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Many people have wildly conflicted feelings about the holiday season. My guess is that if folks felt more comfortable with eating, the holidays might be a more pleasurable and relaxing time. However, food aside, the period from Thanksgiving through New Year’s can be highly stressful—buying gifts, seeing family, get togethers with friends, or feeling very alone and apart from all the joy and celebrations. There’s pressure to be cheery and social, which is especially difficult for those who by nature (or nurture) are neither.
Here are some tips for getting through the holidays. Notice that I didn’t say enjoying them. For some people, merely surviving them is enough.
1. Make sure you have time for yourself. Don’t give up self time--playing with the cat or dog, reading, watching your favorite TV shows, and going to the gym. One of the hardest things about the holidays is that it feels as if there’s not enough time to do everything. In my book, time for myself is a high priority. You can’t do everything, so pick, and choose events carefully. Stick with some routines that give structure to your life. Maybe it’s walking at a particular time each day, doing the weekly crossword puzzle, or calling a friend every Sunday morning.
2. Expect that you might be tense from having too much to do, feeling forced to smile and be a party animal or hostess, or trying to get everyone on your gift list exactly the right thing. By anticipating being anxious or stressed, you can monitor you moods and act accordingly. Don’t minimize or deny emotions: let yourself feel what you feel!
3. Remind yourself that being with family can generate a host of feelings. It may be wonderful to see some people and a drag to see others. Or you may have mixed feelings about your relatives. Expect that memories and old ways of behaving around family will resurface. Try to hang out with people you like and avoid spending time with people you don’t—even if this makes them unhappy. It’s your life and your time!
4. Track your emotions, especially when stress and distress make you want to abuse food. Develop a list of strategies to feel better. Remind yourself that you don’t have to think in all-or-nothing terms around food—deny yourself sweets and treats or eat everything in sight. You are in charge. Put your brain in gear and use it.
The best gift you can give you is to treat yourself with respect, kindness, curiosity, compassion, and tolerance this holiday season, a gift that keeps giving all year round.