How To Avoid Spiraling Downward During The Holidays
The holidays are an emotionally challenging time for everyone—whether you have a family, are single, are in a happy relationship, or going through a break-up or other difficult life event. Anxiety, sadness, stress, and old memories all seem amplified.
Here are some steps that everyone can take to avoid spiraling downward.
1. Assign your own meaning to the holidays.
It's easy to get sucked into the currents circling around us during the holidays. We feel pressured to buy useless stuff, eat things that don’t make us feel good, spend time with people we don’t really enjoy (or even worse, are people who are toxic).
Get clear on what you want your holiday season to be about. Do you want it to be about letting the people in your life know how much you care about them in a thoughtful, non-superficial way? Making a dinner that the whole family participates in instead of ordering a pre-made meal? Spending time volunteering to help those less fortunate?
Focus on figuring out what holiday experiences are meaningful to you personally instead of getting sucked into consumerism and superficial events that leave you feeling empty and depleted.
2. Make plans.
Don’t wait to be invited to do something, and if there's a dinner or a gathering that you have to attend, don’t make that obligation your entire holiday. Take control of your experience and embrace the spirit of the season in ways that are meaningful and fun to you. Some ideas: invite friends to go ice skating, go on a hayride, get tickets to a holiday show, maybe even do something silly like have a cookie baking night and ask people to bring various ingredients, etc.—things that are low-pressure and will make for fun experiences and great memories. Remember that other people may be having a tough time this holiday season too, and your invitation will mean a lot to them.
3. Separate yourself from the past.
Most people are more moody and irritable during the holidays. Feelings that we're usually good at keeping under control become amplified. As a result, we bury ourselves in food, alcohol, and stressful experiences. If you feel slightly off during the holiday season, instead of ignoring it, explore why. Is it a function of old pain? If so, what can you do to resolve that so that you can feel the magic of the holiday season with a clear heart, the way you deserve to?
4 Control your body and brain chemistry.
Sugar, processed foods, gluten, alcohol, etc ... most of the foods we consume this time of year cause disruption to our body function, including brain chemistry and energy levels. This can be especially detrimental during a time when you may already feeling a little bit off.
Don’t deprive yourself—participate in the festivities! Indulge and enjoy. But make a plan to keep yourself balanced by doing things like:
- Increasing your daily intake of water, and even add in cranberry concentrate or fresh lemon juice to boost the cleansing effects.
- Upping your intake of supplements, like a quality multi-vitamin
- Consider adding in some additional support like B-Complex (great for helping the body handle stress and restore energy) and Sam-e (great for boosting energy levels, reducing inflammation, and alleviating mild depression)
- Consuming more raw foods and fresh vegetable juices
- Staying active, even if it's only going for a brisk walk
Make a deal with yourself to keep a balance this season: Indulge at certain times in whatever you want, but balance it out with plenty of meals where you eat very clean. Think of it as giving your body and brain the nutrients it needs to function at its optimum levels, and feel pride in taking good care of yourself instead of feeling deprived.
5. Reach out of the hole.
If you find yourself feeling stressed, irritable, or depressed, instead of reacting in ways that will only serve to feed those feelings, reach out. Instead of snapping on someone or shutting people out, tell someone how you feel even if you’re not sure why. Sometimes simply by beginning to speak, you figure out what you want to say or how you really feel. When you find yourself in a dark place, remember the only way to receive comfort is to reach out and let people know how you're feeling. It can strengthen the bonds around you in amazing ways. Build bridges instead of walls.
6. Most of all, have fun.
We all have obligations during the holidays, which can easily lead to stress and dread. Try to reframe and get lost in wonder as much as possible. Instead of feeling burdened by having to buy gifts, connect to why the people you are shopping for are special to you, all the fun memories you have, and how you want them to feel when they receive your gifts. Try to make shopping and everything you do during this season a fun adventure. Enjoy the journey.
Allow yourself to get lost in the little worlds created in the store windows ... really stop and take in the lights and the smells. That’s like the holiday version of stopping to smell the roses. In every situation you find yourself in during the holidays, step back and become present and ask yourself, Am I having fun?
If the answer is no, figure out what you need to do to turn that answer into a yes. Realize you have control over your holiday experience. Make having fun the first and foremost goal of this holiday season.
Ready to learn more about what anxiety, brain health, and your diet all have in common? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman.