Thrive Rather Than Survive The Holidays
I don’t know about you, but I suffer from holiday stress. I remember growing up, the holidays were unbelievably fun, exciting, and real. Throughout the years, they have become so commercialized and counterfeit. It seems the true meaning is lost in buying gifts, wrapping gifts, parties for work, family, friends, school plays, decorating, sending cards, baking, overeating, and on and on! This myriad of common stressors just keeps showing up every year.
Added to these stressors is the fact that for many people, the holidays can be a very sad and lonely time. Experts tell us that suicides, depression, anxiety, anger, murders, and deaths related to health are on the rise during the holiday season. Thriving during the holidays sounds a lot better to me than just surviving. Let’s discuss a few ideas.
First, consider what you really like the most about the holidays. If it is shopping and wrapping presents, go for it. If you really don’t like doing these things, order from catalogs or online; let the stores do the wrapping for you. If you love to cook and bake, go for it. If you really don’t enjoy cooking, Sam’s or Costco are great places to get party snacks, and there are a plethora of restaurants available to order entrees or full meals. Give thought to having a potluck instead of cooking the whole meal yourself.
If you love to decorate, make time for some enjoyable decorating; if not, pick out a few of your favorite decorations and keep it simple. If your social calendar is too demanding, consider setting priorities with whom you really want to spend your time during the holidays versus who would be just as happy to meet with you in January. (Remember, some of your friends are also looking for ways to eke out more time during the holidays.)
Wouldn’t it be nice to receive the “gift of time” during the holidays! Making time for family and friends in between shopping, entertaining and decorating is a challenge. A structured exercise program is often the first thing to be dropped from the schedule when people start feeling pressed for time.
So, stop the guilt in its tracks by acknowledging that we can’t do everything. Then try to replace the structured exercise with a more playful and spontaneous movement plan. Join in on the family football game, take a walk with your mom after the “big meal” to enjoy some private time together, or take the kids skating after the big meal. You can count shopping at the mall as your walk for the day. Putting up indoor decorations could take the place of a gym visit. Putting up outdoor decorations could replace a marathon! 😊
What about food? We do not need to develop a whole new round of attitudes and strategies to help us get through this hectic time of the year. In contrast to the old diet mentality, the new non-diet philosophy embraces the notion that there are times when food and celebration make perfect partners.
Set a goal to strive for balance when it comes to holiday eating. Be careful about the guilt trips over the candy eaten at the office yesterday, the cookies last night, or the 3000-calorie Thanksgiving dinner that only happens once a year. Guilt is the biggest stumbling block to maintaining balance with eating over the holidays because it leads directly into all-or-nothing thinking: “Well, I blew it by eating that candy, so I might as well eat this pie. In fact, I’ll just start over in January.” You already know this pattern does not work!
What does work? A balanced eating regimen throughout the holidays that looks like this: You have a high-fat, high-calorie meal, so follow it with a light snack (remember balance) and an extra walk. You have a high-fat, high-calorie day, follow it with a reasonable day. Keep all meals one portion of each food group (fruits, vegetables, grains, milk, meat). Get in a couple of 10-minute walks or a trip to the gym.
If you blew the whole week, then follow it with a balanced week and more movement. Start your day with asking yourself, “What could I do to get in a little more movement today?” No drive-throughs, no elevators, park at the far side of the lot, etc. Get creative.
As a last note, take time to reflect on what the holidays mean to you. For some people, it’s a time to celebrate family togetherness, yet research suggests that we spend less time with our children in December than at any other time of the year. Some people celebrate the religious symbolism, yet they are so stressed that they express more anger than love.
Once you have determined what you truly want and desire out of the holidays, it is much easier to let go of the necessity to commercialize the holidays and slip into a stressful, surviving mode. In truth, “surviving” the holidays originates in our thoughts. For starters, think positively; focus on the meaning; set priorities; lose the guilt; choose smaller, frequent meals; move more; smile often; and primary is to give rather than receive. Then, you will be thriving instead of just surviving!
Enjoy The Holidays! Eat & Drink & Think Responsibly.