The holidays can be a time where there are more temptations, social events, and even emotional triggers that throw us off of or usual routines. Our calendars are full and it might feel all the more challenging to care for ourselves, especially if we are managing chronic illness or an autoimmune disease!
Now, I could tell you some great tips and tricks about drinking enough water, filling up on good, nutrient-dense foods, and avoiding excess sugar and alcohol at holiday parties this year to help support your body. Although these are really important tools to have, I’d like to dig a little bit deeper today to look at the roots of why the holiday season can feel challenging and what we can do to support ourselves in a sustainable way.
“I know what to do I’m just not doing it.” How many of you have said that phrase before about your health? (Hand raised over here!)
Although this may change at different stages in our healing journey, many of us know, in a very general sense, what makes us feel better or worse. We know that eating less sugar, avoiding our personal food sensitivities, drinking less alcohol, moving mindfully and consuming more nutrient dense foods helps us feel better. The better question to get curious about is why do we do things that make us feel poorly, and how can we break these patterns?
Step #1: Connect to your “Why”
The first step is to connect to your “why.” When we are trying to change a habit, stick to a healthy eating plan or commit to an exercise routine we first need to get clear on why the heck we want to do this in the first place.
Take a minute to get clear on what routines you want to stick to or even simply how you want to feel this holiday season and ask yourself the question, “Why?”
If you come up with an answer such as, “To be healthy,” or “To feel good in my body,” that’s great! Keep going. Why do you want to be healthy?
Is it to be able to have more stamina to play with your children? Is it to be able to have enough clarity and productivity to do well in your job? Is it to have the energy for your creative projects that keep getting tossed aside at the end of the day?
Keep asking yourself “why” until you hit on something that gives you an emotional response that means something to you. Getting clear on your why will help you when you are in situations where it feels harder to stick to your commitments because it’s a reason that matters deeply to you.
Step #2: Tune in to give your body what it needs
Once you connect to how you want to feel and why it’s so important to you to feel that way, then you want to begin the process of tuning into your body in order to give yourself what you need in any given moment. If we are constantly going going going with no check ins or down time, it’s difficult to listen to our body and hear what it wants. I recommend doing 30 second body scans at least 3 times per day to ask yourself the questions:
- How am I feeling?
- What is my energy level?
- What are my symptoms?
- What do I need right now?
Once you are able to tune into and understand those clear messages from your body, it’s easier to tell when your body needs rest, water, nourishment and when your real needs are social interactions, a lovely happy hour drink with friends, or a sweet treat that you consciously choose!
Step #3: Rewrite the story
We all hold onto stories or beliefs that we’ve gathered ourselves or from others over the years. Some beliefs you may hold about the holiday season are, “My health always goes downhill in December,” or “It’s inevitable that I gain weight and feel really uncomfortable during the holidays,” or even “The holidays are the most stressful time of year.” Although these stories may have been true in the past, it’s not a true absolute statement that this is what has to happen now. Get curious to see if you have any stories or beliefs circulating in your head this time of year and write them down.
You might be thinking, “Yeah ok, Christina but you don’t know what it’s like in my family, it’s just how things are!” And I hear you loud and clear! So often we believe that we don’t have the power to rewrite our story due to external circumstances. Many things in life are definitely not in our control, but our own personal story is made up of the sum of several little habits and patterns that we do have control over. So I challenge you to take one thought, habit or pattern that is manageable (that you wrote down above) and begin to work with it until it shifts.
The old story may have been, “My health always goes downhill in December,” and this year you’ve decided that that story no longer serves you.
Maybe the new story is, “I take extra care of myself during December and move through with ease” or “The holidays are a time for me to reset and recommit to my personal goals.” How does it feel to be with those thoughts? What behaviors flow from that place? Does it feel easier and more empowering to take care of yourself letting go of those old, worn out beliefs?
Wherever you are at, know that you have the power to rewrite your story no matter what it has looked like in the past! Simply start by bringing awareness to these stories and beliefs and be really kind and gentle to yourself in this process.
I hope these tips have helped you to feel more supported during this holiday season! No matter where you are at in your healing journey you are doing so well and I wish you so much love and healing this year.
Christina Tidwell, MN, RN, NC-BC