Listening to the way that our culture talks about the holidays, you’d think they are 100% fun and festive for everyone. The truth is, they can also be hard for many people. For some, it can be hard seeing family that they don’t usually see. For others, it can be a lot of togetherness without enough alone time.
Holiday meals and food can be a challenge for many people. Holidays may be lonely or bring up difficult memories. They can become a day with high expectations and a focus on taking care of others and/or lots of details.
By the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, you may feel like you’ve given and given and you’re left feeling empty. We talk to our clients (and ourselves!) a lot about taking care of themselves so that they can take care of others.
We can be a broken record, but we like the metaphor of putting on your own oxygen mask on the airplane before putting on others’. Another pertinent metaphor is you can’t pour from an empty cup. By being intentional about self care this holiday weekend, you may feel a little stronger and more available at the end of the festivities.
What are your needs during the holidays?
We like to think about self-care as “Care Instructions” for you. If you buy a new sweater there will be a care label with care instructions: "delicate wash, line dry." Or a new plant may say “Keep soil moist, partial sunlight.” What would YOUR care instructions read? Anna's would say: Needs plenty of sleep, needs to be around others, offer daily alone time, feed regularly, does better with regular movement and sunshine. Elizabeth's are similar with some guided meditation and reading added in.
What would your care label read? What do you need for certain this holiday weekend to feel the best possible, physically and emotionally?
Holiday self care tips
- Eat regularly throughout the day: So often clients express worry about how they’ll navigate the food on Thanksgiving Day. We encourage our clients to eat regular meals and snacks on Thanksgiving Day. Try to think about the Thanksgiving meal as just the next meal but with more options than usual. The tendency for many is to want to skip meals or eat less leading up to the Thanksgiving meal. This leaves people coming to the table too hungry which can leave people feeling overwhelmed and unable to enjoy the food and friends and/or family.
Many of the foods served at Thanksgiving are foods we encounter only a few times a year. It’s completely natural to feel excited about them and to enjoy the meal! And, even to eat until you’re too full. Elizabeth only makes her Pumpkin Steamed Pudding at Thanksgiving. She loves it and it’s a food she thinks of fondly when thinking of Thanksgiving.
- What are YOUR needs?
Think about what your needs are and take time to plan for them. Is it time away, some exercise, a square breakfast, a nap, meditation, a longer night of sleep the night before and/or after. Take some time a few days before Thanksgiving to think about (and maybe even write down your self care ) list to ensure you’re taking care of yourself. And try adding a few self care affirmations to your phone calendar.
Is there someone you could tell ahead of time that will support you? You could tell a partner, parent or friend that you want to take a walk before the meal or will need to leave by a certain time. It’s easy to get swept up in the group and forget about your own needs. It can also be helpful to let children and teens know it's ok to take some time away from the group to read or play alone, or whatever activity works for your child.
- Think about what you may say if a hard topic comes up
When you’re thinking about what you need during the holiday weekend, take time to think about how you want to navigate difficult topics. Sadly, it’s not uncommon for diet culture to get in the way and for diet-talk to be a focus of conversation around the Thanksgiving meal. It is OK to ask people to not talk about diets and/or to avoid negative comments about food and weight.
The same goes for other difficult topics that come up. If it’s too hard to ask the person to stop making comments, it’s also ok to change the topic or move out of earshot. I like the line, “Let’s talk about something more interesting.” Or, “I don’t believe there are any bad foods.” Or, “Have you watched Duke play basketball this year?”
- Do you have a picky eater?
Are you worried there won’t be any food your child will eat? The foods at Thanksgiving are often foods we don’t eat regularly throughout the year. If you’re a regular reader of our posts, you already know it can take something along the lines of 30 or more exposures for a child to accept a new food.
If you offer regularly scheduled meals and snacks leading up to the Thanksgiving meal, it won’t be any different than if your child doesn’t eat much at the meal than on any other day. You can offer to bring a dish you know your child will eat, if that will help your stress level. Know that meals like this are a learning experience for children and that your child will be able to “make do,” even if that means eating rolls and pie for their meal.
What will you do this weekend to make sure your needs are met?