What does the Holiday Season Mean to You?
The holidays are a time of reflection, whether we are aware of it or not. On some level we are thinking back on the past and taking stock of our lives. Most of us remember Charles Dickens’ classic – A Christmas Carol – and recall the ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Future as he takes Ebenezer Scrooge on a chilling nighttime journey to review his life providing him with the opportunity to make new choices.
Reflection can be either nostalgic or painful. Awareness can feel potent, especially if family relationships are strained, or if there were difficult challenges growing up – It may seem desirable to deny these feelings and to gravitate towards behaviors which take away the discomfort. Conflicts can create stress and depression for those trying to stay sober or maintain stability over the holidays. However, just like Ebenezer Scrooge, we always have the opportunity to recreate our future and to make new choices about how we want to be with others and how to live our lives.
This reminds me of an experience from when I was a small child with my father; we were coming out of Sears and The Salvation Army was outside ringing the bell and I asked my father what it was about. My father said, “Christmas time reminds us that we need to take care of one another. Christmas is about love.” That says it all – Bringing us back to the importance of validation, connection and belonging – the fundamentals of health and happiness.
Take time to connect with and notice others. Invite your neighbor who lives alone over for tea and holiday treats or volunteer at your local food drive. Build in opportunities to interact and listen to people.
Creating your Own Traditions
In a recent client meeting, the topic of the holidays came up and how life changes – people move, pass away, and kids grow up. Often there is a call for change, but it is overlooked and we keep going on the way things were which can feel stale. A “freshening” change can be helpful. Perhaps, thinking outside the box a bit and adding to traditions and building in some new experiences.
For instance, when was the last time that you made time for real fun over the holidays? Figure out ways to have fun. In these times of economic challenge, perhaps consider reducing gift-giving and instead make time for outings that make for wonderful memories. Also, make time for things YOU like to do: going to a movie, taking a nap while everyone else goes skating, going to the gym. I plan to spend a lot of time taking long winter walks.
Slow down and stay present to the moment. Enjoy people, feelings and experiences. Step out of routine a little. Expand your experience.
Strategies to Stay Healthy and Boost Happiness
Tis the season to be jolly — and also to be stressed out. If you tend to grow irritable, rushed, resentful, lonely, or overwhelmed, keep these preventative strategies in mind to help boost your happiness:
- Learn from past experience. Think back on what worked and what didn’t. Avoid triggers, including, people, events, and other situations that lead you to behavior or negative outcomes that you regretted later. Know your limits.
- Plan and prioritize. We can only do one thing at a time – really! Make a list of what needs to be done and do a little each day. Don’t wait until the last minute. Eliminate what does not ultimately need to be done. Remember, the holidays are about people and they would rather be with you than miss time with you because you are scrambling to get things done. Keep it simple.
- Focus. Stay with what you agreed upon for yourself. Refocus when needed.
- Make time for yourself. Make some quiet time each day for you to think, reflect and decompress – even if it is 15 minutes.
- Make time for others. Don’t get so busy that you are not available to people outside your immediate circle. It is, after all, a time for celebration with others. Extend an invitation for fun with a friend or family member whom you have not seen in a while. Step out a bit.
- Setup a “Plan B” for events which pose risk. This is especially true if you need to leave a situation that becomes risky. For instance, if you are newly sober, then a holiday party with “old” friends and alcoholic beverages may be too tempting. Talk it out beforehand with your spouse or friends, and decide on how to handle it. Don’t be spontaneous about risky situations.
- Don’t compromise your health routine.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is a major disturber of people’s moods. Jet lag, traveling, parties, shopping, baking late at night, and over-excited children all make it hard to get your usual number of hours. Making an effort to get to bed at a decent hour really pays off.
- Exercise. Boost your mood through exercise – walk, get to the gym, even if it’s for a half an hour, and take the stairs. Exercise outside if you can and get some sunshine!
- Stay in control of eating. Guilt about holiday binging is a major source of the blues, not to mention eating high fat, sugar leaden or greasy foods weigh us down! Continue to have your regular healthy food in the house and eat before going out to avoid loading up on snacks and other high calorie foods.
- Behave in a positive and affectionate manner. Positive self-esteem is created through positive behavior. Be inclusive, listen and helpful to others.
The holidays are supposed to be about peace, love, and fun — if we implement these strategies, then there isn’t much room for conflict, fatigue and negativity.
Happy Holidays to all!!!