The holidays can be the best time to connect with family and friends you haven’t seen all year and to celebrate life and each other. With all the family time and connection we must also remember to re-connect with ourselves and our own needs. The holidays should be about celebrating, not stressing. Often times we focus on the long list of “to-do’s” such as shopping for food, gift shopping, cooking and making the house perfect. Or maybe you have a mix of emotions around the holidays? Anything ranging from grief over a death or breakup, loneliness, or not feeling understood or accepted? At times the feelings of overwhelm can be enough to make us want to give up the holidays altogether. But I’ve noticed a few things along my journey and I’m learning that it does not have to be an all or nothing choice to participate.
Here are some ideas on how to have stay present with your emotions and still enjoy the holidays:
- Your happiness and well-being matter- Sometimes we forget that we need to make an extra effort for self-care during the holidays and when spending time with family. Make some foods for yourself that will act as your support system when the dinner rolls get passed around. Never underestimate the power of a healthy treat in your bag when the temptations are everywhere. Things I’ve brought to past family dinners: Green Juice (it’s a lifesaver at breakfast time), herbal tea bags, kale salad with juicy pomegranates (make enough to share), gluten-free almond bread, honey butter, gluten free scones and chocolate chip cookies. By making healthy food choices, you will come out the other side still feeling good about yourself. Take some time out for walking or hiking (with or without your family). I like to go to the beach and spend at least an hour walking on the sand or riding my bike along the beach path when I visit my family in California. It grounds me, and nourishes my soul to the core!
- Non-Judgement-The worst thing you can do is to try and convince your family that your way of eating or living is better than theirs. The way it usually goes is that they feel made wrong and that their way of life is somehow not up to your standards. That just sets them up for defensiveness and a loss of affinity for you. I love the words by Byron Katie: “Defensiveness is the first act of war.” Another way to practice non-judgement (and it really begins here) is to practice self-acceptance. You already are thin enough, good enough and loveable enough to be included in everything that matters in life.
- Family matters! If I’ve learned anything as I get older, is that family members die, age, get cranky, get married, get divorced and have babies. There is nothing we can do to change it! Even if we don’t see eye to eye on religion, food choices or politics, it’s just a distraction from what is important. On our death beds, most of us will wish we had been more loving, allowing, spontaneous, or giving. Our family is always there for us, even when we get a little crazy from time to time. Just love them for who they are and don’t expect them to “get” you. When I made the choice to not try to change anyone in my family, and to not feel that they needed to understand me or even know what I believe in, my love for my family grew much deeper. Do I still work on it? Yes, it’s an ongoing practice.
- Eat, Drink and be Merry! While it’s important to focus on staying healthy and eating well over the holidays, sometimes being too strict can get in the way of deeper connections. Make an effort to share in something together. Perhaps you can find a recipe that you can make with your family members. Or try just a couple bites of mom’s food made with love. Maybe it’s not food, but a game that you all can play together. Here is a link to some ideas. Sitting down and watching a football game with your brother or dad may be a nice moment for bonding and connecting. Suggest going on a walk together after the meal. You will feel better after moving in the fresh air.
I hope that you enjoy your time as you navigate the holidays, and remember, every day is a good day to make new choices that serve you and your future self’s well being!