Written by Registered Dietitian Nishti and Associate Nutritionist Spela Horjak
December is a funny month – whether you celebrate Christmas or not, it’s almost impossible to completely avoid it (at least in many countries around the world).
So much is indirectly expected of us during the festive season but many of us don’t meet those expectations.
If you struggle in your relationship with food you may feel anxious about the festive season. Perhaps you have an eating disorder and the last thing you want to hear and talk about is food. Perhaps you are exhausted and just want a quiet Christmas but you feel forced to spend it with people you don’t really like.
- The world tells us what to do!
Marketing messaging is almost all fully tailored towards the holidays, as businesses aim to get us into the festive spirit and nudge us to ‘act’ in a certain way and ‘do’ things in a certain way around the holidays.
“Get a new sofa in time for Christmas”
“Prepare for a Christmas food coma”
“Eat, drink and be merry!”
“Go on, it’s Christmas!”
While we can agree that December festivities can be an absolutely wonderful time filled with magic and joyful moments, there are times when we might feel that it all becomes a little overwhelming and before we know it, we end up in survival mode, which has nothing to do with joy.
This article will provide you with some practical tips on how to enjoy the festive season, stress-free. We can consciously choose joy over stress and here is how.
“Self-love is 80 percent of the solution” Anne Lamott.
Caught in the midst of what we should and shouldn’t be doing – ask yourself – what do YOU want to get out of the festive season and what do YOU need? The answers to this will be completely individual to every person and there is no right or wrong answer.
When you give to yourself first you will be emotionally and physically satisfied and therefore you will give to others authentically. How do you give to yourself first? Make a list of what fills you up and make space for that in your life, particularly during the festive season. For example, you may enjoy daily movement or you may enjoy working on your creative project. If so, ensure you make space for this. We nurture ourselves when we decide to do more of what we enjoy but first, we must set clear boundaries.
Lay Conscious Boundaries
Being able to say yes is a wonderful thing as it aids connection. Saying yes to hosting a festive party for the whole family, saying yes to helping a loved one, saying yes to eating an extra slice of cake that granny made. However, as much as we yearn to connect to other people we must not forget the most sacred connection of them all, the connection to ourselves. Laying down conscious and sacred boundaries is difficult for many of us as it can feel like something hard and difficult and something that may cause pain for others. However, a boundary is really an expression of our self-worth. Saying no to people that don’t honour us, saying no to booking ourselves every weekend, saying no to that second piece of cake, saying no to another fad diet.
A boundary is an expression of our own self-care and is just as essential as connection.
Practice Mindful Eating
Many of us struggle with our relationship with food. Either we overeat or undereat. Striking a balance can be difficult until we dive deeper into our own relationship with food. You see, the relationship we have with food is a reflection of the relationship with have with ourselves. If it’s a chaotic relationship from within, it will show up in how we approach food. To learn more about this concept watch Nishti discuss this in more detail on Youtube.
- Binge Eating or Restricting Food
If we tend to overeat or binge eat, we may have a tendency to not experience our feelings as they arise. Instead, we escape the present moment and the uncomfortable feeling(s) by overeating. Overeating has become our coping mechanism for feeling uncomfortable in the present moment and not knowing how to handle negative emotions. Similarly, restricting our food intake is also a way to control negative emotions. Both binge eating and dietary restriction come from the inability to sit with negative feelings in the present moment and because we panic and we are in fear, we think food can help us. Can it though? Binging or restricting can offer temporary relief from negative emotions but it is not a long-term solution as negative emotions are part of life, just as much as positive emotions are.
- Slowing down
Mindful eating or mindfulness helps us recognise our reactiveness toward urges to binge or restrict, allowing us to pause to respond with awareness and make more effective choices.
To get started on your mindfulness journey start by slowing down. Slow down your eating, slow down your walking and slow down your cooking and notice your thoughts as they arise. Notice the self-judging inner critic who comments on your eating experience and your body image. It’s always there, critiquing everything. The question is, do you have to believe the critic? 🙂
It is possible to have a stress-free or reduced-stress festive season but first, we must become aware of what causes the stress and then try our very best to make time to nurture ourselves, lay conscious boundaries. Because food plays such a big part, mindful eating may help to ease stress and anxiety around meal times and assist us to eat with balance.
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