It’s a big night: it’s the night before Thanksgiving and the first night of Chanukah. It’s a holiday mashup if I’ve ever seen one!
There is the inevitable stress (walk into any grocery store and you’ll see what I mean), family shenanigans (some good, some bad), and excitement. I won’t lie, the entire week has been focused on making Thanksgivukkah donuts. Really. What I will tell you is this: try to find some humor in the madness. There is humor and joy or the possibility of both everywhere you turn.
Why don’t turkeys fly?
They can’t afford plane tickets!
Why do turkeys gobble?
Because they never learned table manners!
If you find yourself in a situation where you feel too vulnerable, remember these tools for self-care:
Take 10 deep breaths.
Try one of my favorite calming techniques: Breathe in for the count of 5, breathe out for the count of 6. Do this 10 times! If you can, increase the #s, always making the outbreath longer. It naturally calms the mind and resets the nervous system.
Take a time out;
Make an exit plan
drive your own car
have secondary plans or a safe place you can go.
Go to a meeting;
Be of service. It will change your life.
From all of us here at Visions Teen, we wish you a safe, sober, and fun Thanksgiving and Chanukah.
“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” Charles Dickens
Thanksgivukkah? Yes, that’s right, there’s a rare convergence of two holidays happening this week because of a rare occurrence in the lunarsolar Hebrew calendar, whose dates reflect the moon phase and solar times of the year. I am definitely intrigued by the meshing of Thanksgiving and Chanukah and have been creatively thinking of culinary ways in which to blend the two. Pumpkin-pie cream-filled donuts and latkes are definitely entering this once-in-a-lifetime menu of obscurity.
Thanksgiving and Chanukah are holidays that encourage togetherness, and for both of these celebrations, gratitude is the main dish served. Additionally, these holidays invite the possibility of family gatherings. For some, this is exciting and long awaited; for others, it’s tantamount to walking into Mordor. Honoring either of those situations, and the feelings and sensations that arise is going to be key in navigating the holiday.
If you are freshly in recovery from mental health issues or substance abuse, and your trauma is in your face, being gentle with yourself is going to be imperative. Honor what you need, how you feel, and create some healthy boundaries for yourself. If going to a particular family member’s house is too triggering, see if you can go to a friend’s house or maybe invite friends over and make your own wild adventure of a meal.
If you are the parents of a child in treatment and this is your first holiday together, try to come into it with an open heart and mind. It won’t be easy for any of you, but there is a clear opportunity to create healthy, healing familial change. Both holidays are tied together with the idea of unity, togetherness, and community. Taking baby steps to develop new traditions can be eye opening and fun.
We are all grateful for something. Start making gratitude lists and checking them twice. Gratitude lists can be simple, complex, silly, or serious. Gratitude is gratitude and Thanksgivukkah is a perfect opportunity to get grateful. Chanukah celebrates the miracle of light and the miraculous fact that a day’s worth of oil lasted for 8 days. Thanksgiving celebrates a bountiful harvest. Both of these conjoined make for a celebration of epic gratitude. Yes, epic. Mixing traditions and discovering their similarities is pretty darn cool.
So, whether you are celebrating Thanksgiving this week or Thanksgivukkah, use it as a time for reflection on community and gratitude. You never know what nuggets of wisdom or moments of awakening and change will arise.
On the heels of my recent blog about fat talk and its negative ramifications, I am broaching the subject of food, anxiety, and eating disorders once again. It’s almost Thanksgiving, after all, a holiday which not only acts as a huge trigger for many suffering from or recovering from an eating disorder, but is often used as fodder for fat jokes and the subsequent fat talk. As if sitting down to dine with your already dysfunctional family isn’t enough.
As we set our gaze upon Thanksgiving and give thanks for all that we have, those suffering from an eating disorder may be having an entirely different experience. For one thing, the entire day is purportedly built upon the foundation of food; one is expected to eat…a lot. With an eating disorder, those expectations can bring about a legitimate sense of fear, shame and anxiety. For example, an anorexic may be overly concerned with the appearance that he or she is not only eating, but enjoying a “normal” amount of food, while someone suffering from bulimia or binge-eating disorder may struggle with trying to manage their urges to binge and/or purge. For both, there are triggers everywhere, from the wide array of food being offered to someone’s not-so-subtle commentary about your, or even their, current weight, shape, size, et cetera.
Eating disorders and disordered eating are complex conditions, emerging from a combination of behavioral, biological, psychological, emotional, interpersonal and social factors. For many, food becomes the one thing that is controllable, giving someone who feels inherent powerlessness some perceived power. My own experience is just that: I grew up in an out-of-control, dysfunctional environment, where food was used as a vehicle for mixed messages; controlling its intake became paramount to my own survival. Or at least I thought it did. What it really ended up doing was leaving an indelible mark of low self-esteem and body dysmorphia. I still occasionally encounter negative behaviors from some family members when I see them, but now I view it as an opportunity to stand up in the face of adversity, plant my feet in my recovery, and dine with dignity. See here for NEDA’s “Factors that may Contribute to Eating Disorders.”
Some things to think about for the holidays:
Get support: either via a therapist, a sponsor, or a good friend. Make sure that you have someone you can lean on during this holiday season. You don’t have to manage Thanksgiving alone.
Make a plan: I always make sure I have what I call an “escape” plan for these sorts of things. In other words, make yourself a schedule so you don’t have to wing it.
Don’t skip meals in “preparation” for the holiday: Maintain your regular eating schedule that’s become a part of your recovery. For example, don’t skip breakfast so you can “have room” for the Thanksgiving meal.
Ignore and don’t engage in the fat talk: It’s neither an act of self-care or helpful. If someone is engaging in this age-old, negative behavior: walk away or disengage. Other people’s issues surrounding food are not yours to manage.
Be kind to yourself: If you fall down and slip into old behavior, don’t use it as a springboard to self-destruction. Allow yourself to enjoy the things you like. I find that knowing my triggers allows me to navigate the stormy sea of family and impulse with better judgment. You can do this!
Breathe: Yes, that’s right. Breathe. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and take 10 deep breaths and find your center. This really does help. (This is also the other reason bathrooms exist!)
Lastly, remember what Thanksgiving is really about: It’s not about the food. Not really. It’s about being grateful for those around you and for the blessings in your life. Bask in the glory of your recovery and sobriety, for without those, the least of your worries would be whether or not you can eat a piece of pumpkin pie!