A Gift for the Holidays: Self-Compassion

The holidays are a time for connecting and celebrating, but they can also bring pressure and stress.  Normal routines can be disrupted with social and family gatherings which are often oriented toward gift giving and eating. There can be pressure to get the ‘perfect gift’ or stress related to being around larger groups of people or having to navigate family “issues” (we all have them!). This is also the time of year when people often feel the loneliest, whether it be to losses of significant people in their lives, or feeling alone in a world full of people who don’t understand them.

For people who struggle with disordered eating and/or body image issues, the holidays can be challenging for all of the above reasons and more. Many celebrations are oriented towards food which can trigger a multitude of fears, and family functions can feel like they expose (or risk exposure) of eating disorder (ED) related struggles or behaviours. 

The challenges associated with the holidays can trigger our inner critics, and cause us to overextend or even isolate ourselves. However, to help manage (and possibly prevent some of) the stress, we could give ourselves a special gift this holiday: self-compassion. Self-compassion means being kind to ourselves and understanding that we, like all people, are imperfect and that sometimes our life situations are not how we want or need them to be (Neff, 2011).  We can practice self-compassion by changing the way we talk to ourselves. Instead of judging ourselves for what or how much we ate, or how much we spent on a gift, we can remind ourselves that it’s okay to enjoy treats, say “no”, and give what we can afford. If you struggle with compassionate self-talk, think of how you might talk to your best friend who is hurting or struggling in that same type of situation.  We can also practice self-compassion in how we care for ourselves. It is easy to get caught up in pleasing others and doing what is expected. During the holidays it’s important to pause, and mindfully ask yourself what you need. If you need time to yourself to relax and turn off your phone—then give it to yourself. Self-care is not selfish, instead it will allow you to recharge. With self-care, you will have the energy to show caring, compassion and patience with others.

Comment below on your favourite ways to care for yourself during the holidays!  


Carrie Pollard-Jarrell, MSW RSW

Reference: Neff, K (2011). Self-Compassion. New York, NY: HarperCollins.