'Tis the Season...

Jingling bells, hanging holly and Hannukah candles.

Cinnamon and clove scents.

My Aunt Elma’s hearty laugh and kind ways.

These sensations are some of what the holiday season brings, and I anticipate with pleasure the well-known traditions of the season.

Even the commercial aspects, done in planned bursts, can be fun, from scouting out the year’s best music CD for my sister, to conferring with the cute guy at the liquor store about the best-priced bottle of red for my uncle.

Not quite so much fun is plotting how to deal with the well-meaning enquiries of how I am.

It’s been some years since I was first treated for an eating disorder.  The first few holiday seasons were miserable.  I was miserable.  My folks were miserable. Everyone at every ‘do-with-food’ was uncomfortable.  You know the drill: Holiday events are taut with tension, with everyone walking on eggshell around you.

As the holidays neared, I would become increasingly anxious. My coping strategy was to eat less and run more, which calmed me for a nanosecond but didn’t solve my anxiety about the holidays.

And then I met Julie.  Julie understood.  And even better, Julie had been there, done that and burned the T-shirt.  Julie guided me and helped me find ways to either circumvent potentially difficult times or to deal with the goodhearted probing of how I am.

And how I am depends very much on how I plan.  And plan I do, thanks to Julie.  I use Benjamin Franklin’s maxim that ‘by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.’

So, in the spirit of the season, I share Julie’s Top Three Tips for coping with the holidays:

1. Plan
2. Plan
3. Plan

And, I also share Julie’s second Top Three Tips for coping with the holidays:

1. Practice
2. Practice
3. Practice

“Plan and practice, how novel ” I hear you say with a touch of sarcasm.  But truly, these tips have helped me survive – even on occasion thrive - over the holiday period.  I plan what – and how much - I want to do; who I want to see; how to extricate myself from individuals with whom I feel uncomfortable or who behave insensitively to me.  I’ve planned who to call if I need soothing or encouragement or just to vent; what personally pleasurable things I will do in-between family events - - it’s amazing what free events and activities are available if one looks around the community.

And odd as it has felt, I’ve stood in front of my bathroom mirror and practiced saying out loud, “I deserve… I can cope… and … I have done well….” I’m quite specific about each thing.

I take each social occasion as a new opportunity to practice my strategies – including remaining true to my eating plan and breaking out of self-isolation.  Sometimes I feel I can proudly fly with my comebacks, and sometimes I feel like the Grim Reaper scything my way through the ordeal.  But that’s life: for all of us, regardless of whether we have an eating disorder or not.  I genuinely don’t know anyone for whom the holiday period is stress and conflict free.

So, since I seem addicted to quotes, here is another new favourite courtesy of another statesman, Disraeli: “I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best.”

Wishing you your healthiest and happiest holiday season,

Lee Rehm

Check out NEDIC’s article on coping with the holidays here.