When you think of the holidays, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s the flashy, vibrant lights. Snow. A warm fire with your favorite Holiday movie on. Life would be a whole lot interesting if we could transport into a Hallmark holiday movie. But as we know
life can come with many obstacles. Let me ask you again. When you think of the holidays, what comes to mind? If you are struggling with an eating disorder or noticed you experience eating disorder like symptoms, maybe it’s the feeling of dread and anxiety knowing your fear foods will be in front of you. Or the frequent wardrobe changes throughout the day because you fear what you feel is how you look. Or maybe you even developed thought out plan on how you could continue to use eating disorder behaviors when no one is looking.
If you are struggling with foods, body image, eating disorder behaviors and/or struggling with self-compassion, self-worth and self-acceptance, I’ll encourage you to keep reading.
The holidays can be stressful for individuals who struggle with what I listed above. In addition, we know eating disorders are complex and can exist alongside depression and anxiety, making the holidays a huge trigger. Have you ever felt lonely in a crowd? Eating disorders can already feel like this. Now what happens when we throw the holidays in the mix? It may have even come to the point where you intentionally isolated yourself because of how overwhelming the thoughts and triggers were. Whether you have purposefully isolated yourself or not, I want you to take a minute to reflect on the last couple holidays you were (or were not) a part of. What do you remember the most? What do you remember feeling? How present were you? If you noticed it is hard to remember certain things, you were most likely out of the present experience because your thoughts and behaviors consumed you. Now, I may or may not have made you feel an uncomfortable emotion such as sadness or anger so take a moment to honor what is currently rising. I am here to tell you, you are not alone.
When it comes to the holidays, we could be triggered with expectations and pressure to look a certain way, behave a certain way, and even think a certain way. Along with external pressure, this can give our inner-critic easy access to form in negative self-talk. So, here are some tips and tools to quieting our thoughts to make room for the present moment.
1. Establish your boundaries! - Boundary setting can be difficult! But you want to know what else is difficult (if not more)? Managing your stress internally while masking on the outside. You are allowed to create your own safe environment!
2. Communicate your needs! - Negative thoughts might not go away completely but communicating your needs can make the day easier. Let someone know you do not want to hear body comments (negative or positive), food judgement (this can stir guilt about what your plate looks like), or any other needs to create your safe environment!
3. Practice mindfulness! - If you notice your anxiety increasing before meal time, it is okay to take a walk, listen to music, write down your thoughts, play a game, etc. You are allowed to remove yourself from a gathering if things feel too overwhelming. Take a moment to engage in deep breathing while doing a skill (listed above) and notice if anything changes!
4. Remind yourself- you do NOT need to over-compensate! – Take a minute to think about your relationship with exercise. Take a minute to think about how you use exercise to “make the guilt go away,” because you had food that is typically not in your routine. I’m here to tell you, you do not need to use exercise as a form of punishment. Now, if you’d like to move, that is absolutely okay! Moving can be a form of celebration because it feels good and releases serotonin! Movement and exercise are NOT a punishment. Let us not punish ourselves for enjoying ourselves. You deserve to laugh and eat and have fun!
5. Affirmations! - I know, this sounds incredibly cheesy but honestly, have you taken the time to repeat affirmations for yourself? You can even repeat your affirmations before meal time, during and after. Here are some of my favorites: “I am strong!” “I will be okay!” “I am allowed to eat because I have a body!” I could go on and on. Write a few affirmations for yourself J
6. Give yourself permission! - Give yourself permission to eat, to have fun, to create memorable memories and to rest! You deserve a break. Giving yourself permission is a great form of self-care!
7. Continue to meet with your therapist (or seek therapy)! - Treat your thoughts and behaviors with a therapist for sustainable and long-term recovery. You are a warrior! You fight this every single year. You do not have to fight alone!!