By Sue Elliott
Why do we feel so depressed, anxious, fearful, irritated and upset from Thanksgiving to New Year’s? It’s not always the annoying relatives and the pressures to meet end-of-year deadlines at work. In fact, the discomfort seldom comes from outside… What makes us craziest at the holidays is OURSELVES.
Holidays trigger dozens of old scripts that we revisit the minute we hear those jingle bells in the distance. It’s not the stuffing we prepare at Thanksgiving, it’s the stuffing we do to ourselves. And who among us can feel the festivity when we’re so busy fretting over frosty relatives and fighting over holiday gifts, not to mention stressing over how those gifts are going to frazzle our finances?
So, what’s the solution? Simple: Find the festivity inside… by surrendering these five top ways we torture ourselves at the holidays.
Mastering these is the first step toward making your holidays pleasurable and relaxing into peace, ease and fun. Whenever these hot buttons get triggered, make the corresponding shift in your attitude — and you’ll be amazed how quickly you can regain your equanimity and your joy.
Torture #1: Comparing our real families — and the memories of holidays with them — with the “perfect” families we’ve seen in movies and on TV.
In those families, the turkey always turned out perfect, and Dad knew just how to carve it… at the table… while sharing a heartwarming tale. Everyone had fun sledding on Christmas. And they all got wonderful, meaningful gifts. Meanwhile, your family? Probably not so much…
The Shift: Recognize those “perfect” families are fictional! It’s time to accept that you’ve got the family you’ve got. For your sanity’s sake, let go of the habit of comparison and of wishing your family were different or better. If they could do better, they would do better — but you can’t force them to change. So just learn to accept… and even laugh at their “quirkiness.”
Torture #2: Beating ourselves up over gaining weight at the holidays.
The sweet potatoes are seducing you. The pumpkin pie is piling it on. The Christmas ham is holding you hostage. Is food punishing you, or is something else eating away at you?
The Shift: Let yourself off the hook! It turns out overeating has nothing to do with your willpower (or lack thereof). When we gain weight by giving in to our food cravings — or by overindulging — it’s not so much about the foods we’re eating as it is about the emotions we’re feeling! So be willing to feel your feelings, rather than stuffing them down with food. And skip the holiday parties where you’ll avoid painful small talk by eating.
Torture #3: Keeping score in gift-giving.
Ugh. You gave your brother a $30 work shirt. Then he gave you a cashmere shawl that cost him a month’s pay. Is that guilt you’re feeling? And what about your cousin? He didn’t give you anything, when you gave him tickets to next Sunday’s NFL game! Cheapskate!
The Shift: Recognize that gift-giving is not a competition… or a test… or proof that someone does or doesn’t care about you. It’s time to stop judging others for the gifts they give you. And it’s time to stop making yourself feel “bad” or “not enough” over the gifts you give, too. Allow yourself — and everyone else — to be totally at choice about giving gifts… or not.
Torture #4: Getting upset every time we have to stand in line.
Your back aches from hours of shopping, you’re hungry and tired, and there are 15 people waiting for one single cashier. It’s the holidays… Don’t these stores know they need more staff? Why can’t the woman at the front of the line stop trying every one of her maxed-out credit cards! And now she wants it gift wrapped?!
The Shift: OK, lines are inevitable at this time of year. But suffering each time you stand in line is optional! Allow standing in line to become a time to relax… a time to catch your breath and even breathe deeply for a few minutes. Count your blessings. Enjoy the festive colors and decorations. Soften your focus and gift yourself a little time out in Blissville.
Torture #5: Trying to buy the “perfect” gifts for people.
Will he really like the blue, or is the green one better? Is jewelry the right choice at this stage in the relationship? Should I buy one gift for the whole family, or one for each person individually? Is this her taste, or am I way off base?
The Shift: Give it up… There is no such thing as a “perfect” gift. The perfect gift is a myth. So, let go of any remaining sense of guilt, shame, insecurity, fear or anxiety around gift-buying, gift-making and gift-giving. Make the best choice you can at the time, and know that what really counts is the feeling with which you give — whether you choose to give material gifts or quality time together.
Need more tips to help you create a peaceful and pleasurable holiday season? There are dozens more shifts like these in the Heartfelt Holidays laser-focused audios, designed to de-activate your holiday triggers and clear old patterns. It’s time to create new attitudes for a new Yule.
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