The holidays can be overwhelming and stressful. The antidote? Add self-compassion to your holiday wish list this year. In this post, we’ll talk about three ways to practice self-compassion during the holidays.
The holidays can be a joyous, magical time filled with special traditions, and they can be a time of stress and exhaustion. With all the cultural expectations of holiday cards, gifts, shopping, travel, decorating and parties, it can start to feel overwhelming.
And when you’re overwhelmed and stressed, your relationship with food can take a toll. Maybe you don’t feel hungry because your stomach is in knots, or maybe you binge eat every night because it gives you some temporary relief.
One of the most useful tools we have (IMO) during times of life that feel chaotic is the practice of self-compassion. If you’re not familiar with self-compassion, check it out The work and book of Dr. Kristin Neff and my blog post How to Practice Self-Compassion.
You can practice self-compassion any time of year (and I highly encourage you to make this a lifelong practice!), but here are three specific ways you can practice self-compassion during the holidays:
1. Talk to yourself as you would a dear friend.
Didn’t have time to wrap all the presents? Late sending holiday cards (or *gasp* not sending them at all!)? Can’t make every holiday party this year? Maybe you usually beat yourself up about it and criticize yourself. Maybe you have a mean girl voice that says “you’re pathetic – how could you not go along with this?”
Practicing self-compassion involves treating yourself with kindness. A tangible way to do this is to talk to yourself as you would a best friend. If your best friend came up to you and said I feel terrible, I didn’t get around to sending holiday cards this year, would you call her pathetic? Of course not! You’d probably tell her that’s okay – that it’s a silly expectation and they all end up in the trash anyway.
We are our harshest critics. If you find yourself judging yourself during the holidays for something you didn’t do or something you ate, can you talk to yourself in a kind and loving way, like you would a dear friend?
2. Check in with yourself regularly.
Another principle of self-compassion is mindfulness – paying attention to the present moment, on purpose, without judgment or criticism (paraphrased by Jon Kabat Zinn).
When you allow yourself the time and space to check in, you may notice different thoughts or feelings you have and be able to notice them. Otherwise, you either brush them under the rug (until they overflow) or you identify with them and get carried away by them.
While there’s nothing wrong with emotional eating from time to time, if you find that every night during the holiday season you turn to food to soothe yourself, you may benefit from practicing more mindfulness.
Maybe allow yourself the gift of a pause and before you reach for the box of cookies, ask yourself, what am I feeling right now? Can I sit with this feeling and be with it for a minute or a few minutes? What do I need right now? Maybe the answer is still cookies and that’s okay. But you might notice a different response like slowing down, space, time alone, a hug, connection, love.
Mindfulness can give you the space to choose a different coping tool in your toolbox. The more you can check in with yourself, notice what’s coming up, and meet your needs, the better you’ll be at managing the busy life of the holidays.
3. Remind yourself that most people struggle to some degree during the holidays.
When you’re feeling down because your grandma commented on your weight (again!), or stressed out because you ate too much pecan pie, or feel guilty because you’re not taking very good care of yourself, remind yourself that you’re not alone.
say it with me I am. Not. Single.
The third tenet of self-compassion is common humanity, reminding yourself that you are not alone in your struggles. That as humans we are all flawed and imperfect and we all experience suffering. It is the human experience.
And the human experience around the holidays tends to be stress!
If you wonder why you struggle to enjoy this time of year when it seems like everyone else is having fun and finding joy, remind yourself that others struggle to set and maintain boundaries with their families about food and talking about food. weight, others feel guilty about their food choices, others don’t make time for self-care. Other people feel anxious, sad or frustrated.
It’s not all joy, all the time, this time of year. It’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions. Remember this when you start to feel lonely or like you are the only one having this very human experience.
This time of year is A LOT. Be kind to yourself. Much grace. Lots of self-compassion. Remember, it’s a practice, not a destination. Be careful not to add self-compassion to your list of things you “fail” at.
What area do you want to work on the most this month? How do you practice self-compassion this time of year? Tell me in the comments below!
For more holiday and handy nutrition tips, check out my posts below!
3 Ways to Navigate Diet Talk Around the Holidays
5 Tips to Stay Well-Nourished This Holiday Season
3 Tips to Set New Year’s Health Goals That Are Really Sustainable
6 ways to find more enjoyment in food
3 Ways to Navigate When Clothes Don’t Fit (Without Another Diet!)