Happy December, also known as the best month of the year! Welcome to the second part of my holiday blog series. Last time, I chatted about working through Thanksgiving dinner during eating disorder recovery. Today, we are talking about pushing past memories that may resurface during a certain time of year. I first got sick around Christmas, so, while I love this holiday with all my heart, it does remind me of a time I never want to revisit. Christmastime does not have the same significance for everyone, but I hope that my experience can be helpful for any time or holiday related triggers.
There is a quote I like that says, “Focus on the good and the good gets better.” I always notice it popping up in my head when I’m feeling stressed or sad because it reminds me to take a step back and reflect on what I am grateful for. I truly believe that the energy you put into the universe will circle back to you, so being intentional about looking for the good in your life and cherishing it can be so helpful in turning your mood around. When memories about times when I was struggling resurface, this strategy reminds me that, though things were bad, IT GETS BETTER and, given all of the blessings in my life today, my eating disorder must remain in the past. Here is a list of the parts of holiday season I choose to focus on:
THE 5 SENSES OF CHRISTMAS
I am a very sensory person. To me this means that certain smells, sounds, etc. have the power to evoke powerful emotions. The smells of pine, cinnamon, cookies in the oven, the taste of clementines, the warmth of a fire, and the crisp, cool air, are all things that remind me of the holidays and give me a boost of serotonin. When I feel sad thinking about the past, I focus on creating an environment that incorporates my favorite sensory experiences of the season.
My family’s traditions are always something I look forward to. They give the holidays a sense of routine and allow me to focus on an element of fun rather than stress. For example, we always have a Harry Potter marathon (yes, all 8 movies) in our pajamas during a winter break weekend. Being a Harry Potter nerd, this is always enjoyable and relaxing for me.
When you’re young, the best part of Christmas is gathering around the tree in the morning and seeing all of your new toys. However, as I have gotten older and started buying my own gifts for my family and friends, one of my favorite parts of Christmas is the rush of excitement I get when presenting my loved ones with their carefully chosen gift. I love seeing their faces light up; it always makes me feel a sense of pride and appreciation for the “Christmas spirit,” as cheesy as it may sound. The act of giving always helps me focus on enjoying the present moment with the people in my life and appreciate how our relationships have healed since the worst of my eating disorder.
If you’ve explored the other areas of my blog or my Instagram, you know how much I love to bake. Christmas is characterized by distinctive flavors and foods (think Christmas cookies, cozy soups, apple pie, gingerbread, flavors of cinnamon, cranberry, chocolate… I can go on). I am a big fan of stress baking, so this strategy helps me get my mind off of my anxiety and provides us all with some good food. It’s also a way to celebrate my ability to have fun with the act of preparing food rather than being afraid of it in any form.
The Christmas season (+ New Years) signifies the end of year, so it provides me with an opportunity to reflect on all I have learned and how much I have grown. I like to take time to focus on the good that has come into my life throughout the year and then look towards the future. This always helps me leave the past in the past.
Even if Christmas is not a stressful time for you, I hope you are able to draw inspiration from my experiences and strategies when difficult memories come up. Eating disorders are hard because, even in recovery, triggers can be everywhere and attempt to lure us back into a dark place. The most important thing to remember is that an eating disorder and a full life can’t coexist. Your life is precious and it’s too short to allow an eating disorder to rob you of what makes it worth living. No matter what the holiday season brings up for you, focus on what it is truly about: connection, gratitude, love, warmth, reflection, and giving to others.