I love the days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Oh the scents, the sounds, the tastes, textures, and scenes, and how these bring back dear times shared with family and friends. At the onset of Thanksgiving, images of holidays past place themselves right in the middle of our present and we set our course to do those things that upheld the comfort of ancient traditions:
Recipes. Servings. Placements. Schedules. Who does what. Who brings what. And so on. The mind does a very good job in pulling us into holidays past. We anticipate, we expect, and we believe. There is hope.
Where the Mind Falls Short
Nostalgia for Holidays past is an abundant presence as Thanksgiving nears. Why, this very weekend many of us are fast at work making advance preparations for the kickoff event that ushers in the “Holiday Season”.
Not quite so present, if at all present, are the darker memories of unmet expectations in holidays past.
- The guilt, anger, and disappointment around not pulling off the greatest feast ever.
- The let-down that you failed to live up to everyone else’s expectations.
- That, once again, no matter how hard you tried, how much you (over) spent for what you thought were the perfect gifts, it wasn’t good enough. Nothing you did was, for that matter.
Maybe you or someone else drank too much and unfiltered words were broadcast with unbridled toxicity at dinner. Your or your spouse’s broken promise to behave was par for the course.
You missed the mark, again, and again, and again.
And what is the reward for all your best of intentions?
Reality hits with a big thud. The credit card bills, the New Year’s resolution that went up in smoke. The relentless inner scolding that, once again, you got sucked into the belief that maybe, just maybe, it will be different this year. But it wasn’t different. Same old crap, just a year later.
This, too, is a holiday tradition, a tradition that is ever present, yet stealth and patient. Absent are all hope and faith in the idea of a perfect holiday. Let’s call it the Annual Holiday Emotional Hangover. A.H.E.H. January lingers like an unwelcome intruder. February offers a bit of a reprieve that perhaps winter will be over before 6 weeks. Groundhog’s Day.
If all this sounds way familiar, it could strike you that in the big picture, you are not alone in what happens during the Holidays. How emotions and irrational thinking sucks us into doing things that in the end, are self-defeating.
A Few Handy Tips to Lessen A.H.E.H.
Be sure to review The Every-Day Warrior page on this blog.
Be mindful of Principle # 1 in the Handy Guide for the Every Day Warrior.
The Past is Always Present
Think Ahead. Plan for stress the same way you would plan your Thanksgiving or other Holiday Feast. Know and acknowledge the emotional ingredients that go into the recipe for the delusion, disappointment, and disparity of the Mid January AHEH.
- When you are beginning to feel overwhelmed with anxiety, worry, or fear of making the wrong choice, stop.
- Take a mindful moment.
- Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat times 10 times 3 times.
- Sit with the emotions and feel them.
- What in your past is being represented here?
- Notice your immediate surroundings.
- The feel of your feet on the floor.
- The scents.
- The tastes.
- What you see.
- Continue breathing. 1o times 3 times.
- The emotions will ease up after about 3 minutes or so.
If you are craving alcohol or another drug:
- Your cravings are nothing more than memories of past pleasures. These are quite powerful and hard to resist.
- Having Fun.
- Being yourself.
- Saying what you really feel.
- Feeling loved and accepted by others.
- Your cravings fail to take you to the consequences of your drinking or using.
- Fights or confrontations.
- Passing out before dinner.
- Puking at dinner.
- Puking after dinner.
- The world being pissed off at you.
- Feelings of guilt and shame that once again, you messed up.
- Know what your cravings are about.
- Sit with them.
- Observe them.
- Maybe have a conversation with them.
- Breathe in breathe out.
- Notice the details of the present.
- After about 3 minutes or so, the craving generally will pass.
- If you are tempted to overspend. The same tips apply.
- Take a mindful moment.
This is how we apply Principle # 2 and 3 in our Handy Guide.
The Past is subject to change.
We see things not as they are, but as WE are.
- In doing these things, we can actually change the past, or, to put it better, to change the way we see the past.
- Rethink whom you are trying to please.
- Does it HAVE to be a certain way?
- Do you REALLY need to spend beyond your means so that at least for one moment you can feel appreciated?
- Can you rethink and rework expectations for the holidays?
- By taking a mindful moment, you can begin to see the holidays for what they are, not as what YOU think they should be.
Lighten up. Take measures to resist guilt or anger-driven choices.
Be sure to get some exercise. A 20 minute walk each day can work wonders and clear your head. Active muscles do much to ward off negative thoughts.
Have a little something handy to help distract you. Put a favorite scent such as lavender, vanilla, mint, or rose, on a cotton ball. This can coax you back to the present and calm your mind. Keep it in your pocket or at least within close reach.
Listen to music you can sing and or move to. Rhythmic movement is quite soothing, not to mention effective in uplifting the spirits.
Doing these things will not guarantee a happy, stress free Holiday, but doing things that will ensure your sense of centeredness will not hurt.