Making the Most Out of an Inpatient Stay During the Holidays

By Alexa Rivera

It’s that time of year again: the holiday season. Stores are raising their holiday displays, people are starting to unpack the holiday lights from the attic, friends and family are planning their return home for the holidays. Being in an inpatient program during what is supposed to be a joyful, intimate and exciting time of the year can often be difficult to cope with, but it’s not impossible. As you prepare to enter inpatient treatment during the holiday season, it’s important to remember what you can do, not what you can’t. Here are a few things to remember to get you through your stay: 


You Are Making the Right Decision 

First and foremost, it’s important to remind yourself that you are making the right decision by seeking treatment. It’s a difficult decision to enter an inpatient eating disorder program during the holidays. The holiday season is a special time where people connect with their loved ones and the idea of missing out on the usual traditions of the season can lead many to consider postponing care until after the holidays. When severe and extreme eating disorders are life-threatening and medical stabilization becomes necessary, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. Remind yourself that this is the right decision; your health cannot wait. 

It’s also important to remember that you’re not alone in this journey. Others on the unit or those who have been in treatment during the holidays in the past can offer invaluable support and encouragement during this difficult time from a place of experience. 


It’s Okay to Feel Blue 

While entering eating disorder treatment is the right decision, it’s understandable to feel disappointed that you’re not going to be able to participate in the holidays like you have in years past. The holidays have deep familial and/or religious significance and traditions. As we enter the last few weeks of the year, many people look forward to celebrating the holidays with their loved ones and volunteering their time. It’s okay to feel upset or sad about not being able to participate in-person, and it’s important to acknowledge these feelings before entering and during your time in treatment. 


Bring Your Loved Ones and Traditions to You 

If your friends and family are unable to visit the unit over the holidays, consider how you can connect with them from a distance. Video chat, phone calls and texts are all great ways to stay connected during the holiday season. You could also write some handwritten holiday cards and mail them. With internet access at ACUTE, you might even get your holiday shopping done and mail gifts directly to your friends and family.  

Even though you won’t be home for the holidays, we encourage you to bring pieces of home to you. Maybe there’s a specific item or decoration that you’re fond of. Ask your loved ones if they can bring it with them when they visit, or you could mail it ahead of time. Just make sure to keep in mind the limitations of the unit and adapt your item to them – for some this might mean a table-top Christmas tree or a menorah with electric lights.  

You can also use ACUTE’s internet access to participate in religious services. A growing number of communities now livestream their services and this is a great way to stay spiritually connected during your treatment. If you’re interested in something more in-person, ACUTE also offers chaplain services upon request. Our unit chaplain delivers non-denominational spiritual support and healing to help patients in their recovery process. 


Your Holiday May Be Less Stressful 

The holidays can be a joyful time for many but can also feel stressful at the same time. Spending the holidays in a treatment setting means you don’t need to worry about encountering stressful situations that are common among people with eating disorders during the holidays. You don’t need to worry about remarks about your body, social gatherings, what food might be served or any other topic or situation that might be triggering. Being in an inpatient program during the holidays allows you to focus wholly on your wellbeing and helps you prepare for challenges once you are discharged home or to a residential treatment facility. There is also the added benefit that if there is a triggering or stressful interaction with your friends or family, you are surrounded by clinicians who can help you manage that. 


This Is Only One Holiday Season of Many 

Despite the fact you may not be with your loved ones this holiday season, think of your eating disorder treatment as an investment. Treatment can help ensure you’re healthy enough to experience all the special occasions soon to come – birthdays, graduations, anniversaries and future holidays. Your length of stay is a drop in the bucket compared to the quality time you will gain to celebrate with your family and friends in the future.  


Get Help for Extreme and Severe Eating Disorders 

If you or someone you care about is experiencing severe medical complications due to an eating disorder, ACUTE can help. Reach out to us today to learn more about medical intervention for severe and extreme eating disorders with our experts at ACUTE. With proper care provided by experienced experts, we can help you restore your weight and regain your health. 


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ACUTE Earns Prestigious Center of Excellence Designation from Anthem
In 2018, the ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders & Severe Malnutrition at Denver Health was honored by Anthem Health as a Center of Excellence for Medical Treatment of Severe and Extreme Eating Disorders. ACUTE is the first medical unit ever to achieve this designation in the field of eating disorders. It comes after a rigorous review process.

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