Mental Health

Rediscovering the Holiday Magic

Rediscovering the Holiday Magic | Libero Magazine

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Remember when you were little and the holidays seemed like the most magical time of the year? When the first snowfall of the season was met with cries of delight and December meant one thing: Santa Claus, hot cocoa, and an excuse to stay up late?

Our childhood innocence and happiness craved the holiday spirit and was fed by every glad tiding of great joy and season’s greeting.

However, as we begin to grow older, the magic of the sparkling Christmas tree and Frosty the Snowmen seem to melt away and become lost to the stressors of our aged lives.

Suddenly, the most anticipated time of the year becomes the most dreaded, and we start to meet the season as a something to just get through rather than a time to enjoy.

We begin to label December and January as the months devoted to weight gain, stressful family gatherings, unneeded costs, and an exhausting hustle and bustle of never-ending gaudy Christmas sweater parties and obligations.

Unfortunately, by letting our fears, anxieties, and jadedness muddle our holiday perception, we fail to remember and see what the holidays are truly about: gratitude, kindness, and love for ourselves and those we feel blessed to have in our lives.

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I remember clearly the year the holidays changed for me.

Prior to the start of my eating disorder, I was commonly labeled as the holiday nut! I would start my shopping in early November and would wait up till 12:00am on Halloween night to officially start playing my yuletide favorites. Christmas cookies were baked by the dozen and every strand of lights, garland, and holly were used. In other words, I lived for the holidays, and I planned and prepped for them every day of the year. However, when “ED” came knocking, he knocked the holiday spirit right out of me.

Rather than be joyous and excited to decorate the tree or spend Christmas morning with my family, I was filled with fear and anxiety. I hoped and prayed for the holidays to speed by like a bad haircut. My thoughts were consumed with doing everything to maintain my destructive lifestyle without being interrupted or swayed by the Christmas chaos.

By putting “ED” in control, I came to see Christmas as nothing more than a materialist symbol of objects and situations I desperately wanted to avoid. Nothing saddened me more.

By embarking on the recovery journey, I have moved closer to re-discovering my childhood innocence and genuine holiday spirit.

Most importantly, without “ED” at the wheel I am able to clearly see the purpose of the “most wonderful time of the year.” Whether it is Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or just a season of celebration, the holidays are a time to slow down, reflect, rejoice, and be grateful for another year. Another year of progress, discovery, strength, family, and friends. Another year to join in song and cheers for all you have been given and all you have given yourself.

This is the key to once again finding magic in the holidays. When we stop defining the season by materialistic objects and rituals, like food, presents, and craziness, we can discover its greater purpose and find peace and comfort in its presence. After all, the holidays will still exist regardless of how many cookies get baked, trees get decorated, and carols get sung.

No one, not even “ED” or any other disease worse than the bitterest of Scrooges, can steal away the true meaning of the holidays. Only by recognizing its greater reason will we move beyond our fears and anxieties and begin to savor every precious moment of the “most wonderful time of the year.”

Reaching this mindset is very difficult, especially amidst all the triggers inherent to the holiday season. Therefore, coming up with a few helpful strategies to prevent fears and anxieties from clouding your yuletide spirit and vision is a great place to start.

Here are a few helpful tips I have used and will continue to use to help me, not just get through, but also enjoy the holiday season for everything it should be:

1. Decide what your favorite part of the holidays is.

What puts you in the spirit? Maybe it’s watching a Christmas movie curled up with a cup of cocoa or volunteering at the local soup kitchen to help the holiday rush. Whatever it is, make time to do it just for yourself and continue to come back to it when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

2. Don’t plan too far in advance.

Sometimes knowing all of the holiday events and obligations coming up can become extremely stressing. Rather than schedule out every event, take it day-by-day and make plans as you go along and feel ready for.

3. Don’t set unrealistic expectations.

The holidays are not a time for judgment or perfection. If you can’t follow through on a challenge or don’t do as well as you would like handling a holiday event, do not be hard on yourself. The holidays are not perfect, and they look different for each individual. Make them what you want!

4. Lastly, remember the magic.

Tap into your childhood innocence and let your guard down. Don’t be afraid to take a few minutes to make a snow angel or maybe even write to Santa. After all, recovery can be a great thing to add to your holiday wish list, too!

As we enter the holiday season, I encourage you all to redefine the holidays.

The holidays are not a chaotic mess, a season of weight gain, or a cycle of never-ending Christmas music on the radio. They are not presents, candy canes, or even red and green lights up on the roof. They are a time to give thanks for all you have done, all you have, and all you will become and achieve.

I hope you all have a blessed holiday season, filled with joy, love, and a little bit of magic!

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Shelby is currently working on completing a double major in Psychology and English from Central Michigan University, and will graduate this spring. She recently applied to graduate school for doctoral programs in Clinical Psychology, and hopes to pursue a career in eating disorder treatment and yoga therapy. She is incredibly passionate about increasing advocacy and awareness for eating disorders, and has devoted her life towards providing support, guidance, and love for those inflicted by “ED.” She hopes she can use her experiences and writing to encourage victims towards recovery. In her spare time, Shelby enjoys running, yoga, and spending time in the great outdoors. She someday hopes to travel to Africa and help provide mental health services and yoga treatment to the African population as a part of the Africa Yoga project.


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