Saturday, November 21, 2009

Holiday Survival Guide (Part II) - What can you do to not only survive, but thrive during this holiday season?

Last month, we looked at why the holiday season is such a difficult time for many people. A few of the reasons we overviewed were: Time with family, The In laws, Traveling Issues and of course Holiday Meals. In this blog, we will look more specifically into a few of these topics and discuss some specific steps to help relieve holiday stress. We will be answering the questions many of you wrote in about your particular holiday stressors.

“I always overeat during the holidays, how can I stop?"
1. Be Present! During the meal, pay attention to yourself.
Are you filling your plate to the brim just because that’s what everyone else does? Are you drinking alcohol to “loosen up”, if so, identify what is making you feel uncomfortable and address it directly. Are you actually tasting each bite, or just the first few and then you slip into robotic eating mode? Do you eat to quickly to even give yourself time to feel full?
2. Treat Yourself! Allow yourself permission to feel good both before and after the meal. If you always end up feeling so stuffed it is painfully uncomfortable, or you feel guilty afterwards, treat yourself to the gift of feeling good. Know that you can eat a wonderful meal, and even have dessert without completely filling yourself until you want to pop! Take less food – you can always go back for seconds if you are still hungry. You earned the right to feel good.
3. Enjoy Nature! Take a Walk. After the meal, get the family together or a special relative to take a walk with. This will give you some time to talk, get some fresh air, use your muscles and energize.

“I spend so much time cooking and cleaning, by the time my family arrives, I’m exhausted, but I don’t know what else to do!”
1. Plan! What has been the most stressful in the past? Once you figure that out – decide how to best handle this situation again when it comes up again.
2. Simplify! What activities are the MOST important to you? Is it family dinner, gift exchange, sending cards, shopping? Think about if the activity’s hassle and difficulties are outweighed by the positive emotional results. If you are a visual person, write it out on paper to help you decide. Then pick a few tasks and really take the time to enjoy them.
3. No More Worrying! Often we are too busy doing everything that we are not enjoying doing anything! Live in the moment – stop and time the time to enjoy yourself, which means not worrying about preparing for the next activity and not worrying about previous mishaps from earlier in the day. Be Present in the here and now.
4. Stop Overdoing It! Scale down on everything; it will make life much easier. Instead of sending holiday cards, send e-cards or instead of making 5 different side dishes, make only one or have guests bring the sides.

It is easy to lose sight of what’s important when you have your plate full (literally and figuratively) with holiday planning and prepping. Let’s not forget what the holidays are really about - time for gratitude, love (for self and others), family and giving.

More tips to come in December for Holiday Survival Part III! Meanwhile, I would LOVE to hear your feedback! Send an email to with any questions or comments, and let me know what helps you de-stress over the holiday season. All communication will remain confidential.

Thanks for checking in!
–Amy L. Hooper, LGSW
Director, Another Look at Healing, LLC