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Handling the Holidays: How to have your own back this holiday season

Nov 22, 2021
december holiday calendar

It is already halfway through November, which means the string of holidays are approaching. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s - whichever you choose to celebrate, this time of year can find us struggling to navigate a seemingly endless stream of social events. Then, we start debating if we even want to attend in order to avoid difficult conversations or overeating and drinking. What if this holiday season could be different? What if you could go into each occasion knowing that you have your own back and could experience the holidays in a whole new way? 

Consider the following 3 thoughts and challenge yourself to approach this holiday season with a new perspective.

1. “He/She/They did _______ and made me feel _______”

How often have we said this? Probably daily!  Thinking that other people can make us feel a certain way is so common that it seems as if that is just how it is; that whatever they did or said was done with a definite purpose to make us feel something.  

CHALLENGE:  No one can make you feel anything unless you let them. 

I know, I know - you don’t believe me or you think what you just read is complete crazy talk. I get it. But I want you to challenge yourself to consider this:  You are feeling a particular emotion because your mind had a thought about what that person did or said. This thought popped into your head and created that emotion in your body. 

Gaining awareness about where our feelings are actually coming from can help to stop blaming other people for our feelings. Taking responsibility for our own emotions allows us to respond intentionally to situations, instead of reacting from an emotionally-charged state.

Next time you find yourself saying “They did this to make me feel bad”, take a moment to challenge it and question why you are experiencing the situation this way. A small dose of awareness may lead to an enlightening experience about how you interact with the people around you during the holidays

2. “He/She/They should have ___________ to make me feel ___________”

 Yes, this may seem like restating #1, but in a slightly different way. With this thought, we are expecting other people to do or say certain things to make us feel better. We hold expectations for how other people should behave, and when they don’t reach these expectations, we feel let down. Sometimes we haven’t even told people we want them to do xyz, but we still think they should read our minds and know exactly what to do to make us happy. If they really knew us, they would know, right?

CHALLENGE: I cannot control what other people do. I can only control myself.

Oh, if only we could make people do everything we want them to do! Wouldn’t it make life so much easier?  Unfortunately, if we were able to control other people, guess what - that means they would get to control us right back, and no thank you, hard pass! What if you could simply make requests for people to do, and if they did it, great! And if they didn’t, great!

Same goes for requests others make of us:  If you want to actually do it, great!  If you don’t want to, then don’t! Letting go of trying to control others can be like releasing the pressure valve. By no longer forcing people to do or be something they’re not, you can begin to accept them (and yourself) for who they are, and perhaps you will be pleasantly surprised by this new version of you both.

3. I need this (insert food/drink/etc) to get through the holidays.

 It’s the season to celebrate! It’s time to eat all the things! Drink all the things!  Stress and be anxious about all the things!  It would be interesting to count how many times the phrase “I need a drink” is said at a holiday party. We become professionals listing all of the reasons to eat the special food that we could never possibly have any time of the year. Or why we need to have the whole bottle of wine instead of just one glass to calm our nerves or to have more “fun”. We end up putting so much importance on food and drink to make us feel good. Then, of course, we have no choice but to eat and drink all of the things or we will feel bad, right?  

CHALLENGE: Want it, don’t need it. 

Don’t throw your phone or computer just yet, hear me out. I am not telling you to abstain from alcohol or not eat your sister-in-law’s special peanut butter chocolate pie.  I just want you to recognize that you have a choice.  What you choose to eat or drink is completely in your power.  Are you asking food and drink to make you feel better or happy? So many of us do this, and it leads to overeating and overdrinking.

If overeating or drinking doesn’t bother you, then by all means, you do you!  But if it does bother you, consider how you might feel if you ate something just because you wanted it, not because you needed it. This subtle shift of thinking takes the power away from the food and gives it back to you. It opens up the possibility of enjoying yourself regardless of what you eat or drink. 

As you head into this holiday season, challenge yourself to reflect on these 3 thoughts and be open to what could be different if you tried showing up to the holidays with a new mindset.  You’ve got this!

To get help to reduce holiday stress and enjoy yourself more, schedule a free Next Steps Call with Dr. Stef (me!).

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