The parade of the Holidays, and all the excitement and anticipation for them begins in October starting with Halloween (actually we start feeling it Labor Day weekend). You are probably already thinking and making plans for them…oy! Knowing this, take responsibility and decide now how to stay on track with your health, recovery, diet, faith, and emotions during this holiday season. From now until January you will be challenged in all of your relationships (lovers, family, friends, school, work). There are self-imposed expectations, rituals, parties, and family events that will put your self-care, weight control, spending habits, and time management to the test.
Some terms for clarification and understanding:
STRESS: The importance, significance, or emphasis placed on something: To subject oneself to pressure or strain.
TRAUMA: A serious injury or shock to the mind and body. An intense emotional reaction to an event (past and/or present) that has lasting psychological change.
SUBSTANCE MISUSE: The incorrect or inappropriate use of a substance (drugs, alcohol, food, over the counter and prescribed medications) or activity (gambling, sex, shopping, exercise, internet) to ‘treat” or alleviate pain.
PRACTICE SAYING NO: There are decisions to be made now on how you want to spend the Holidays, with or without the family. First of all, if you are asking or seeking the “OK” to be around the family, there must be some doubt about whether this is healthy for you at this time, and whether you will be able to be healthy around them. Since family members are not in your situation, things are probably the same as when you left—there is most likely going to be drinking, partying, lots of food, and perhaps arguing. It is your decision, but being new in your health regime or program of recovery, it may be helpful to stay close to support systems here in Florida, and choose to go home for another event…there will always be another holiday or event to spend time with the family. You can also arrange a trip or visit that will enable you to be in and out quickly. Remember, support systems are worldwide, and just a call or email away.
IT IS ALL ABOUT CONTROL: Know this—there is no such thing as stress. It is not what is going on in your life, the economy, the presidential debate, but how you are responding to it. “The Committee”, a.k.a. the Board of Directors or inner chat room that lives in your head is always thinking…which is what is dangerous and creates such emotions as anxiety, depression, and anger. The chatter of the mind is like choosing to go into a bad neighborhood (aka…people, places, and things); do not go there alone! Paying attention to what you are thinking about, and how you reacting, to challenging situations will help you think rationally about the best choice of action. When all else fails BREATHE! We often stop breathing which creates anxiety, panic attacks, and keeps the mind racing. With practice and mindful breath, it is possible to remain peaceful, calm, and relaxed, even in the most challenging situations.
REMEMBER TO EXHALE FIRST: Try this relaxation exercise: EXHALE OUT through the mouth, inhaling through the nose (slow shorter breaths), and out through the mouth slowly (breaking the habit to inhale first-which creates anxiety). Inhale the word relax, exhale the word peace, do this a few times and notice how you feel. Then inhale the word let, and exhale the word go. Notice how you feel when you let…go. You can even do this with the eyes closed if you want (unless you are driving!). Then breathe out slowly and open your eyes. Choosing to focus on the breath rather that what you are thinking about always calms you down. Get out of your head often!
AVOID SUPER SIZING: In terms of eating, it is all about portion control. Notice how the mind chatter will provide many excuses for you to overeat (or use substances) and get off your healthy eating plan. Notice if you are eating from the neck up (due to seeing, or smelling) or from the neck down (the stomach is growling). Avoid buffets, nibbling at the office, and eating until you are stuffed (mindless eating). Make sure you are not eating when you are upset, to celebrate, or when you are tired. Plan ahead and eat slowly, limit intake of caffeine, and drink lots of water. Become your own See food Manager… when you see food, manage what you consume. Don’t let the holidays consume you.
DEVELOP A SUPPORT SYSTEM: One Day at a Time: Go see a therapist, join a yoga class, or get a coach/sponsor. Choose one or a variation of these. Families are not like Norman Rockwell paintings…If yours is, be grateful and enjoy them! Life is too short for resentments and regret. Focus on what is good in your life… Indulge yourself with an activity that you find safe, healthy, and enjoyable.
‘Tis the season to be jolly…and to that end …you can’t always get what you want, but if you try, you get what you need.
“FUN” HOMEWORK FOR THE HOLIDAYS
(Incorporate the following thoughts and practices into your daily routine.)
1) KEEP A LIST OF WHAT YOU WANT (GOALS) WHERE IT CAN BE SEEN DAILY.
2) BEGIN EACH DAY WITH AN IMAGERY, MEDITATION, OR PRAYER BASED ON AN INTENTION (UNTIL JANUARY, 2017).
3) KEEP A JOURNAL (THE COMMITTEE AND MIND CHATTER WILL TEST YOU): WRITE DOWN EMOTIONAL RESPONSES AND SITUATIONS THAT HAPPEN…TRANSFER WHAT IS IN YOUR HEAD TO YOUR JOURNAL.
4) DO THE FUN PROGRAM:
A) FOCUS-PAY ATTENTION, CHECK THE BELIEF INVENTORY
B) UNDO NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
C) NOW CHOOSE A NEW PLAN OF ACTION
5) CREATE A TREASURE MAP (COLLAGE)-IMAGES OF WHAT YOU WANT NOW.
6) DISTRACT YOURSELF : LISTEN TO MUSIC, KNIT, WRITE A LETTER, GO TO THE BEACH, BE IN NATURE, DO SOMETHING!
7) EXERCISE: DO YOGA, GO FOR AWALK, SWIM, HIRE A PERSONAL TRAINER.
8) EAT HEALTHY: AVOID BUFFETS, USE PORTION CONTROL, SAY NO TO SOME INVITATIONS (OR SHOW UP LATE AND LEAVE EARLY).
9) STAY IN THE PRESENT- HOLIDAYS ALWAYS BRING UP THE PAST
10) BREATHE! EXHALE, AND WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS…HOLD THE HANDS IN NAMASTE (PRAYER POSITION) AT YOUR HEART AND SMILE!
THE CHOICES ARE UP TO YOU! YOUR INDIVIDUAL POTENTIAL IS LIMITLESS!