If you live in the United States, today is Thanksgiving. Like any holiday, it can be painful and lonely rather than enjoyable for trauma survivors or any who are socially isolated or disconnected from their families. With its intense focus on food, Thanksgiving can also be loaded for those with eating disorders.
Maybe it is time to reinvent holidays in a way that works for you! There is so much hype in our culture around the major holidays, so many “shoulds”, so many activities that wind up feeling like obligations. Ask yourself if the activities you participate in are enjoyable or causing more stress? Why not let go of the things that do not truly nurture you and instead create some simple, meaningful traditions?
One such simple tradition that has meaning for me is taking some time today to focus on gratitude. Better yet, to let those I love know that I am grateful for their presence in my life. Gratitude isn’t only about big things: a hot cup of tea, the sunrise, birds singing all can go on the list. When we shift focus to the positive things no matter how small, it can have lasting impact. Last Thanksgiving I wrote about the health benefits of gratitude . For example:
In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.
Please do not judge yourself if gratitude does not come easily. Sometimes the pain is all you can see, for example, in the midst of coping with complex trauma, in the early stages of eating disorder/addiction recovery or when severely depressed. If you cannot generate a gratitude list for yourself right now, remember that is is a huge and very positive thing that you are here, working towards healing.
If you are struggling you are far from alone! Check out the following links. So much good information on coping with the holidays is available because this is a difficult time for so many.
- From the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt, 10 Tips to Help You Enjoy the Holidays
- Remember our prior conversations about the benefits of mindfulness? Find out how to use mindfulness to cope with holiday stress: 4 Quick Mindfulness Techniques
How do you spend Thanksgiving?
If it is a difficult day for you, what helps you cope?
Have you created any traditions for yourself that feel good?
If you took a few minutes to list things you are grateful for, what would be on your list?
I am grateful for all that social media has brought to my life; writing Treating Trauma, reading other healing-focused blogs and Twitter conversations. I continue to learn so much from all of you. Thank you for enriching my life and contributing to our shared goal of promoting health and healing.