A Healthy Approach to the Holidays
With the holidays fast approaching, feeling stressed shouldn’t be inevitable but it seems to be for many of us. Whether it’s trying to get all your shopping done, finding parking at malls, planning, cooking, or trying to coordinate with your family and friends, you’re likely to be feeling overwhelmed by obligations and errands. I recently read an article written by psychologist Mark Gorkin, who summed the holiday experience into the four F’s – Fantasies, Family, Finance and Food. I would add one more, Fatigue which is oftentimes caused by all the sugar, over indulgences in food, alcohol, parties, shopping (malls seem to sap your energy), lack of sleep and the list goes on. Here are my thoughts on the four F’s.
When I think about fantasies, I think about conjuring up scenarios in our heads and then feeling frustrated and disappointed when they don’t manifest the way we imagined. There is also the idyllic hallmark image we see in the media but this is not the reality for most of us. When we have expectations, they are like imaginary hoops we expect people to jump through. We need to be clear about what we want and what we need, and make sure the other person is on the same page. There is no way anyone can live up to your unspoken expectations, leaving you feeling disappointed. We also carry around internalized memories, feelings of nostalgia, as we keep holding on to the past. We can look back with fondness and remember, but it’s important to embrace the present and be thankful for all of our experiences.
I always say, if you feel like you’re enlightened, spend a weekend with your family. One of the amazing gifts our family can give us, is the gift of sight, insight! When we find ourselves feeling on edge, being reactive, we get to see our old patterns resurfacing. You may not realize it but this is truly a gift. Ok, maybe it doesn’t feel that way but in order to transform and transcend our reactive behaviour, have better relationships, and ultimately be happier, we need to know that those patterns exist. Yes, families, in-laws or even out-laws can be stressful and challenging but the insight we gain, is worth the pain!
Money consciousness, finances, over spending, focusing on what we don’t have and then feeling inadequate, can be heightened during this time. Sometimes people will over give to compensate for a lack in a relationship. The barrage of holiday advertising can make you forget what the season is really about. The best gift is not a toy, trinket or any such thing. The best gift is your presence, being there and listening. Giving of yourself.
This is an important time of the year to make sure and be consistent with your healthy eating goals. Bring fruit or any healthy food/snack with you when you go shopping or with you to work. Being prepared is the key. When you skip meals you end up over indulging on the cookies and chocolate that a colleague has brought to work, and then you end up feeling bad about yourself. Sugar affects the serotonin (our feel good neurotransmitter) levels and along with sunlight deprivation, we end up feeling SAD. This is a great opportunity to introduce your family and friends to healthier versions of their favourite dishes.
We need to take care of our bodies by getting enough exercise and sleep and by eating healthy and not continuously over indulging. We also need to protect our spirit; knowing when to say no and taking time for ourselves.
It’s important to realize that the holidays do not create stress; we bring stress to the holidays. If we look closely at our inner turmoil and tension, we will find that it was neatly wrapped and hand delivered by none other than ourselves. The good news is that since we created it, we can choose to consciously let it go. How, you ask?
We hold on desperately to the visions that dance in our head, and then become frustrated when the world refuses to dance along. When we let go of our need for control and for everything to conform to our preconceived notions, we discover a true miracle; peace within. The holiday time can be a source of happiness and peace when we let go of control and move into a state of acceptance. This does not mean that we simply lie down or become passive victims. It’s about being the “cause,” not the “effect” of our lives and seeing things differently. Stop the continuous judging of every experience, and practice acceptance. See what happens when you give yourself the gift of a peaceful mind.
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