For many of us, the holiday season can be a stressful one. Many demands, many responsibilities, many parties. There is so much good cheer going around, and so much food. This can be a tough season to navigate when we are trying to honour our bodies, and ourselves.
The tougher part is that most of us haven’t been taught how to adequately rest, stop, and decompress. We’re often taught to go outside ourselves for soothing our complicated feelings, and some of these external behaviours can be positive. Exercise, yoga, deep breathing, calling a friend, walking the dog, journaling… these are all good coping mechanisms.
But in reality, at work or in the middle of a shopping mall, when you are feeling tired and overwhelmed from holiday demands, under pressure to get everything finished before the holidays begin… perhaps that box of chocolates is calling. You know in the short-term that sugar rush will make you feel awesome, but in the long-term eating half a box will make you feel sick, and doesn’t always deal with how you are feeling anyway. So, what do you do?
Step 1: Acknowledge
Be aware that you might be eating because you are feeling unsettled. That could be a small unsettled as in “I’m tired” or a larger unsettled “This is a hard time of year because I’m missing loved ones who are far away, or no longer with me”. Whatever the reason, starting the awareness is important.
Step 2: Have a prepared strategy
After you know what you are doing, you need to act. Walk out of the room, get a cup of water or tea, turn on some music that makes you feel good, escape to a quiet stairwell or even a bathroom stall to take a deep breath or two. Whatever you can feasibly do to separate yourself. Sometimes those strategies will fail, but starting them is important.
Step 3: Be physical
Get moving! The holidays shift us out of our exercise routine into sitting or just sleeping to recover, when it really would be just as nice to go for a walk with a friend or head to your kickboxing class on Wednesdays that makes you feel like a warrior. Try to honour your physical routines that make you feel empowered. The endorphins you’ll get from exercise do calm a busy mind, even if initially it seems like it’s doing nothing.
Step 4: Be compassionate
It’s seriously difficult to resist peer pressure and say no to a bunch of treats that you really want. It’s a great time, but it’s also complicated. Give yourself a virtual hug for trying to honour yourself.
Step 5: Be realistic
If you eat double your typical calories, including foods you know are really only good in small doses, and you don’t exercise, you’re going to gain weight. It’s a simple equation really, energy in must be less than the energy out. Translation — it’s going to happen. Rather than beat yourself up or feel really restricted, accept that those behaviours will lead to unwanted outcomes, and get back on track when you’re back to your regular routine.
Step 6: Combat those negative thoughts
So if you do feel sad, and have a few more cookies than you should, try to counteract a negative thought with a positive one. For example,
I can’t believe I ate those cookies when I know I shouldn’t
I drank some water/took some deep breaths/took the stairs today. I’m making progress.
So let’s work with our bodies this holiday season, and work on staying healthy and positive.