Thanksgiving Reflection: Answer these 4 questions to help your next holiday event go better

December 2nd, 2019 by Sara Upson

I did my bachelors degree in music and spent a lot of time practicing and performing.  As you know, the purpose of practicing was to make progress by learning from mistakes- to figure out where you needed to spend more of your time, energy, and attention and then how to make change.  

Sometimes it was easy to fall into a trap of avoiding the parts that were hard that really needed your attention.  It was just easier and more fun to practice the parts you were already good at. (tbh that’s not really practicing though- it’s just playing!) But this never worked out well.  It became really important to learn how to practice so that you could learn from your mistakes and put your time and energy where it was needed most.  

Sometimes recovery is like this- where you focus on what went well while skipping over things that don’t feel good.  It makes sense- who wants to dive into the struggles?

BUT by skipping over struggles you miss the opportunity to learn, to make progress to move forward, and to do better next time.

Thanksgiving can be a valuable teaching tool for recovery as you move into the next round of the holidays.  There’s a lot more gatherings, parties, celebrations, dinners and food in the weeks ahead and reflecting on thanksgiving can help you learn and do better next time.

Try pausing and spend some time to reflect on what you can learn from thanksgiving,rather than thinking of thanksgiving like hurdle you just jumped over and now you’re running full on to the next hurdle to jump over- 

To get started here are four areas to review: What Went Well? Where did you struggle/ what was hard? What would you do the same? What would you do differently? 

What Went Well:

As you reflect on your Thanksgiving experiences- consider what you feel like went well.  Did you enjoy the food?  Were you able to be present?  Did you follow your meal plan?  Did you reach out for support?  Did you have urges for behaviors but not engage?  

The things you feel went well can be anything you feel went well- no matter how big or small you felt they were.  From wearing comfortable clothes to allowing yourself to get seconds to redirecting diet talk to reaching out for support.  It doesn’t matter what it is or how insignificant it feel; it’s important to capture these successes instead of just letting them go by.

So many people minimize what they do well or did well because they feel like they shouldn’t be struggling or that it shouldn’t be an issue.  The problem is, when you do this you end up shaming yourself for doing something well. And then not only does the success just go by- it also minimizes and shames everything you just did. Successes or things that went well need to be celebrated no matter how trivial or small it feels.

No victory or celebration is too small.  There’s no right or wrong here just what you feel like went well and was supportive to you. Even if you feel like nothing went well- consider- did you show up?  Did you think about it?  Did you have a recovery goal in mind (even if you didn’t meet it).  These are all things that you can celebrate.

What didn’t go well:

Next consider what didn’t go well or where you struggled. This is not intended to be shaming or blaming- but to explore with nonjudgmental curiosity where things were hard.  Again it could be anything small or big that felt hard to you.  For example- maybe you struggled with consistent eating, poor body image, following meal plan, reaching out for support, using behaviors- whatever it is that you felt didn’t go well.  No judgment- just exploring the day or events neutrally.

With the things that you identified as struggles- go back and seek more information.  Consider what was going on when you were struggling.  What were you feeling?  What was happening before during and after?   What did you really need?  What was it about each moment that made it a struggle?

The goal here is to collect more information, to dig deeper, to learn more.  You may need to spend some time journaling about each part you listed or explore it more with your therapist or dietitian.  Again the goal is just to be curious and to learn where your struggles come from so that you can know what you need to work on or practice for the next time.

What would you do the same?

It’s important to give some attention to what you did well and want to do the same so that you can continue a pattern of success. You can learn from what went well just as you can learn from what didn’t go well.  

Review your list of things that went well and consider what you would do the same.  Write these down too so that you remember what you did to set yourself up for success. Did you go to bed early, did you follow your meal plan, did you pack snacks did you reach out for support- what ever it was no matter how big or small write it down.

What would you do differently?

This is where your struggles can be a powerful teaching tool. There’s so much insight around your struggles- wisdom- things that you can learn when you can explore them neutrally.

Review your list of things that didn’t go well and consider what you would do differently.  Is there anything that you would change?  If you could do it again knowing what you know now- what would you do differently? Or even, at the next event that you have what would you do differently?  Try to identify these no matter how big or small they are.

Create a plan.

This is where you put it all together to reflect, trouble shoot, and plan for how you want things to be different next time.  

Take everything that you wrote down that you want to be the same and everything that you want to do differently and create a planfor what you want to do to set yourself up to have a positive experience at your next event. 

Then consider what you need to do to make these things happen. Do you need to ask someone for support? Do you need to process events that happened?  Do you need to strategize with your dietitian?  Do you need to talk to your family ahead of time?  Do you need to take food or buy food?  Whatever it is that you need to help you, write it down and plan it out.

Thanksgiving can be a valuable teaching tool or learning experience, if you let it.  Reflect on what went well and what didn’t can help you learn what you want to do differently next time.  And as a reminder, it’s okay to struggle because it’s in the struggle that you grow.

Practicing the easy parts gets you know where, it’s digging into the hard parts and figuring out what you need and how you can do it differently that helps you move forward to find freedom.  Just the fact that you’re reading this and considering these questions is a huge step forward (a success).  Taking further action- writing it out, processing with your therapist and/or dietitian helps even more.

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