The holidays can be hard. They can be especially difficult for people recovering from disordered eating, alcoholism, depression, or anxiety. The intention of this blog is to help you be a bit more fierce with your own self-care and a bit more compassionate with yourself and others. This is not a list to use to beat up on yourself for not doing enough or being imperfect! May it be helpful, useful, and ease some of your suffering during this time.
Try not to let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Getting too tired, hungry/hypoglycemic, resentful, or isolating is a recipe for addictive behaviors and/ordepression. Imagine yourself to be a little one (this will not be hard for you parents to imagine) who needs regular meals and snacks, regular emotional understanding, and regular sleep. If little ones get too tired/hungry/emotionally not heard, there will be meltdowns. Be a kind parent to yourself. Pack a self-care bag with protein snacks, water, get to bed on time, make plans with friends and/or providers that “get” you so you can feel nourished and grounded. Practice what a friend of mine calls “aggressive self-care.”
2. Keep 1 Thing Constant
Choose one thing – morning meditation, weekly support group, your meal plan, sobriety, journaling, daily inspirational reading – and do it no matter what. If you miss a morning meditation, do it at night or get right back at it the next morning. If you over/undereat, skip a snack, or binge, get right back on track with the next snack or meal. Show up for yourself in a way that feels trustworthy. Making that one thing regular can help bring support to parts of you that feel anxious/out of control/afraid. Practicing consistency with this one thing can also help challenge the All-or-Nothing part of the self that is always looking for evidence to say “See? I told you it won’t work/you can’t do it/it’s all hopeless and might as well throw in the towel.” Be the ocean wave that just keeps coming back, wearing away stones.
This practice can help keep your attention on the one you can change (yourself) and not the one(s) you can’t (everyone else). Say the Serenity Prayer: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
3. Take a Social Media Break
A recovery mentor of mine calls Facebook a “God blocker.” She thinks it distracts your attention away from looking inward and/or staying open to how to be of service. When she says “God,” she means “the part of you that knows,” the quiet place of wisdom based on Compassionate Objectivity that lives within each of us. This part can be harder to tap into when there are so many outer distractions.
Social Media is a goldmine for “Compare and Despair.” The thing about instagram-ing, tweeting, or facebook-ing is that people don’t often share images of how lonely they feel, how their kids just spilled chocolate milk on the Christmas tree, or the fight they just had with their spouse. I definitely did not share a picture of (or what came out of my mouth when I discovered) the poop that my toddler thought it was a great new art material and smeared all over the kitchen floor. If you do go on social media, try to limit the time you spend there and balance it with contact “IRL.”
More recent post-election social media phenomena can include: non-respectful dialogue between family members of differing political viewpoints, fake news, and an onslaught of causes to support/take action. Taking a pause from this kind of input-overwhelm can help you re-connect with “the part of you that knows” and get clear on your next right action step. Your inner wisdom is always there and can help you find the spaciousness that lives under fear, anger, jealousy, and sadness.
4. Distinguish Between Isolation and “Introversion Recovery Time”
You know the difference. Isolation is when you have the door shut, the phone off, and you are bingeing on ice cream and Netflix. You wake up the next morning with a food hangover, guilt, shame, and remorse on top of the original feelings. If you’ve done this enough times, you know where the cycle leads. And you may feel a kind of despondent dread feeling powerless to not engage in this isolation again. But you can. You can choose differently. This is what DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) calls Opposite Action. If you feel like isolating, go be with people. If you feel like not sharing your feelings, talk about it. If you feel like bingeing on ice-cream have the next regular meal at your next regular time instead. It is definitely simple, but not easy. However, these are the choices that build integrity inside yourself. Practice. And, as they say in my son’s school, “mistakes are how we learn.”
A word about introversion recovery time. Many (but not all) recovering people are introverts. If you are someone who gets refueled by quiet time, then this is important to include during the holiday frenzy of social-ness and to distinguish from isolation.
Here are a few introversion recovery time ideas:
- take a ten minute meditation break
- read a daily affirmation book in the bathroom
- write in your journal
- designate a time or a clue to a friend when you are going to leave a party if it gets overwhelming
5. Look for the Similarities
I used to facilitate groups for women recovering from eating disorders. When I would see the clients individually, each of them would share the ways they felt different and didn’t belong in the group. The irony was that each of them was sharing the same feeling of not belonging. When we are stressed, it is hard to imagine anyone might be experiencing the same feelings as us. It can be easy to slip into a feeling of not-belonging around the holidays. other people may seem to be happier, have “perfect” families, or not be suffering. Maybe it looks like they don’t have any sadness or fear. Be wary of comparing your insides to other people’s outsides. We are all in this soup called Being Human. As my little one said recently, “We all have hearts. We all have skin, we all have legs and toes.” I would add that we all suffer. Imagine someone else struggling with exactly the same kind of suffering as you (loneliness, fear, addiction, disordered eating, depression, not feeling understood or belonging, grieving a lost loved one) and notice if it softens your heart. No matter what you are experiencing, the chances are that someone else in the world is experiencing it too.
Imagine for a moment how many other people in the world at this moment are feeling exactly the same as you. Out of 7 billion people, how many might be feeling exactly the same way? Remembering that can take some of the heat out of the situation.
(This is from the meditation app called Headspace. FYI I don’t get any money from promoting it. I have found it to be a sound, simple, and profound tool that I often recommend).
Just as a reminder, the intention here is to help you be a bit more fierce with your own self-care and a bit more compassionate with yourself and others… not to beat up on yourself for not doing enough or being imperfect.
Stay tuned for part two next week!
This article originally published on the Recovery Mama site.