Post-holiday time can be filled with mixed emotions. Some people experience RELIEF that it wasn’t as difficult as they had predicted, others struggle with post-holiday FRUSTRATION or GUILT related to eating disorder behaviors or holiday meal challenges. Still others head out of the holiday week EXCITED to return to the familiar structure and schedule of school or work. There may have been HAPPY times or SAD emotions woven throughout your Thanksgiving holiday as relationships and expectations for the holiday were tested. Maybe you tried some of the tips we suggested in Part I and Part II of our holiday blog series with a lot of success…or perhaps with a lot of struggle. No matter how things went or how you’re feeling now its important to honor your emotions and continue on from this point in a recovery-focused way. Here are some tips that can help you make the most of your week-after-Thanksgiving (and beyond).
1. Change your filter. So often, the eating disorder voice shines such a powerful spotlight on everything negative that it can be easy to get caught up in what went “wrong” on Thanksgiving day and ignore everything that was positive. This is an example of a cognitive distortion called filtering. In the days and weeks that follow, try not to allow your eating disorder to dictate how you will remember this holiday. Instead, sit down with positive intention and make a point to reflect on what went well, what worked and who was integral to those successes.
2. Don’t skip therapy. (Sound familiar?) If you had a hard time during the holiday and find yourself feeling frustrated or ashamed that you acted on symptoms, do not cancel appointments with providers. Right after slip-ups is the ideal time to meet with a therapist or dietitian to process what happened, what the trigger was and how to prevent a holiday-induced downward spiral. If your first appointment with a provider won’t be for another few days, take some time to jot down your observations and feelings about the holiday and what you want to remember to discuss with your therapist or dietitian.
3. Accept post-holiday compliments gracefully. Individuals with eating disorders often have a hard time accepting positive feedback, especially when it clashes with their own negative beliefs about themselves or their abilities. If someone is genuinely telling you that you did a good job with something, before you refute them, consider how your reaction will affect you and them. When Aunt Martha calls you this week and says “Thanks for hosting us this weekend. Your house looked beautiful all decorated for the holiday and the meal was just great,” your instinct might be to say “Oh please, the turkey was dry and the house was a mess! I just didn’t have time to clean it the way I wanted to.” When you completely reject a compliment it sends a message to the other person that you may be overly critical in general or that their opinion is not valued. Additionally, if you deflect compliments from the same people repeatedly, they may be conditioned not to give them at all. Most importantly, when you reject compliments you deny yourself the opportunity to absorb a positive belief which could go a long way in helping to boost your self-esteem and overall self worth. Even if you’re struggling to believe that a compliment is true, allow yourself to receive it and entertain the idea that it just might have some validity. Instead of deflecting, consider simple statements, such as “Thank you so much – that means a lot to me” or even, “Thanks” will work just fine.
4. Move On. If this holiday wasn’t what you had hoped for, let it go. Don’t continue to blame yourself for things that may have been beyond your control. Assess what can be changed in similar situations in the future and make note of them, then allow your mind to move on. Getting stuck in thoughts about how disastrous/boring/disappointing/etc. your Thanksgiving was is not going to help you make today the best it can be. Remember that non-holidays are just as important in the long run of recovery. Make today a good day; do the best thing for you and your recovery in this moment.
5. Keep the gratitude going. Thanksgiving does a great job in helping to promote gratitude. Even if you haven’t yet jumped on the #thanksvember bandwagon via Twitter or Facebook, it’s not too late to start. Take some time tonight to be grateful and send a genuine “thank you” to the support people that helped you enjoy the holiday…
- If your mom changed the subject at dinner when a relative was harping on you for not taking seconds of her casserole, tell your mom later how much you appreciated her speaking up. (If you live close by, give her a hug while you’re at it.)
- If your friend answered frantic text messages you were sending on Thanksgiving day, let him know how much that meant to you that he was available for support in the thick of the holiday.
- If your little nieces and nephews forced you into hysterical laughter with their impromptu Thanksgiving skit, send them little notes in the mail to let them know you can’t wait for their Christmas or Hanukkah performances too.
- When it comes to gratitude, remember to use your voice. It’s an excellent opportunity to nourish the positives and create more of what you need for your recovery.
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Is there someone you relied on this Thanksgiving to help you through? If you have feedback or comments about positive ways in which your support people helped out this holiday, we’d love to hear. Share in the comments below or join the conversation on our Facebook page.
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Above photo courtesy of psychcentral.com (click on the photo to link to interesting research about the benefits of gratitude on health and wellness)