I was thinking that I would blog today about getting back on track with food after the big Thanksgiving meal most of us Americans ate yesterday. But as I sat down to write, I realized that for many people, it’s their emotional wellness that is more strained today then their waistbands.
I know for me, the holidays—the time that’s supposed to be so magical and wonderful—was often the hardest time of year.
Part of this was because of the temptation of all the extra food around. And then there was the inner conflict of wanting to celebrate with food and then feeling guilty about it, or resisting it and then feeling deprived and resentful. Both the feelings of guilt or resentment might lead to overeating.
There was the stress caused by my perception of family expectations that I didn’t feel like I could live up to, and worse, my own expectations that everything had to be perfect. This meant I would pack too much into my to-do list. It would be a real challenge when my priorities weren’t shared by others, which would leave me feeling overwhelmed and resentful. Again I might turn to food to try to comfort myself and to deal with the stressful feelings.
I would often start the New Year five pounds heavier, or I might have a physical and emotional hangover from all the food that I had eaten and the resulting feelings of self-loathing that might last till spring.
There’s a lot about this time of year that can impact people’s wellness—whether it’s gaining weight, or having your emotional wellness impacted by depression, overwhelment, and stress, as well as challenging relationships.
The typical things that can throw people out of balance during the holidays include:
Unmet expectations—we might be trying to live up to a romanticized notion of how the holidays should be, either from our memories of when we were a kid or from how the holidays are portrayed in the movies. Or we may be trying to make everything perfect—for ourselves or for others. This is something Mom’s can really struggle with because they want to make things perfect for their kids.
Other people’s expectations—we can be dealing with expectations of how we should behave, or our perception of other people’s expectations. We may really struggle with feeling like we’re disappointing people, or we can feel like they have a negative perception of us that we can use to feel bad about ourselves.
Dwelling on negative things—we might have previous holiday-related disappointments or difficult times that haunt us this time of year.
Challenging relationships—tensions often run high during the holidays and there may be family misunderstandings and conflicts, particularly if you’re spending a lot more time together than usual. Or you may be facing the holidays without a loved one, which can also leave you feeling lonely and sad.
Extra physical demands—all the shopping, decorating, socializing, cooking, sending out holiday cards—the list goes on and on—can leave you wiped out. Being exhausted increases stress. Exercise and sleep—those good solutions for stress and fatigue—may take a back seat to chores and errands.
Having a different experience over the holidays is really about making different choices.
Here are some things that you can choose:
- Take the time to meditate, exercise, and get enough rest so that you can maintain your connection to your Higher Self, and have mental clarity and physical energy.
- Focus on the best qualities of everyone you love and forgive them for not being perfect. And forgive yourself for not being perfect.
- Release yourself from the responsibility for anyone else’s happiness.
- Prioritize your to-do list so that what you’re doing aligns with what you truly want out of the holidays.
- Release the need to do everything yourself and either ask for help or let things go.
- Focus on all the things you appreciate in your life.
- Focus on all the reasons you want to start the New Year feeling great.
- Celebrate each tiny thing that you do that creates your balanced and fulfilled holiday experience.
- Reach out for support to help you get through the challenges you are facing. Ask a friend, hire a coach, or reach out to a free on-line support community, like http://www.transformation.com/.
Ultimately, getting through the holidays feeling healthy and happy is about letting go of the need to be perfect. It’s reaching for the hope and belief that life can get better and better.
Yesterday was just one day in your hopefully very long life. If it didn’t go as well as you hoped, what can you do today to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep making progress on your wellness journey?
Together we can do it!