I spent my childhood Christmases in the suburbs of Detroit, which rarely failed to deliver on heaps of snow to ring in the holiday season.
After the first big snowfall, my brother and I used to rush out in our puffy snow pants and down jackets to play in the fresh powder. My favorite thing was tunneling under the snow and building “snow forts” in the huge snow banks surrounding our frosted front yard.
I would burrow away under the snow, and no matter how noisy the outside world may have been, as soon as I got under that thick cavern of ice and snow, all was incredibly quiet. I remember feeling like a queen in my own little ice cave or igloo. It was my own secret place – quiet, comfortable and peaceful … a haven from the outside world.
With an overabundance of food, gifts, social events and busy-ness, peace is one thing usually lacking during the holiday season. Now as adults, we have to tread carefully amongst disjointed family relationships, make the food, arrangements, and crumble under the pressure of finding the “perfect” gift.
When I was new in recovery from my eating disorder, I loathed the holiday season because in my mind, everything revolved around turkey, sweet potatoes, chocolate, food, food, food. I knew family members would be looking at me awkwardly, comments would be hushed, and what was formerly a joyful season would become exasperating.
The holiday season can be stressful and triggering for many – even more for those in early recovery from substance abuse or eating disorders. Yet, with the right coping strategies, we can welcome the holidays and all of the joy that they bring, while dealing with the anxieties in a meaningful way.
While some things, situations, and people we cannot necessarily escape from – I encourage you to intentionally identify a safe haven this season – a “snow fort” where you can escape when demands mount up and you feel as though you have no control. You do.
Your fort can be an actual place. Something I do is take walks early on winter mornings to breathe and take a break during stays with family.
A fort can be a person such as an accountability partner; your family, a friend or therapist. You can turn to them when you need to vent, talk, laugh, or cry.
A fort can also be a place in your mind where you focus on truth, positivity and rationality – a mental place of calm and peace amid the noise and pressure. Prayer is also a fort that is always there to connect you to your Creator and source of help and comfort.
The fort works best to shelter our hearts and minds when we are intentional about building it in advance. Identify steps you can take now, so if you need a way out, your fort is already there – strong, quiet, and peaceful.
Whatever struggle life has placed in your path, the holiday season can be an opportunity to prove powerful over that struggle. This season, set out to be thankful for whatever circumstance in which you may find yourself. Focus on relationships instead of food.
When you feel overwhelmed, find your safe place, your fort of friendship or support, time in nature, prayer, or a cup of hot tea and a good book. That way, the season will be what you make of it, and what it is meant to be: a blessing.