When I was a kid, the time between Halloween and New Year’s was magical. What could be more fun than everyone playing dress-up and strangers giving you a bucket-load of candy that you ate for weeks? Or having days off from school filled with delicious treats and sharing a feast with family and friends? Or having even more days off, more delicious treats, presents, and another fabulous feast?
I still love the holidays, but somewhere along the way they also became fraught with stress, unmet expectations, challenging family dynamics, loneliness, and bingeing that resulted in self-loathing. I would often start the New Year with a physical and emotional hangover that might last till spring.
This changed when I realized that I had control—not over other people, but of how I responded, what I put in my mouth, and what I did—and didn’t do. My reacting as a victim or with conflict truly was a choice.
Making different choices and having a different experience over the holidays takes awareness, planning, and celebrating the smallest victories.
To gain awareness, first look at your past experiences. What are the things that have sent you down a difficult road? Maybe it’s the extra temptation of all the treats that are around from Halloween to New Year’s? Maybe it’s the pressure and expectations of family that you can’t live up to? Maybe it’s your expectations that everything has to be magical and perfect—for yourself or for others? Maybe it’s a difficult relationship? Maybe it’s feeling alone, even when you are in a crowd? Maybe it’s the overwhelming to-do list that you don’t feel supported in getting done?
Whatever those things are that knock you for a loop, take a look within and ask yourself these questions. What do the holidays mean to you? What are the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that come up for you? What values are you trying to honor? How do you want to feel?
Then you can start planning. What do you have to do differently to get more of those feelings and to honor your values? What are the obstacles you’ll face? What do you need to do differently to work around them? When and how are you going to do those things?
Finally, celebrate each tiny thing that you do that creates your balanced and fulfilled holiday experience. Do this by asking yourself what, how, and when you’ll celebrate—and then do it! And if you don’t respond as you planned, what do you need to do to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and still move forward towards the person you want to be come January 2nd?
On Monday, I’ll share my answers to these questions and the plan I will use for creating healthy and happy holidays this year.
Together we can do it!