It’s the holiday season! Or so that old song goes. Preparations are in full swing, plans are being made, the traffic has picked up, shopping malls have become the things of nightmares… you know the drill.
Every year at this time, the majority of folks go into panic mode trying to ensure that this will be the “best holiday season ever!” The stress of such a task leads us to overspending, overeating, and generally not taking care of ourselves. To make sure you’ll be healthy enough, both physically and mentally, to actually enjoy these holidays you’re putting so much effort into, I’ve consulted with one of our therapists here at Psych Choices, Valerie Glauser L.M.F.T, on how to do just that:
How to keep from overeating, or eating poorly:
A good way to avoid overeating, or eating the rich food which is generally offered at holiday parties, is to eat a full, balanced, healthy, and enjoyable meal before going to a party. This may sound counter-intuitive; however, if you really want to enjoy yourself and the company of others, then you can do so without getting distracted by your hunger and grazing endlessly on food that won’t feel good once it is down your gullet. Then, later in the party when the food is usually quite picked over, it won’t look so appetizing, while you are still probably not hungry yet.
If you choose to eat at a party, make sure you are sitting down before you start to eat. This may not be possible, but see if you can find a place to do so before you fill a plate. While you are selecting what you are choosing to eat, think about what YOUR BODY wants, not your eyes — or your heart. If your heart says one thing and your body another, what is your heart really feeling? Anxiety? Fear? Loneliness? Shame? Guilt? Will the food “cure” those feelings? Not likely. See if you can just be with those feelings. They will not break you. That is a story you have told yourself from your early childhood when feelings really could “break” you. You are bigger and stronger than that.
Once you have selected the food on your plate, spend a moment looking at, and smelling the food, to get present with it. You might even say a little grace to yourself, if that is something you like to do. It helps you to become present with your food and appreciate what you are about to put in your mouth.
Once you start eating, enjoy every morsel as much as possible. Sometimes, we eat so fast that we have to keep eating to get sufficient enjoyment out of the food, long after we are comfortably full. Stop along the way and check in with your BODY. How full is your body feeling? Is the food tasting the way you hoped? Is it doing what you hoped it would do? If not, do not feel compelled to keep eating. While it is true that we in the United States waste 50% of the food we produce (!!) while much of the world continues to starve, cleaning your plate will not help to feed those still hungry. As Geneen Roth, author of Women, Food, and God, says, “You can either throw it in, or throw it out.”
Keep in mind that low-fiber carbohydrates are HIGHLY addictive, that is, you generally can’t get enough of them until you are stuffed. And they throw your blood sugar off as much as candy or cake. This is not to say “no carbs,” but rather see if there are higher fiber carbs on the spread that might be appealing, or mix them with veggies that you like.
Set intentions before you go to the party. Intentions are NOT resolutions. They are moments of consciousness about how you really want to treat your body. Once you set an intention, you have already had one success: the intention. Try to keep the intention positive, in other words: “I will eat these things…” not, “I will not eat…” or, “I will limit or restrict myself to…” or even “I will only eat…”. When you arrive, remind yourself of your intention. Each part of your intention that you follow through on is a success. Just because you do not follow through on 3 of 6 intentions does not mean you have failed. It means that you have succeeded in following through on 3 intentions. Beating yourself up about those intentions you did not follow through on will likely only lead to future emotional eating/overeating.
How to spend less and give more thoughtful gifts:
Make a list of people you intend to give gifts to. Do they give you gifts as a rule? If not, a pretty, handwritten card with a heartfelt message or a quick update about your life can be as meaningful as any gift. These are the kind of notes that people keep for years.
If any of the people you are gifting are difficult to buy for, or are at a stage in their lives where they don’t “need” anything — for example your grandmother or someone of means — a donation to a cause they believe in, in their name, can be quite meaningful. It can also be a tax deduction, depending on the organization.
Homemade gifts can be quite appreciated, and low cost. If you like to cook and/or bake, there are many ways to offer your specialties that do not require that they be consumed on the spot:
If you have any favorite cake recipes, you can put together all the dry ingredients in a quart mason jar with a bow or piece of festive cloth, with directions on what wet ingredients to add and how to bake. It makes having a home-baked cake as easy as a box cake, but better.
Any other favorite recipes whose ingredients can be put together, and then either reconstituted (your favorite flavored oatmeal), or eaten as is (homemade granola, a dry spice mix) for your foodie friends can be quite a treat.
Home knit cotton washcloths are easy to make for the knitter, and are a wonderful different texture than traditional washcloths.
Home knit socks are a lovely luxury.
Easy to care for house plants are also a great, lasting gift. It is very helpful to know what kind of light the recipient has in their home, as well as their interest in having plants to liven (literally) up the home. This can be very inexpensive if you have house plants that propagate easily (e.g., pothos, Aloe Vera, asparagus fern, Sansevieria). Alternatively, you can find relatively inexpensive starter plants in nurseries or at Home Depot or Lowe’s. It is easy to make them festive with colored aluminum foil and bows.
If you know that someone wants or needs something of greater cost, you might ask various relatives and/or friends if they want to pitch in together to pay for the item. Often, those are the things the person would most like which they themselves cannot afford. This could also solve many relatives’ problems of fulfilling their gift list.
In short, if you think about the person and what they love and enjoy, and what they mean to you, you often will come up with a gift idea that may cost little or nothing, that means a great deal more than an expensive gift.
Now that you have a bevy of gift ideas for friends and family that won’t break the bank, and a host of strategies to keep temptation to a minimum at those holiday parties, go forth and enjoy the merriment! Don’t forget to stop and appreciate the beautiful lights and holiday displays. ‘Tis the season!