“If I can see pain in your eyes then share with me your tears. If I can see joy in your eyes then share with me your smile.” - Santosh Kalwar
Here we are knee-deep in the holiday season...anyone else struggling? What is it about the holidays that makes it so much harder to stay the course? From Thanksgiving clear through New Year’s Day we can often feel as though we are wrapped in a heavy blanket of holly-jolly lethargy with a side of "screw it, 'tis the season”.
Do we unconsciously give ourselves permission to let it all go because we know our New Year's resolutions are just a handful of weeks away? Why do we cave into the peer pressure of our friends, family, and colleagues by accepting all their indulgent baked goods and happy hour drinks? Is it really rude to say no thanks? Do we feel we need all the food and desserts and drinks in order to truly enjoy the season?
What is it about the holidays?
I too have been finding it much more challenging to stay on track lately. While I do get back on track as soon as I’m able, there are more dinners with friends, more celebratory drinks and much more lattes….oh my Achille’s heel….lattes.
So what is a person to do?
First, let's address that there are plenty of articles out there on tips to avoid over-indulging during the holidays. There are blogs sharing how to make classic comfort foods a bit more healthy and posts with fitness routines that can help you stay fit through the winter. The resources are all around us.
I think we need to go much deeper than that.
I don’t think the issue is about knowing what not to do, in fact, I believe most of us already know what not to do. I believe it’s all about knowing why we want to do these things even though we know we shouldn’t.
Let me circle back to that side of “screw it, 'tis the season”. It seems so easy to pull that one right out of our back pocket, but why? Most of us seem to want extra comfort during this season. We want love and connection, and all the things that make us feel warm and cozy. Of course, we want these things year-round, but it seems to run much deeper during the holidays. One of the easiest ways to access these feelings is through food and drink, which so many of us equate to comfort and coziness. They just seem to go hand-in-hand.
The holidays are also the time of year where everywhere you go you get the message that "it’s the most wonderful time of the year”, “Tis the season to be jolly” etc. Is that really true for all of us? If you are missing a loved one who passed, the holidays can be downright brutal. If you are feeling alone or depressed, they often seem to exacerbate it. Pain can be amplified when the world around you is insisting that you smile. It can make that void you carry around feel like the damn grand canyon. Trust me I get it.
Beyond celebratory indulgences, some of us want to forget what hurts. We try to fill it with food and drink. Sure that might work for a few moments, but aren’t you always left feeling worse? How many binges have you been glad you participated in?
I believe the first step is acknowledgment. Can we acknowledge that not everyone is beaming with joy during the holidays? If you are one of those people who struggle in this way, please accept this about yourself and know that you are completely normal and deserve to feel validated. Maybe on occasion you can really enjoy this season and other times you want to just crawl into a hole, that is perfectly okay. So many people feel this way. The majority of us just hide it. We can all have a little Grinch in us. And in the end, was the Grinch really a bad guy or was he just lonely?
So what do we do?
Suck it up? Just smile and be merry? Shove it deep down?
Allow yourself to feel all of it. Feel your anger. Feel your sadness. Miss that someone. Cry. Scream into a pillow. Write about it. Get it all out! Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean your sorrows and struggles melt away, again they can actually be magnified.
Being completely authentic and transparent with yourself is crucial. Don’t mask it. Don’t bury it. Sure as hell don’t apologize for it. Just feel it.
Have you ever been able to make yourself happy simply by telling yourself you aren’t sad? Sure it may work temporarily, but that sadness is still there lingering in the background.
Let me be clear that there are several effective methods that could improve your demeanor or mood. For example, you can often change your perspective by focusing on what you are grateful for, or volunteering to help others who are less fortunate or in need of support. These are great actions that can really help.
You can try these more positive measures, but you ultimately must get to the root of your pain. If you are grieving, it is necessary that you honor the fact that you desperately miss your mom, or dad or child etc. If you are depressed or anxious, it is imperative that you allow yourself to sit with it. Sometimes writing down what hurts is the best way to release it. First, you have to see it, then you examine it. I highly recommend seeking out a certified therapist or counselor to navigate this process.
Sometimes the best course of action is to see things exactly as they are with full acceptance. Peace can arise when you liberate yourself of that heavy mask. Consider revisiting this blog post I shared about Connecting Through Pain
So for those of you who love this holiday season and just need to stick to your guns when it comes to turning down those extra cookies, go forth and be merry. Use the tips and resources around you and stay the course as best you can.
For those of you who are hurting this time of year, I see you. Know that you are okay in the way you feel and that you will often feel so much better after allowing yourself to feel all your true emotions. Without judgment. Just feel what you need to feel. Find support around you in family, friends or a therapist and let them help you move through it. If you are lonely or depressed or anxious know that you can reach out for help. If you are missing someone this holiday season, I am so sorry. I’m sending love to all of you.
Lastly, please remember that caring for yourself and reaching out to others when you need them is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself. Quick fixes like food and alcohol often lead to further negative emotions and physical discomfort. So take a deep breath and step back on that path. Feel all those difficult emotions so there’s more room to feel the wonderful ones as well. And always take just one day at a time.
Until next time. Bring it in for a huge virtual hug. See you in the Boom Room.
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