By Elizabeth Kessinger, LMFT
Managing your emotions are hard enough over the holidays with family dynamics, getting into the rush of the holiday season, and adjusting to the hopefully post COVID world with family and social gatherings. With the mental and emotional challenge of adjusting to the new normal and managing family relationships, how do we continue to utilize intuitive eating and manage our feelings during this challenging season?
First, remember this is a season. The Holiday Season. Our lives will be on track again soon and we will continue adjusting to the new normal in just a few short weeks. Find the joy and beauty and your unique way of experiencing the holidays.
Ensure that you practice positive coping skills. Enjoy the fall weather to take mindful walks and enjoy the new season by mindfully observing the beauty nature gives us. Studies show that being outdoors at least once per week calms our mind, gives us an opportunity to move our body and provides a break from our hectic jam-packed lives.
Before family gatherings, take stock in your family relationships. Identify those problem areas that could cause uncomfortable emotions to arise. Maybe Aunt Betty looks at your critically every time you eat? Perhaps Uncle Joe loves to talk politics? “Frontload” yourself through feeling identification, mental rehearsal and establishing important internal boundaries for yourself. Remember we cannot change those people who have their own agenda and issues, but we can minimize the pain it causes us.
If possible, set boundaries with those family members who have shamed you or been critical of your eating habits before the holiday gathering. Similarly, if you have “healthy enough” family relationships, you can gather your family and problem solve ways to have a more peaceful, less conflict family gathering.
Practice self-kindness. Perhaps conflict is inevitable in your family. There is nothing wrong with identifying your emotions, politely set your boundaries with the person who is behaving in a hurtful and aggressive way, and remove yourself from the situation, if necessary.
For some the holidays invoke feelings of sadness due to family relationships and perhaps loss, through death or divorce. While, the holidays can be an emotionally difficult time for many, it can also be an opportunity to set new rituals. Even if you find yourself alone during the holidays, create a new ritual for yourself that you can find some meaning in. For example, many people who have lost a family member find meaning in lighting a candle in their memory, on the holiday. Some, people take turns expressing their gratitude for the things that do remain in their lives. Whatever you decide, do it with intention and in keeping with your own personal value system.
Give yourself permission to enjoy the food component of the holidays! Food and our bodies are great sources of gratitude and both should be celebrated. Practice using the hunger scale and be mindful of your fullness cues so you don’t reach that uncomfortable Thanksgiving meal fullness!