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Coping with Holiday Anxiety

Kristen Roman | Director of the Young Adult Program

As we approach Thanksgiving and the holiday season, the catchphrase becomes “eat, drink, and be merry.” But what’s less talked about is the holiday anxiety that sometimes accompanies the season that is all about indulging. Particularly for those with eating disorders and body image concerns, this can be a difficult time. Even people without these concerns may struggle to find balance in the midst of the holidays.

Here are some ideas to help you find a middle path between indulging and maintaining your peace of mind as you approach 2020.

1) Make eating a mindfulness practice Make a plate and sit down while eating so you can really take in the experience. When enjoying your favorite Thanksgiving stuffing or sweet potatoes, focus on truly tasting what you’re eating, as well as noticing smells, temperature, and texture. It helps to slow down your eating and put your fork down between bites to really savor. You can also use mindfulness to observe your cues of hunger and fullness. If you’re enjoying your favorite bottle of wine, focus not only on its taste, but take a step back and observe how its affecting you in order to prevent over-doing it.

2) Resist the urge to deprive yourself Try and tune into what you’re craving most. If there’s a large buffet in front of you, take a minute to observe the options and think about what you will actually want to eat (and what might make your stomach feel not-so-good). Make a plate that isn’t overly restrictive in content or size so you are more likely to be satisfied.

3) Avoid “fat talk” Fat talk includes making comments about our (or other people’s) weight, how we look in an outfit, or our food choices (e.g., “Ugh I can’t believe I ate all that, I’m so gross”). Fat talk can be toxic for ourselves and those around us. If you’re regretting something you ate or feeling uncomfortable in your outfit, try and resist the urge to shame yourself out loud and instead focus on observing and riding out the emotions you’re feeling like riding out a wave.

4) Stay away from extremes This comes up throughout the holiday season (e.g., fasting all day before a big holiday meal) and afterwards (e.g., trends like juice cleanses in January). Instead of flip-flopping between extremes, try and focus on keeping a balance that is more sustainable throughout the season. And trust that your body will get back to its equilibrium on its own without resorting to extreme measures with diet or exercise.

5) Practice gratitude At the end of the day, Thanksgiving is about thanks, not just food. So take some time to practice gratitude for the meal you’re eating and those you are celebrating with. You might try the mindfulness practice that our team loves—as you inhale, say to yourself, “I am grateful,” and as you exhale, say something you’re grateful for. “I am grateful…”

Published November 26, 2019

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