Whether you’re someone who adores hearing “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” on repeat from October or you’re desperately searching for a radio station not playing christmas music, this time of year brings some inevitable, mmm, complications shall we say?
Here are some of the more common issues coming up with my patients this time of year, and a few strategies we talk through.
10/10 recommend talking to Niki the nutritionist on this one (you can book with her here). Lots of my patients are worried about the immense piles of holiday treats this time of year. Their concerns vary from weight gain to not being able to find allergen free foods, to being afraid of bingeing throughout the season and/or dealing with family members who aren’t respectful of their dietary restrictions and preferences.
Invariably, whatever changes folks’ve managed to dial in over the summer and fall are called into questions as they face trays piled high with cookies, pies lined up in neat rows, the good dinner rolls for days on end… you name it.
There are a few strategies I recommend for folks who are staring down a piled-high table:
- This is an excellent time to continue to practice tuning into your body. How do you know you’re hungry? How do you know you’re full? In quieter moments, tune in and see what comes up. Maybe your stomach gurgles when you’re hungry, perhaps you realize you’re full until you’re uncomfortable. Do you get cranky if you’ve not eaten?
- Let go of shame and self judgment, as best you can. We humans are such odd creatures in that we link shame and food. Shame is a corrective emotion, designed to tell you if you’ve hurt someone. Pro tip: enjoying a holiday meal and some pastries doesn’t cut it.
- Along that same vein, remember: food has no morals. We do a really good job of labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. I’ve got news for you friend: food is food. Nourishment is nourishment.
- Emotions and nostalgia are valid reasons to indulge. While in your day to day you likely don’t want to use emotions to guide every food decision, at the holidays when your grandma makes those perfect pecan tarts only she can make, or the traditional foods of your family are on a splendid buffet… oh my goodness, enjoy them!
- Remember: food is so much more than just calories and nutrients. We bake our heritage into our food. At no time is that more apparent than during the holidays.
- Set boundaries with folks around your food choices as needed. This may vary from “What I eat has nothing to do with you, why don’t we talk about something else.” to not sharing meals with family or bringing your own foods along.
This is a prime time for grief to come up, sometimes expected, sometimes from right out of the blue.
Not only that, but because the sun is scarce just now, your baseline may be lower than usual. Naturopathic medicine keeps an eye on what’s going on in nature to guide us in our healing. The fact is that we’re operating at the exact opposite cadence than the natural world throughout the winter. Nature is about the hibernation, the rest and recharge; we’re going to parties and events, engaging in the holiday bustle. It’s a recipe for feeling pretty darn crappy physically, mentally, and emotionally (read: seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is real).
You may be comparing yourself to the folks around you and wondering why you just don’t feel quite so sparkly magical as they do. Why you’re feeling low and depressed, and they’re looking shiny and bouncy.
Pro tip: LOTS of folks are feeling jangled nerves instead of the joy of jingle bells. You’re absolutely not alone.
And it can for sure feel that way.
In my work with patients, I recommend anything from pharmaceuticals to herbs to nutritional supplements to therapy for depression and low mood, not just throughout the winter, but every season. If you’re not sure what next steps to take, and need to talk with an expert, you can book a consult with me here.
If you’re looking for a host of tools and strategies to help you manage the next few winter months, you can also check out Thriving Through Winter, a course I put together for just such a purpose! You’ll learn everything from how to properly use your Happy Light to why exercise is so important, to my go-to herbs and supplements to get a handle on seasonal depression.
If you’re feeling like you want to hurt or un-alive yourself, 988 is the national suicide and crisis hotline. 24 hours. 365 days. If you’re wondering if you should use it, you should use it. You can also proceed to your nearest emergency department or urgent care center.
Lines for Life provides this resource guide for other focused crisis hotlines as well, including support for military families, recovery hotlines, racial equity resources, and hotlines for youth and teens.
You matter for sure, and we super duper want you to be here with us for as long as possible.
Socializing and Family
Getting through family holiday gatherings can be super messy. One word for you: boundaries.
I’ve of the mind that if there are folks you don’t want to hang out with… don’t!
If there are folks you’re okay to hang out with for an hour, right on! Set a timer and off you go.
If you’re maybe good for the whole event, but you’re not quite sure? Drive yourself, bring a buddy as a buffer, and build a safety plan in advanced.
YOU get to decide who you spend your time with, traditions be damned. If your blood family isn’t it, stick with your chosen fam. Love and genuine care are thicker than blood and water combined.
If you’re not sure how to go about setting boundaries, or you need to learn how to set great boundaries, check out this course our counselor Mandy Curtis and I put together. You’ll learn the formula I developed (and use myself) informed by negotiation psychology AND the technical therapist-approved way of setting boundaries. Plus, Mandy’s a pro in guiding folks through how to set up a rock-solid safety plan so you abandon ship if needed.
In the end, the keyword of the season is self-compassion. And grace.
This is a time of year when all the things are dredged up from the depths. Old patterns, relationships, dynamics… you name it.
Some years are better, others worse…
However you find yourself this winter, remember here at Ancora are happy to help you however we can.
Wishing you a gentle holiday season with all of our best wishes!