Managing Holiday Stress
Updated: Jan 26
It's that time of year where the entire calendar is filled up with holiday parties and a mile long to-do list of everything we want to accomplish before December 31st. Maybe the holiday's are a relaxing time for you, but I know that for many people the holidays can cause a lot of stress, negative body image thoughts, and can cause us to worry about unwanted digestive symptoms showing up.
We end up spending more time inside our own heads or bonding over shameful comments rather than simply living in the moment with family and friends. While it might take some time and unlearning before feeling completely free around the holiday season - here are some tips you can bring into these settings to make you feel at peace around food and your body (when reducing these stressors, you can reduce some of your digestive symptoms too!)
1. Allow yourself to fully enjoy each eating experience - Allow yourself to fully experience each meal, each cookie, each bite of stuffing. This can be one of the most challenging pieces of advice for a lot of people. We tend to over eat to that extremely uncomfortable feeling during holiday meals because we think - "I have to enjoy this all now, because I am going to be 'good' in the new year." But this mindset puts us in that binge and restrict mindset, instead of allowing ourselves to go back for seconds and fully enjoy the food we are eating. Overeating in this way can also cause us to feel extremely bloated (some bloating is normal after meals!), constipated, or have diarrhea. Giving yourself full permission to eat lets your body and brain know that you aren't going to be in a starvation state later and can keep your digestion regular.
2. Check in with your hunger and fullness cues - This goes hand in hand with number one. If you can honor our hunger and fullness (aka not restricting or binging) you can learn over time to be more in tune with your body and your body will trust that you will keep it properly nourished. This takes work and noticing these cues might take some time for you! For more info on hunger and fullness cues and for a handy hunger and fullness scale, you can download the free mindful eating guide. The guide not only covers hunger and fullness cues, but also gives tips on how to improve your gut health!
If you do end up overeating - its ok! It's natural to overeat a little sometimes and even if you end up uncomfortably full, there are a few things you can do to help. Drinking water, going for a casual walk, and still eating consistent meals are all great ways to reduce bloating and keeping your digestive tract happy after a big meal. Your body still needs food regularly even if you overate the day before!
3. Shut down negative conversations (with yourself and others) - While the holidays are a great time to catch up with family and friends, there's often a lot of lurking diet talk. This might look like someone commenting on your body changes or plate, speculating on how much weight they've gained from eating, or talking about their New Years diet. These can really negatively affect our self-esteem even if the comments are not directed at us. Leaving a conversation or changing the subject is the best way to shut down these negative conversations to protect your mental health! If you're feeling brave, you might tell the person that you don't participate in diet talk or that you know what is best for yourself. If these comments bring on a lot of stress - try to find ways to decompress after the event. Do some deep breathing exercises, journal about it, or bring them up to your therapist at your next appointment.
Diet culture will likely always be around, especially during the holidays, but if you can tune into yourself and shut out the external diet talk, you're well on your way to food freedom and managing your digestive symptoms.
If you feel like you could use extra support around body image or your relationship with food during this stressful time, I am still accepting 1-on-1 clients for nutrition freedom 3-month coaching packages. Don't need long term support but have a few pressing issues? Book a 60 minute refresh session where I can answer your questions and put you on the right path. If you're unsure which option is best for you, book a discovery call to discuss your options.
I hope you have a lovely holiday season and start to the new year!