation can help reduce anxiety.  Here are some examples: walking, biking, shifting weight back and forth from one foot to the other, tapping your thighs alternately.  Some others: drumming, swimming, scanning your eyes from one side of the horizon to the other, back and forth.  The butterfly hug is an EMDR technique where you hook your thumbs together so that your hands form a figure that looks like a butterfly.  Put your hands on your chest and tap alternatively around your collar bone area.  This is a great way to self-soothe or find relaxation in times of stress. Here's a video on how to do a different version of a butterfly hug. 

I hope you've found some of these tips useful.  As always, if you have any questions or for more information, please contact me at TiffanySpilove@yahoo.com