Oh my, the challenges of the holiday season. Although this special time of the year is supposed to be full of good cheer and optimistic hopes for the New Year, for many of us there may be times of “holiday blues,” frustration and feeling overwhelmed. The holidays can be a time of self-reflection including self regrets, comparison of “better times,” and grief for non-present loved ones. The increased demands of shopping, parties, traveling and visitors can contribute to fatigue, stress and self-doubt. Celebrations with multiple sweet, fatty foods, challenges even the best of us in managing food portions and choices. So, with all of these challenges it takes lots of planning and positive talk to sail through the holidays with good self-care. It’s easy to let emotional eating cancel out all our good intentions. We can easily say to ourselves,
” I deserve this”
“This happens only once a year”
“It makes me feel like a kid again”
We are all plagued by emotional eating (eating in response to feelings rather than hunger) or head hunger on a day to day basis, but during the holidays it’s even more contagious. So here are some tips to manage the season.
Reflect on the Meaning of the Season
With the huge amount of consumerism in our culture it’s easy to get swept away by the commercial aspect of the holidays. Take a moment and ask yourself, what is the meaning of this season for me? What is really important? Is it time for family, gratitude, spiritual connection? How do I want to feel after the holidays? While food is most likely a special part of the season, focusing on the other meanings can be valuable. Volunteering, being charitable and quiet times with family can more successfully feed our emotional hunger than the short term fix of impulsive food choices.
Set Realistic Expectations
We all wish for the best holiday ever, but having unrealistic expectations sets us up for disappointments, which can lead to filling our emotional hole with food. It’s important to accept that every year is different. Holidays don’t automatically erase family tensions and challenges. Acknowledging that circumstances, health and finances change from year to year is beneficial. Also, if there has been a loss of a family member or other major family change it may be valuable to establish a new family tradition.
Practice Self Care
Keeping yourself healthy and fit is essential to wellness during this time of the year. Getting plenty of rest, maintaining exercise and accepting support from others is essential. Sometimes we need to say “NO” to requests. Self-awareness is essential to wellness. When you are feeling sad or overwhelmed, take a moment for a deep breath and self-observation. Acknowledge your feelings and thoughts without criticism and proceed with the best plan. An important aspect of self-care is to plan ahead. Think about previous triggers of emotional eating and write down a couple options for managing these times, such as exercise, crafts or listening to music. If you have a history of Seasonal Affective Disorder (depression when there is less light), or find you consistently become more sad during the darker months, increase your time in sunlight and consider purchasing a lamp for phototherapy. Discussing with your medical or mental provider, may help in the decision making.
So this year when the hungry voice in your head has trouble moving away from the dessert table, try to remember the meaning of the season and say to yourself;
“I deserve to take care of myself in a healthy way.”