we all know that holidays have a way of generating crazy amounts of stress — good and bad — in addition to whatever else is going on in our lives. Sure, focusing on what you’re grateful for can generate feelings of love, warmth and connection, and can zap negativity…but sometimes being grateful is not enough!
So today’s blog is ALL ABOUT BUSTING THANKSGIVING STRESS. More tips to come as the holiday season unfolds!
IF YOU’RE TRYING TO BE HEALTHY/LOSE WEIGHT:
The key here is to hold two truths at once: you won’t completely derail weight loss efforts with one high-calorie meal, and you WILL derail weight loss efforts if the one high-calorie meal spirals into a week (or a month!) of overindulging. With that in mind…
- Decide ahead of time what you want to eat on Thanksgiving and stick to it. But be realistic and generous! You are probably going to want mashed potatoes and dessert. Allow for the delicious things you love the most, and then savor every bite.
- Keep a food journal. If you don’t already do this, commit to trying it just for this holiday weekend. You can go the paper/pen route or try an app like MyFitnessPal. It will help keep you accountable. And if you are already keeping a journal, don’t abandon it, even (especially!) if you get off track.
- Make a game plan for the rest of the weekend. The best thing you can do to counter Thursday’s feast is have a long weekend filled with physical activity (walking, hiking, jogging, throw on a workout video, etc) and planned, boundaried leftover consumption. Resist the temptation to eat nonstop for four days.
- Imagine what your Monday Morning Self or January 1 Self wants you to do, and tap into his/her inherent wisdom. How will you feel if you stay in control vs. if you don’t?
IF YOU HAVE TO SPEND TIME WITH RELATIVES YOU DON’T TYPICALLY GET ALONG WITH:
Maybe there will be someone sitting at your Thanksgiving table that a) you’re not crazy about or b) you have some sort of conflict history with (major or minor). Sitting on feelings of irritation, annoyance or anger all day long is very draining and will leave you vulnerable to irritability, anxiety or physical symptoms like stomach issues, neck/back pain or headaches. With that in mind…
- Notice feelings of irritation and allow them to exist without guilt. Sometimes the most draining part of being angry is the guilt about being angry. Do you have an underlying belief that it’s “not OK” to be angry with your mom/brother/aunt? Do you think you “should” enjoy being with your family? Do you feel bad that you don’t like your in-laws more? It is all OK! There is nothing wrong with experiencing anger, even though many of us were conditioned to believe that it’s toxic or bad.
- Plan a (brief) escape. Offer to run to the gas station to pick up more whipped cream or ice, tell your partner that you’re going to sneak out for some fresh air after dinner — alone — or take an extended bathroom break. During your decompression time, take some deep breaths, remind yourself of the impermanence of the moment, recenter. Listen to a few songs that put you into a good mental space. Congratulate yourself for hanging in there. Whatever you need to do to recharge for the rest of the day, do it, and don’t apologize for it.
- Consider whether the conflict or problems are worth addressing in a longer-term way. If you’re resentful about your role (you do all the prep, you always host, you never host, you’re always the one traveling, etc.) think about what it would be like to talk about this with the person or people in question at some point after the holiday craziness settles down. If you always feel criticized or judged, or you have concerns about someone’s drinking patterns or behavior, leave open the possibility of addressing this more directly. If the relationship isn’t that important to you or you don’t see the person much, maybe it’s not worth it. But if you find yourself mired in frustration frequently, it might be time to do something different. (More on this in a future post/newsletter.)
IF YOU ARE GRIEVING:
The holiday season can be particularly brutal if you’re in the first year after losing a loved one, if the holidays bring up poignant memories of a loved one who has died (often the case), or if the season as a whole overlaps with a death anniversary. With this in mind…
- Give yourself some space. Don’t overpack your social schedule. Make time specifically to be sad, cry, and/or honor your loved one.
- Don’t try too hard to recreate traditions that included the loved one if others aren’t on board, or if the person’s role in these traditions was central. Maybe reimagine old traditions in a new way that includes the memory or spirit of your loved one without putting pressure on yourself and other family members to do things the exact same way.
- Acknowledge feelings of jealousy, anger or despair. You may even notice that your emotions span a wide range, even conflicting with each other at times (i.e. relief if the person faced a long illness, or if your relationship was rocky, as well as deep sadness). It’s normal to have more than one feeling at once, or to cycle among a collection of feelings. Let go of how you “should” feel. Make space. Avoid judging yourself.
IF YOU’RE PLAYING HOST(ESS):
Hosting a holiday can be fun! It’s also super duper stressful, especially if you’re expecting a crowd. With that in mind…
- Ask. For. Help. And lots of it! Delegate as much as you can. Take shortcuts if you need to (the local bakery will make a delicious apple pie, promise!) Get a sitter to hang out with the kids on Wednesday while you get some advance prep done. Which leads me to #2…
- Prep as much as you can in advance. Chopping, making side dishes, mulling cider — it’s possible to do a lot ahead of time. And the less you try to pack in on the day-of, the more fun you’ll have. For stuff that has to be done on the day-of, write up a timetable/schedule.
- If you tend toward elaborate decorations or are super detail-oriented, choose one thing to make particularly beautiful and go easy on the rest. If you try to do too much you’ll risk being overtired and irritable.
- Set an alarm on your watch or phone at intervals throughout the day as a reminder to pause and soak everything in. Check in with someone you love, take a photo, take a few deep breaths and a moment to yourself if you need it.
- At the end of the night, jot down what brought you joy and what could have gone better. You’ll be glad you did when it’s your turn to host next time.
I hope these ideas help you feel calmer, more connected to yourself and others, and better able to enjoy the holiday. If you hear yourself saying you “should” be happier/more grateful/more selfless/more peaceful, drop the should and accept what you ARE feeling so you can work it through and move into a better space.
Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving!