Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.

By Quinn Nystrom, MS

My father always sings the famous Christmas song, “It’s the most wonderful time of year…”. It’s kind of a running family joke because we know he’s singing it kind of sarcastically. Though the holiday season can bring great joy, it can also be challenging. This season can put additional financial stress on us, emphasize food and body image issues, require us to be around people/family that are toxic, who have caused us harm in the past and relieve bad memories from our childhoods. We need to normalize all of this instead of the grin-and-bear-it mode.

Here are a couple of my tips for getting through this season:

1. Be authentic – you know you the best. If you’re at a social function and starting to feel triggered and uncomfortable, fill in the blank; it’s okay to say, “I need to get going.” My Mom used to tell me, “Quinn, I’m not a psychic. I don’t know what’s going on in your mind unless you tell me your truth.”

2. Set boundaries – just because your family gets together to do traditional holiday things doesn’t mean you have to. My therapist uses this line, which I resonate with, “This just doesn’t work for me anymore.” When people have caused you harm, it is your choice to set boundaries and know what you’re willing to do and what you’re not ready to do.

3. Prioritize self-care – it’s taken me many years to realize that no one else will if I don’t prioritize my time. As a mom, wife, daughter, and sister, I tend to want to be self-sacrificial. The problem is that if my tank is empty, I don’t have much or anything to give to others.

4. Check-in with a confidante and/or therapist – One of the greatest disservices we can do is keep our thoughts to ourselves. Many treatments ago, I learned the important lesson of “secrets make us sick.” When we keep them in, we inevitably internalize and obsess over them, and our minds can play tricks on us. We can get good insight when we go to someone we trust to say what we’re struggling with. Sometimes, simply saying stuff aloud to someone we trust can be helpful. I continue to see my therapist every other week, and I know it’s helped me through many challenging situations.

5. Don’t take on too much – It was Christmas Day last year, and all our family had left. We had spent weeks preparing for our special meal, shopping and wrapping gifts, decorating the house, and coordinating outfits. My husband and I took one look around our living room and kitchen (it was a disaster!), and then one look at each other and said, “We bit off more than we could chew.” We promised each other that we would do a better job the following year at managing expectations, not doing too much, and not bending to the societal holiday pressures that many families do.