Thursday, November 22, 2012

Surviving the Holiday

Focus on the Positive this Thanksgiving

 Affirmations and Helpful Tips

Why do we get the holiday blues?
As much as Thanksgiving and the upcoming holiday season is meant to be celebratory I know that it can be a difficult time of year for many people. I am not exactly sure why, but it is common for people to become emotional, sad, and even depressed during the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Maybe it's because holiday celebrations remind us of the people who are no longer with us and aren't able to partake any more. Perhaps the cold weather and early darkness plays a part. The stress of purchasing gifts, prepping meals, and meeting expectations definitely impacts our moods. But I don't have a definitive answer as to why we experience these negative emotions during the holiday season. I know that I have already encountered some unexplainable emotions this year. Two nights ago I became so overwhelmed with a combination of feelings- happiness, loss, nostalgia, sadness, fear, anxiety- that I began hysterically crying while sorting through crafts and letters from treatment. I couldn't verbalize exactly what I was feeling or why. Yes, I miss my friends from treatment, but I certainly don't want to be back in treatment right now. I was and still am confused as to why I erupted with emotion and don't understand how I could feel happiness, sadness, and anxiety all at once. 
I miss my beautiful friend !
I know Thanksgiving and the holidays in general can be especially difficult for individuals, like me, who suffer or have suffered from an eating disorder. The anxiety that comes with a large feast while surrounded by a number of people seems daunting. Most people enjoy Thanksgiving as an opportunity to indulge, forget their usual dietary regiments, and enjoy the array of savories and sweets that adorn the table. But those suffering from eating disorders don't have the ability to enjoy in the same way that others do. Anorexia and Bulimia never take a day off and this can create a lot of stress, anxiety, and fear during the holiday season. Holidays and holiday meals can be hard or nearly impossible to enjoy. The holiday is not a time to relax and celebrate but instead becomes a challenge that needs to be overcome. We miss out on the opportunity to have fun and be happy with family and friends because we get too stuck in our own heads. Instead of listening to table conversation our brains are working overtime trying to determine how much to eat, estimating calorie content, working to hide what we have or haven't eaten, fighting against our own thoughts, feeling paranoid that people are watching us eat, and fearing what impacts the meal will have on our body and weight. It makes me sad to know that I am unable to enjoy and appreciate the holiday to its fullest. But it makes me even sadder knowing that there are millions of other people out there, including close friends, who are facing the same experience on this day that is supposed to be celebratory and joyful.
Today I have carefully picked a few affirmations that I hope will help us focus on the positive this Thanksgiving and give us the strength to not only survive the holiday but maybe even enjoy it!

The more I believe in myself, the more I am able to access and utilize the strengths that lie within me.
We can choose to fight this Thanksgiving !

Today I give thanks for the wonderful family and friends that surround me, enrich my life, and accompany me throughout life's journey.

I pray to the giver behind all gifts that I may always be thankful for what I am given.

Today when we sit at our Thanksgiving table lets focus on these affirmations in order to help us get through the meal and survive the holiday. Lets be confident and tap into our inner strengths while the stuffing, potatoes, and turkey are passed around the table. We are strong. We are capable. We possess everything we need to tackle this challenge. We need only have faith in ourselves and our abilities. And as the platters continue to make their rounds look to your left, look to your right, look at all the faces at your Thanksgiving table. Remember that these are the people- family and close friends- who love you most of all. They want you to be happy. They don't want you to feel pain and anxiety this Thanksgiving. They want you to be present so that you are all able to share the experience together. These are the people that have presumably supported you throughout your struggles and suffering. Feel secure in knowing that you have your family by your side, people who radiate positivity and love, and use this fact to your advantage. And finally be thankful for what you have now. No, our lives are not perfect- in fact they are far from perfect. And yes, Thanksgiving proves to be challenging and provoke huge amounts of anxiety within us. But lets focus on the positive. We are home for Thanksgiving. We are not in treatment being forced to eat mediocre food and chug Ensure supplements. We are well enough to be home with our families, drinking wine, and enjoying the freedoms that come with not being in treatment (smoking when we want, shaving when we choose, being permitted to wear clothes with pockets at meals). Lets be thankful for these truths and use these facts as inspiration to get through this meal and stay healthy so that we are able to enjoy the remainder of the holiday season with our families in the comfort of our own homes.
You should know by now that I can't help adding a bit of humor-
Before I say farewell I'd like to share a few useful tips that I intend to employ tonight in order to help me survive the holiday-
  • Have a plan. Before you're surrounded by tons of people and the Thanksgiving festivities begin think about how you are going to handle the situation- what do you want to eat, how much do you want to drink, what will you do if you begin to feel stressed, who are you going to talk to if you need support, what steps will you take if you begin to have eating disordered urges? Knowing exactly what you are going to do will help you feel more confident, secure, and comfortable when the celebration begins.
  • Pace yourself- don't eat too quickly. Recognize when you are starting to feel full in order to avoid that uncomfortably full feeling that can make us anxious and resort to using eating disorder symptoms.
  • Take a moment for yourself if you're feeling overwhelmed. If you are starting to feel upset, emotional, or anxious don't hesitate to discretely step out of the room and collect yourself.
  • Drink moderately. Don't put yourself at risk for experiencing an unnecessary drunken, emotional outburst.
  • Breathe. Take deep calming breaths if you start to feel stressed or uncomfortable. Deep breathing can help to alleviate anxiety and fill you with a sense of peace.
  • Distract yourself. Do your best to be engaged while at the dinner table. Keep the conversation going so you can stay out of your head. By staying involved in table conversations you can focus on your family and friends rather than the food that's sitting on your plate.
It's ok to pass on the pie-
  • Don't push yourself. Just because it's Thanksgiving doesn't mean you have to go all out. You don't need to try every item on the table and you don't have to overindulge. You don't have to eat foods that terrify you if you think it will hinder your ability to enjoy the holiday. Take a pass on the potatoes, say no to the stuffing, or even skip dessert if you don't think you can handle it.
  • Reach out for support. Before the meal begins speak with someone you trust about any anxiety or fear that you may be experiencing. If someone else is aware ahead of time they will be better prepared to help you if and when the time comes later on.
  • Focus on the positive. Do your best to pay attention to the aspects of Thanksgiving that make you happy- family, friends, football, wine, festiveness, getting dressed up, the opportunity to express thanks- rather than the elements that fill you with dread. The negatives will be less prominent if you choose to focus on the positives this Thanksgiving. 
I encourage you to utilize these tips during your Thanksgiving celebrations. They can even be applied for other social situations and future holiday events and parties. I am confident that by using both the affirmations as well as the useful tips that we will be able to survive the holiday. If we allow ourselves to focus on the positive this Thanksgiving than we might even have a shot at having a great time with our families and friends. Remember that you are strong, you will be surrounded by loved ones, and you are now equipped with a list of practical and useful tips. We are ready to take this holiday head on and we are not merely surviving but we are living!

Good luck today and Happy Thanksgiving! My thoughts and prayers are with you,

Lady bugs are a symbol of good luck ! I wish you all the best of luck this Thanksgiving!