‘Tis the season of joy and good cheer… right?
But for many people the holidays bring added stress to an already pressured life. With extra demands on your time and finances (and the abundance of holiday foods and sweets) it may feel hard to avoid feeling triggered, curb emotional eating, and stay committed to your health and wellness habits.
Here are three tips to help you stay true to yourself and your body while enjoying the real gifts of the season.
1. Carry an Object of Inspiration
Keeping an inspiring object handy to use as an emotional anchor will help you regain composure when stressed.
Plan ahead and find your special object. For example, a smooth river stone to keep in your pocket or a faith-based symbol to wear as a necklace or bracelet. You may draw inspiration from a photograph of a loved one to carry in your purse or a shimmering crystal to hang in a window. Maybe you’ll have several inspiring objects to keep in different places so they’re visible and accessible.
When you find your object, imbue it with the qualities you want to possess:
Hold your object in your hand. Take several deep, calming breaths. Then, look at it and say:
“This__________ symbolizes my strength and confidence. I make wise choices that honor my health and my worth. Inner peace and self-love guide me.”
Then, speak to your object and say, “Thank you for reminding me of my strength.” Take several more deep, calming breaths.
Touch and hold your object frequently while breathing and repeating the above statements. During the holidays, keep it with you, especially when attending what may feel like stressful and food-challenging events. At the first sign of feeling tension, stress, or triggered to eat more than your body needs, hold your object. Breathe. The mere gesture of turning to your object as your anchor helps remind you of the peace and strength that is within you, no matter what is happening around you.
2. Write Yourself a Supportive Note
I learned this years ago at a self-compassion training. It works.
Buy a beautiful card or pretty stationery. Give yourself about 30 minutes of quiet, reflective time. As your own best friend, write yourself an inspiring note of encouragement and support. Or, connect with your Higher Power or Inner Wise Self and write your note as if it is from them. (My book, Healing Emotional Eating for Trauma Survivors includes a link to download your Meet Your Wise Self audio.)
What praise and support would your best friend or Wise Self offer you? What would they say to remind you of your strengths and your worth? What suggestions do they have for when you feel triggered to binge eat?
Or write your note from this perspective: If you had a friend dealing with emotional eating, what would you say to her?
Include in your note reminders to connect with your object of inspiration and to pause and breathe.
Your note can help ground you when in the midst of a challenging situation. At the first sign of feeling stressed or when confronted with a trigger that leads to emotional eating, stop and read your note.
For example, when you feel the impulse to binge while at a holiday party, find a private spot and read your note. When you know critical Aunt Mary will be at that family dinner, read your note before walking into the house. At work, read your note after feeling angry with your boss’s criticism and before entering the break room with that enormous platter of holiday cookies. Whenever you feel unsteady and need a boost of confidence and reassurance, read your note.
Keep your note with you all the time—your purse or pocket is a great place to tuck it. You’ll find comfort in knowing that loving encouragement and support is only a piece of paper away.
3. Just Say No
Yes, I know… you probably read this one a lot. But setting boundaries on your time and energy is SO important that I want to remind you that this is one of the healthiest things you can do to take care of yourself this holiday season (and always). Because when you don’t honor yourself this way, the resulting anger and resentment you feel—towards others and yourself—is a sure-fire way to head to the fridge and binge eat.
So, remember these four boundary-setting rules:
1. When you want to do something, say:
2. When you don’t want to do something, say:
“I’m sorry, but no, I can’t. That doesn’t work for me.”
3. When you’re undecided, say:
“I’m not sure but I’ll get back to you.”
Then give yourself time to reflect if you really want to do this. If not, remember rule # 2.
Now… the most important rule:
4. When you’ve said “Yes” but you really meant “No”… give yourself permission to change your mind.
Yes, you heard me: You get to change your mind. Say:
“I apologize if this inconveniences you but after thinking about it I realize _______ doesn’t work for me so I won’t be able to ___________.”
Too many people either forget rule #4 or never consider it as an option. This isn’t about breaking promises cavalierly. It’s about honoring your true needs when people pleasing got the better of you or feeling free to reconsider when something else needs your time and attention. And the world will not end if you later realize you don’t have time to bake a plate of holiday cookies for your friend’s party.
When you master these boundary-setting rules—especially number four—you’ll feel a freedom and strength that I promise you will not only reduce holiday stress and curb emotional eating but will help you feel confident and strong… all year long.
So, which of these practices will you choose to put into action this holiday season? Will you find an inspiring object, write your supportive note or say, “No” when necessary?
(Photo Credit: Martin Cathrae)