Fairfield County Edition

How to Keep a Calm Mind During the Holiday Season

I like to compare the holiday season with the way a child listens to a favourite story. The pleasure is in the familiar way the story begins, the anticipation of familiar turns it takes, the familiar moments of suspense, and the familiar climax and ending. ~ Fred Rogers 

Faces lighten up when the holidays approach. It is a wonderful time to celebrate the bonds we share with families and friends. But this season of merriment also comes with its stresses. Holiday season can be taxing for people who find it hard to deal with all the events, expectations and family members. Worries include the possibility of weight gain, listening to in-laws’ criticisms, anxious and energetic kids, and more. These can trigger us into wanting to run away rather than being present and enjoying our holiday season. 

What are some of these common holiday challenges and what can we do to ease the stress?

Gaining Weight

“Well, it’s very easy for me to gain weight, but even though I tried not eating for a week when I was really young, I couldn’t do it any longer because
I liked my food too much.”
~ Amanda Seyfried

For many people, the best part of holidays is the food that comes with it. With holiday-themed cupcakes and cookies, home-made pies or juicy turkey, everything seems too appetizing to refuse to eat. And saying “no” to a delicious lunch or dinner may be hard on the family member who put so much love into cooking it. But weak holiday moments can lead us toward weight gain.

The easiest solution is to be careful with calorie intake before the holidays. Keep the calories to just the required amount for a healthy day in order to not feel as bad if we overeat or fill up with sweets later. To counteract any overeating or overindulgence of the sweet tooth, create an exercise plan for the holidays and stick with it.

Dealing with Family Members

One of the downsides of the holiday season may be dealing with grandmothers or that disapproving aunt. Sometimes even our parents are not satisfied with our life choices and can make holidays a difficult time to handle. Meeting in-laws or our partner’s family members who do not approve of us can be toxic for us and our relationships. Even making the choice of which family member to visit can be a challenge since many are dealing with divorced parents or multiple family members. 

Discussing problems with partners beforehand can help generate more positive vibes before dealing with nosy or disappointed members of the family. Take every grunt of criticism as constructive. Always know we did our best and it is not our job to please everyone. 

Also make a list of things that were bothersome each day. Write them in a journal to get rid of them and not carry them further than needed. Listen to some calming music or do some yoga after a mentally taxing day.

Trying to Find the Perfect Gift

Gift shopping is a task people often dread. To buy something for a family member, we must be aware of their recent likes and dislikes. We try to be sure our gift does not remind them of something painful, while being thoughtful but also cost-effective. Even thinking about this ordeal can give us a headache.

The best solution is to directly ask people what they want this year or ask those closest to them. Make a list of those to buy presents for and the budget. Online shopping may potentially save time and money. 

Handling Kids Along with All the Busy Routine

As a working parent, holidays are the time for us to take a break from work and relax. But our kids will be home from school or college, which may be fun but is not relaxing. Having to deal with their routines and meal needs challenges our ability to enjoy some alone time. Adding to the pressure of preparing for the incoming family members, our kids are also pseudo-guests. 

Take a day or two off from work beforehand to prepare before the arrival of kids and guests. Talking to our kids with love and passion about the things that might be too much for us can help. If we let them know how fatigued we are, they will cut us some slack. If possible, plan a vacation during the holiday season every two to three years. This will give us the energy to deal with the family during the holidays.

Careful planning is important in order to avoid an overwhelmed, overstressed holiday season. Try to be mentally prepared for the worst but also do our best to remain optimistic and positive. Establish a few guidelines. Try to sort the problems beforehand. Learn to let go of the stuff that we cannot control. Though planning can save us time and mental stress, it is also vital to accept that a misfortune is not our fault. Learn to love and accept your own and other’s imperfections.

Dr. Inessa Zaleski is an author, self-improvement expert and a hypnotherapy instructor. She practices in Fairfield County. Connect at 203-708-7777 or Dr.Inessa@Calmness.com. See ad, page 29.

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