One of the biggest burdens of the holiday season is that it can get overwhelming, fast. The schedule fills up, expectations are high, anxiety creeps in, the days get shorter and darker, and it can feel as though stumbling blocks to recovery are everywhere. Trying to maintain a balanced outlook, emotional health and a stable recovery can seem like too much of a challenge to bear. It all can be a bit… much.
That is why, this holiday season, I’d like to encourage you with three words: Keep. It. Simple.
This means ruthless editing.
This means getting serious about saying “no” to people, to parties, to pressure from family, friends and society.
This means focusing on your own mental health and recovery first and foremost – every single day of the holiday season.
What are some examples of ways we can keep it simple, and choose to focus on one thing? Here’s a few ideas:
Choose one food challenge
Food situations for those in eating disorder recovery can absolutely overwhelm during the holiday season. To help ameliorate the fear that comes from facing the unknown, the desire to do recovery “perfectly” or prove something to family or friends, focus on one area of your relationship with food to improve or maintain during the season. Perhaps it is mindfully eating dessert. Or practicing intuitive eating skills. Or seeking support to face a fear food. Rather than ambiguously seeking to be perfect in recovery, choose one element of your journey and give that area some love and attention.
Choose one family member to connect with more deeply
This can be incredibly helpful in social situations where there may be toxic people present that you cannot avoid, or you need to seek solace in large groups of people. Identify a supportive, pro-recovery person (or people) in your family to “stick with” during gatherings, not just as a safe place for yourself, but also as an opportunity to deepen the relationship and establish mutual trust and accountability.
Choose one new tradition to create
The holidays can place high expectations on you “just going along” with family or societal traditions that may or may not be in line with your recovery values. So perhaps choose a new tradition or ritual to honor the season, either as something you practice by yourself, or with a small group of trusted people; something that is uplifting and you can include each year to remind you of your value, worth, and the deeper meaning of the holidays.
Choose to prioritize one act of self-care
Think about and identify acts of self-care or self-compassion that truly soothe you. Choose one, and incorporate it regularly throughout the weeks leading up to and during the holidays. Therefore, when you’re searching for comfort or a way to release difficult emotions that may arise, unexpectedly or not, you’ve got a tool on the ready to go to that you can absolutely depend upon to help you become more present, mindful, and self-loving. This will also serve as your go-to if feelings of shame or guilt arise if you feel you’ve engaged in a behavior, or otherwise “slipped up.” These things can happen during difficult emotional periods like the holiday season, and the best and most loving thing we can do for ourselves in that moment is meet ourselves with compassion and grace.
This holiday season, keep it simple. You don’t need one more expectation placed upon you to “do recovery right.” Instead, choose one thing to focus on, and heap a whole lot of love and peace on yourself in the process. You do deserve it! Recovery is a journey, and the holiday season is just one more turn in the road. Embrace it rather than fight it, and honor yourself and your recovery first each day until the end of the year. You are worth it.