If any of you audibly groaned in your head (or out loud) even thinking of the holidays and adding another event to your calendar, you are not alone. While some adore shopping for gifts, making latkes, partridges in a pear tree, elf on the shelf, cornucopias and the Macy’s day parade, others bare side dishes of different challenges and struggles. I am inviting you to my seasonal feast not to add more to your plate, but to welcome those side dishes filled with different challenges and struggles, both known to others, and not.
It may be difficult for many to navigate this holiday season, and you are not alone.
You are welcome here, so come on in… No need to take off your shoes if you do not want to; grab a blanket and your cup of tea. Let’s connect…
I bring to our attention today the topic of the upcoming holiday season not with the hopes of us swirling in the anxious energy that future tripping usually brings, but rather a moment for us to pause and practice coping ahead. For many, the holidays perhaps bring on different concerns. Family/relational dynamics, change in routine, financial pressures with growing inflation which include traveling expenses, gifts, no paid time off, or others working on holidays just to make ends meet. Others bring to the table dishes holding: depression, eating disorders, substance use, trauma/ attachment, grief and loss, anxiety, and divorce.
No matter what your dish holds, wherever you are at, I see you.
Let’s take a moment to recognize the humanness of what each dish carries, as well as a conversation of how we can support others and ourselves in navigating these next few months.
First, let us keep at the forefront this year that everyone is bringing a different dish to the holiday table. Everyone is navigating something. Let us try our best to grant grace to those around us, starting with ourselves. Granting grace does not mean that we must then extend ourselves past what is safe and comfortable for us. For many of us, our families of origin may not be a safe place for us to spend our holiday season and yet we may still feel the intense expectation to show up anyways.
Please know that you are allowed to go where your heart tells you. Others may be confused as to why you would spend your holidays with others who perhaps have hurt you. You are not others. You are you. We are not always in the privileged place to completely avoid functions where family members are that we would rather not interact with and that is perfectly OK. You may also be in the space where you would feel more comfortable seeing your CHOSEN family during the holidays. Whatever feels most comfortable with you, we support you. You have no one that you need to answer to as to how you choose to spend your time.
For my loves that are far from their home and are not able to return for the holidays for a myriad of reasons, please be gentle with yourselves. This can be so difficult, lonely, and isolating. The ‘happiest’ time of the year is filled with longing to be close to those you love. We can both hold space for that loneliness and create joy as best as we can, given our current situation.
Next, let us get curious about our traditions.
For those who are in recovery from eating disorders, you may choose to spend your traditional Thanksgiving morning turkey trot from the sidelines. That is perfectly OK!
- You may decide to participate because that is part of your recovery journey. Great!
- You may observe that throughout the holidays, others fast prior to the main meal to ‘compensate’ or ‘save up’ for the meal.
- You may find that this is not in alignment with your recovery values.
You are absolutely allowed to take care of your body and nourish it throughout the entire day, both leading up to and after the ‘main’ meal. You know what YOUR body needs, while others know what they need. Try to shift from comparison of what others are nourishing their body with, amounts, times and focus with connecting to the present moment.
Reframing thoughts that may come into your head regarding what others are eating in comparison with what you choose to do for yourself may sound like:
“My body is my own. I cannot control circumstances outside of me, I can control how I engage and respond to them.”
“I am allowed to nourish my body in a way that is helpful and not harmful to myself. Only I can decide that, not my ED.”
“This is one period of time within 365 days. I will refrain from black/white thinking and shaming myself for allowing myself to enjoy holiday foods and refreshments.”
“My body knows what to do with this nourishment.”
“I will extend myself the freedom to eat what nourishes my body and mind, I will allow others to do the same and not judge myself or others.”
“What others think of me is none of my business.’
When visiting loved ones and healing from disordered eating or body image struggles, it can be challenging to see loved ones and hear their remarks about your body. We may not feel we are able to share our true hearts with them on how this may impact your psyche; That is perfectly OK!
If you do feel you would like to have some phrases to utilize when comments are made about your body, here are some suggestions for you to tailor to your specific situation:
“Great to see you! I am FEELING great, so that is what is most exciting to me, not how I look.”
“Thanks, I am actually struggling right now, so comments on my body, as they are not super helpful.”
“I am working hard to view myself as more than just my outer shell, could you support me in this by refraining from making comments on my body? Thank you for your help!”
Some other boundaries that are indirect/covert that may help can look like:
- Changing topics
- Remembering that you are more than just your body
- Building your internal boundary muscle
- Remembering- positive intent. While others think that comments about our bodies are helpful/Ok, they are not. Everyone is still learning, and we can extend grace to others and ourselves.
I also want to chat briefly on navigating the Ads projecting fear tactics around holiday weight gain. As much as we may try to mute, block, or swipe away advertisements claiming that we cannot trust our bodies and should be preoccupied with controlling them changing in any way, it is easier said than done.
- Can we create space to practice critical thinking about the messaging we may be introduced to?
Sometimes we don’t get to sidestep these advertisements.
- Can we identify who these messages actually serve and how they potentially are a ploy to begin to prime us for all the diet cultured serving diets and fads that will be ready to sell come January 1st 2023.
- Can we be mindful of the ‘new year, new you’ trap and recognize that our bodies are incredible vessels that we have been conditioned to fear.
While the sting of these ads will be there, please know you can reach out and gather support from others; your care team, mental health professionals, and other social media sources that support body trust, liberation from diet culture, and food freedom.
For those who are practicing sober curiousness or are sober/in recovery from substances/alcohol, there will always be a deep place in my heart held for you. How incredible to give yourself this gift despite a world where alcohol/substances are normalized and glamorized. I am all about individuals enjoying whatever refreshments they desire (you do you!) and– for those choosing to look at their relationship with alcohol, I see you. I am proud of you.
Perhaps bringing fun mocktails to the event you are going to along with a sober companion can help make it less stressful or triggering. Most importantly, not feeling like you must make up an excuse as to why you aren’t drinking will be your best gift to yourself this holiday season. Take care of you in whatever capacity you need. Hosts, please consider having some non-alcoholic options for guests at your events this year. And please- don’t ask why someone is not drinking- it truly is no one’s business, and if they want to go into it they will in their own time.
For those spending the holiday season without someone they love, who no longer are on this earth physically… Again, I see you. Whether they have been gone 2 months or 200 years, the pain will remain. It is the price of loving so deeply. May you find ways to connect authentically with your loved one individually and collectively, whatever that may look like.
Some resources for those navigating grief this holiday season from (Coping With Grief in the Holiday Season: Tips & Resources (healthline.com)
- Therapy/grief counseling or support groups
- Grief coach
- Center for prolonged grief offers resources/therapist directory who can support you
- Communities online, virtually or in person for those grieving
- “Here After” is a podcast hosted by Devine
- “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” is a podcast hosted by Nora McInerny that often touches on holiday challenges each fall and winter
- “Set Boundaries, Find Peace” is a book by Nedra Glover Tawwab
- “It’s OK That You’re Not OK” is a book by Devine on accepting your form of grief
- “How to Carry What Can’t Be Fixed” is a journal with exercises for grief by Devine
- Coping With Grief in the Holiday Season: Tips & Resources (healthline.com)
Lastly, seek out what you need. We all have needs. We are humans. It is ok to identify what need you are requiring and finding ways to meet those needs in loving ways to yourself. Let’s be mindful that this can be so difficult and takes practice. If you notice or observe you are struggling this year, please know that you are not alone. Sinnergy and other mental health care providers are here to support you. While it can feel overwhelming and nerve wracking to reach out for help, please consider giving yourself the gift of support this year. Whatever that looks like.