I LOVE the holidays. Starting from early September through January 1st the world seems to be on a high filled with joy, adventure and just all around holiday cheer. However, just like the small luxuries we have in this life, we often take the joys of the holidays for granted.
For some, the holidays can be painful and complex. This time can be triggering for those who are experiencing deep pain associated with the holidays. From those grieving the loss of a loved one, to individuals who are recovering from substance abuse, or a parent who has lost their job and wonders how they will get their family through the season. For all of these reasons, and so many more, the holidays can be a daunting ordeal to face. For me, the holidays meant having an ugly internal battle with my eating disorder.
During my recovery, I HATED the holidays. I found myself buried under anxiety and fear as I knew I would be surrounded by family, friends and food. With this came various expectations to laugh and experience the same joy that others around me were experiencing. How is this possible when you are just fighting to stay alive?
Luckily, I was blessed to be surrounded by friends and family who supported me in my recovery. Although there were times they did not know what to do or how to respond to my illness, they were always eager to make me feel as comfortable as possible. Here’s some important things to remember for the holiday season:
1. Please be patient
⁃ Sometimes the illness will make you frustrated. Please remember that it is not your loved one that is “doing this” to hurt you or push your buttons, it is the illness. The illness is not your son, daughter, friend and/or family member. Please remember to be patient, take a breath and try to put yourself in your loved ones shoes.
2. Just ask
⁃ At times, you may not know what to say or what to do and thats OKAY! You cant do everything, all you can do is be there to support your loved one. When you don’t know what to do or what to say, sit down with your loved one and simply ask “how can I help?” “what do you need?” or just simply say “I hear you.”
3. Participate in self care
⁃ When someone you care about is struggling, it can be daunting to know what to do and/or know what to say. Please remember to take care of yourself and don’t expect to do everything right all the time.
For those of you who are currently struggling, please know you are not alone. No matter what you are going through remember:
1. Its okay not to be okay
⁃ Just because everyone else seems happy, doesn’t mean you need to put on a mask to make others happy. Give yourself permission to be you, in this moment, just as you are.
2. Find your safe place
⁃ Everyone needs a place to retreat to in order to recharge their batteries. Wherever you are this season, find a place that feels safe to withdraw to. Refill your “self-care cup” when needed and don’t feel ashamed to go to your safe place when you feel out of your comfort zone.
3. Remove yourself if needed
⁃ If you feel triggered in any way, it’s okay to remove yourself from a situation. Your feelings are valid and you do not need to explain yourself to anyone.
4. Create a personal mantra
⁃ For times when you’re feeling overwhelmed, create a positive mantra that is empowering and that you believe to be true about yourself. Make it simple and a single sentence such as “I am brave”. These simple phrases re-emphasize who you are in any given situation and empower you when you need it the most.
If you take anything away from this article I hope it’s this- please be kind. There are so many individuals who are surviving an internal battle that you will never see. If someone seems to be rude this holiday season, take a moment and walk around in their shoes. Kindness goes a long way and often a small, simple gesture can be profound gift.
For those of you who are struggling, please know that I feel your pain, you are heard and you are seen. You do not need to be perfect and your pain is legitimate. Please be kind to yourself and take each day as it comes. If you can, surround yourself with individuals who you feel safe with as you are loved and deserve to be loved.
Happy holidays everyone!