For many people, including those with eating disorders, the holiday season can be one that is filled with anxiety and stress rather than joy and celebration. One of the things that gets in the way for many is that many gatherings and traditions such as parties and family meals are so food-focused. This makes gatherings especially difficult for those with eating disorders and those people with body-image issues or a tendency to over (or under) eat.
Although food is a necessary part of our lives and can be an enjoyable experience, consider including plans to celebrate the holidays in ways that don't revolve around food. You'll notice that many of these ideas are experiences - that's intentional. When you're doing these activities, focus on enjoying it and connecting with the people who are with you.
- Attend a concert. Christmas and holiday songs bring up positive memories for many people. Consider attending a holiday concert this season to put yourself in the spirit. It may be a professional symphony performance or a high school band concert.
- Decorate. Many of my clients who are single or who don't have children often tell me that they don't usually decorate for the holidays. This often leaves them feeling somewhat sad and left out of the festivities. Even if you live alone, take the time to put up some holiday décor. Whether it's a wreath on your door, a Christmas tree, or a simple menorah, you are worth the time and effort it takes.
- Get crafty. Whether you love to paint, knit, do ceramics, or sew, choose a holiday project to complete this season. Even if you don't consider yourself artistic, consider experimenting with arts and crafts. Many stores offer ready-made kits with everything you need to complete simple projects such as making a garland or an ornament.
- Attend the theatre. Whether you're interested in a ballet production of The Nutcracker or a local theatre's version of The Christmas Carol, attending a holiday show can be a wonderful way to celebrate the season.
- Play in the snow. If your climate provides you with a white Christmas, don't forget to enjoy it. As adults we often only see the difficult parts of winter weather without enjoying the fun parts. Allow your inner child to come out and make snow angels or build a snow man.
- Attend a religious service. Religious services can be calming and centering for many people as they remind them of the reasons that we are celebrating in this season. If you aren't religious or don't have a house of worship that you normally attend, you can also consider spiritual readings or attending a meditation class.
- Host an ornament exchange. Rather than hosting a traditional cookie exchange, consider an ornament exchange party. Ornaments can be simple or fancy, serious or funny, but will continue to remind the receiver of the giver for years to come.
- Look at Christmas lights. Grab some friends or family and head out for an evening of enjoying the lights. It is a simple but incredibly fun way to relax and connect with others.
- Give gifts. Sometimes gift-giving gets too much focus during the season - rushing around to spend too much on too many gifts. Try to focus your gift giving on simple, enjoyable gifts with the recipient in mind. Gifts can be homemade or can be experiential such as a coupon for a backrub or a walk in the park. Gift giving can also include purchasing items for needy children and/or families.
- Give of yourself. Consider volunteering this holiday season. Whether you help out at a church or homeless shelter or watch the neighbor's kids while she runs an errand, helping others out is a wonderful way to keep your focus on the true reasons of the season.