The Holidays! For most people, particularly those who struggle with food-related disorders, the words can prompt a rush of mixed emotions including hope, guilt, nostalgia, loneliness and especially anxiety In short, this supposedly joyful season of good food, good friends and good memories may not be joyful or good for us where our health is concerned.
We are bombarded with reminders of traditions that feel like rules rather than options. Having to find the right gifts taxes our energies as well as our credit cards. We look back with nostalgia at holidays past and wonder if anything can match those “wonderful” times. We are confronted with social demands – how can I get to three parties in one evening?
We then set up impossible challenges for ourselves an example would be “I want all my family to get along with each other and have fun.” In the face of these pressures we tend to forget the basics, like the need for adequate sleep. Exhaustion and stress make us more likely to overindulge in the few pleasures that are readily available: high calorie food for quick energy, and or alcohol.
Ideas For Stress Relief
While these pressures are inevitable, here are some strategies to gain control over the holidays and other stressful times.
Give Yourself A Gift
You are the only person who knows what would give you pleasure at the moment. Rather than tuning into the same talk station on the way home, would you rather listen to jazz? Do you have to check your email or would you rather take a shower first? Which shower soap appeals to you? By becoming aware of a variety of available pleasures you have a choice rather than seeking comfort in food.
Make Plans, Not Promises
You promised to bring your famous cheesecake but life happened, and now you are short on time. Do you really have to stay up late in order to make the cheesecake, or can you offer a bakery option and your explanation? If you were the hostess would you be outraged by the substitution, or would you be glad your friend took care of herself? Other people are far more understanding than we give them credit for (and if they aren’t do you really want to cultivate their friendship?)
Change “To Dos” Into “Tah Dahs!”
We “to do” ourselves unmercifully, and the details of the holidays make for very long lists. As the list grows it feels as if we are doing nothing.
Consider Starting A “Success Journal”
Here is a place in which you note the things you did do that day. A small notebook in your purse or pocket, a memo list on your cell phone…any place where you can easily keep a record of your accomplishments. Be sure to note things that were particularly challenging for you—maybe making a difficult phone call, or tackling a cleaning task you had put off.
Whether or not it would be a major success for anyone else is not the point. That you did something difficult makes it your success. It feels much better to end the day with a sense of accomplishment than with a feeling of hopelessness.
Take A Minute
Before you say “yes” to another obligation, invitation, request or purchase, ask yourself why you would do it. Is it to make others happy? Is it because you are “supposed to?” Is it because you will feel guilty if you don’t? If you are doing it because you believe you should, there will probably be little joy or pleasure in the experience for you.
On the other hand, if you think it might be fun, or if you want to contribute to the event, or if you want to let someone know you care about them, the decision is likely to be rewarding. In short, if you can understand why you might want to go ahead, you are more likely to feel good about the outcome.
Create An “Angel” Of Your Own:
We have all known people we admired and appreciated. Whether or not they are still within your circle, you can mentally use them as a resource: “What would she say if she knew I forgot the party?” “Would he say I was a failure because I didn’t follow my food plan?” Allowing for another point of view supports a more positive perspective.
Establish A “Guilt Free” Zone
Perfectionism is a problem for many of us, particularly those with food-related issues. Failure to meet lofty expectations is inevitably followed by guilt. The holidays offer unlimited opportunities to feel guilty, especially when we (believe we) disappoint others.
It isn’t our efforts but our goals that are faulty: whether or not others do what we want, for example, is out of our control. Be sure that your goals are possible (getting to the party on time as opposed to getting everyone to go caroling).
If you fall short, replacing guilt with regret allows you to review the situation and learn from it. While these strategies won’t insure a happy holiday season, they will provide healthy options for dealing with those moments when our fears and anxieties threaten to rob us of the pleasure we deserve.
Blog Post By: Dr. Sunny Steinmeyer
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