It goes without saying that the holidays are going to look a little different this year. Pretty much everywhere is seeing a surge in COVID cases and many of us are experiencing new lockdown measures. So I would like to be the one millionth person to tell you to please be safe this holiday season and please take this seriously. I know I know, we are all getting reallllllllllly antsy at this point. It’s been like 8 months since life has been anywhere near normal but HANG IN THERE!
I thought I would talk a little this week about some very sound holiday advice I got year after year when I was attending group therapy for my eating disorder. I have to be honest, I am pulling a lot of this content from the materials I received in group therapy. (Shout out to my therapist for the excellent work and tolerating me for many years!) While it was intended to be geared toward someone with an eating disorder and not in the middle of a pandemic, I think it is still largely applicable. So without further adieu, here are 10 tips to help you enjoy the holidays.
Keep Your Appointments. Whatever appointments you normally have, keep them! If you see your therapist, nutritionist, dietitian, doctor, psychiatrist etc. weekly, continue to do so. Now more than ever it is important to make sure you have the support system you need. Even if that means keeping your weekly call with your mom, stick to your schedule.
Pick a Support Person. If you know this is a particularly difficult time for you, identify someone in your life that you feel safe with and ask them if they will be your support person. For a while, meal times were really a challenge for me and my mom would step in if she knew I was struggling. Once she even had to cut my meat for me because she knew i wasn't going to make it through the meal otherwise. Sometimes just having someone to text and say I’m struggling right now is enough to help you through those moments, but pick that person ahead of time AND let them know! It seems silly but they can't help you if they don't know they are supposed to be your support person. This is not the time to assume people can read your mind.
Plan a Time Out. Whether you will be with other people during the holidays or you will be having some quality alone time, give yourself an out. Pro tip for all introverts, babies and animals are the best out of all time. I am so guilty of being the girl in the corner playing with the dog because I feel uncomfortable and it's awesome. But even if you're alone and your house is feeling a bit much, go take a walk or put your feet on the ground, unless there is snow. Merely switching environments for a couple minutes can be enough to reset.
Don’t Forget Your Toolbox. Which means identify what's in your toolbox first. What helps you cope? Is it a journal, a book, music, tea (not the weight loss kind), a particular pillow. Find your comfort items and keep them handy.
Visualize The Day You Want. I doubt any of us want to be running around like a chicken with its head cut off so try to visualize what you would like the day to look like. Picture yourself in the stress free environment and do your best to build a plan to make it happen.
Focus on Gratitude. I know this might be tough this year because well 2020 has been a doozy of a year to say the least. But when you find yourself focusing on what's not going the way you want or what you wish you were doing but can't, try to find something small to be grateful for. If you are isolated this year and you can't see your family or friends, maybe this is an opportunity to check in with yourself. Cook something that you truly want to eat this year or write a letter and send it to someone in the hospital, even if you dont know them. It sounds strange but can you imagine an old man in the hospital getting a note from someone with a few words of encouragement.
Don’t Try To Cram Everything In. Now normally this would be super applicable if people were planning on trying to hit every family stop this year but I hope that's not the case. So assuming you aren't trying to see the in-laws and the parents and swing by the neighbors and so on, try to plan a manageable day. If you are cooking, give yourself ample time. Personally I can't stand having Thanksgiving at 3pm because it just feels weird to me and I need time to cook. If possible, prep what you can ahead of time. If there are things that don't HAVE to get done that day, don't try to be a superhero. There is no award for the person who can accomplish the most things in one day.
BOUNDARIES. Ah such a nice word. You know what I'm going to say, set boundaries. If you know you can only be around someone for an hour or so, don't commit to a whole day with them. If you don't feel comfortable being exposed to others, DON’T. Voice your concerns if that is the case and stand your ground. There is nothing wrong with saying we appreciate the invitation but we are going to just stay home this year to be safe. AND fun fact, you don’t need to justify your boundaries to anyone.
Set a Goal That Is Unrelated to a Stressor. For me the stressor is usually food based so my goal is to try to have a focused conversation with my grandparents. I am not the chattiest human on the planet so I have to make an effort to initiate a lot of conversations. For many people that may mean having a phone call with a relative if they won't be seeing them, or maybe it's to spend extra time with your kids. Whatever it may be the idea is to create a positive memory from the experience.
Lastly, BREATHE. Boy oh boy can the holidays feel suffocating. I love my family but I know how stressful they can be at times. In fact, I think that is the case for most people. Which is why it is important to make sure you take the time to do some deep breathing. People always tell me I should practice breathing to help with my anxiety and in the moment I roll my eyes and want to smack them in the face, but I know it's true. When something gets really stressful, resetting your breath can change the game.
Well, there you have it. Hopefully you find something in that list useful! I love the decorations and the lights and all things sparkly this time of year, but the older I get the more I realize how stressful the holiday months can be. Do yourself a favor and make a game plan so you can feel prepared. I am not promising anything will go as planned because of course it won’t, but at least you will have thought through some scenarios that might throw you for a loop.
Lastly, I would like to say don't add anymore pressure to yourself by trying to keep up with the Joneses or worse, Pinterest! Pinterest and Instagram are amazing resources for getting ideas and inspiration but they aren't reality. Remember that when you are making a holiday meal or decorating your tree for Christmas. Do what makes you happy, not what you see on social media. Pull out the holiday decorations your kids made in school and eat the food you prepared instead of taking pictures of it!
For anyone celebrating Thanksgiving this week, I hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday. Times have been tough and I hope everyone has food to eat this year. If you or anyone you know needs any resources I will post some links below.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1
The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Helpline 1-800-931-2237
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services hhs.gov/programs/social-services
Feeding America feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank
Salvation Army https://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/cure-hunger/
Meals on Wheels https://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/
Disclaimer: Please note, all information on The Cheeky Life is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for professional care. The intention of this blog is to connect with the community and share my personal experiences with mental health, eating disorders, and life in general. All opinions are my own.