There's something about this time of year - at least for some of us. We feel like we are supposed to love everything about it. I mean, come on...the festivities! The lights! The gifts! The family reconnecting! And while those things do seem to shift the mundane routine of everyday life into something more magical, they also come with their fair share of stress: The stress of preparing and hosting; the stress of spending money you really don't have to spend; the stress of those pesky family dynamics you forget about until everyone is back under one roof. I think it's safe to assume that it isn't just me for whom that stress is conveniently accompanied by food. Everywhere. Nonstop food.
It starts with Thanksgiving and, yes, Thanksgiving is about the food (and, of course, the thanks) so go for it! Enjoy your favorites - sugar and dairy and gluten, oh my! It's one day a year and it's just the nature of the holiday. But what about the 4 days of leftovers? And then you're immediately in that Christmas and Hanukah haze (see, Mom? Just because I'm marrying a lapsed Catholic and have a newfound love for stockings and Santa does NOT mean I have forgotten my roots!). And holiday parties. And chocolates! The chocolates seem to follow you everywhere! It can quickly become a month long adventure in “well, I might as well eat this too. I already feel terrible."
The truth is a lot of people just feel kind of blue during this time of year. For those of us New Englanders, maybe it's the impending 92 months of winter. Or maybe this time of year reminds you of something you feel is missing from your current life. Or maybe (insert any number of things here). So, I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about how totally OK that is. Experiencing an EMOTION - any emotion - doesn't entitle someone to berate you. So why do we berate ourselves for feeling a certain way? Sure, most of us will enjoy a warm home with loved ones and an abundance of food on the table and the freedom to leave our houses without the imminent threat of a terrorist attack this season. We are lucky in so many ways and that is a healthy dose of perspective worthy of reminding ourselves. But it does NOT make your feelings any less valid.
Maybe you feel depressed. Or overwhelmed. Or irritated. Allow yourself to feel those things. It doesn't mean you are an ungrateful person. It means you are a person.
There is this phenomenon that a lot of us experience around food. Our behaviors toward food become the means through which we manifest our feelings. Meaning, if you feel constantly frazzled and stressed and there is no time for anything, then you likely eat that way too. If you feel you deserve to be punished for not actually feeling the way everyone’s holiday Instagram feed looks, you will likely use food in a punishing way.
It makes enjoying your food, and being able to recognize when you’ve had enough, extraordinarily difficult.
So whatever emotion you may be feeling during this time of year, ask yourself: Are you allowing yourself to feel it? Or are you keeping it at bay by occupying yourself with shopping and decorating and eating? Try not to assign judgment to it, just get in touch with it. Who knows? Maybe you won’t want ALL the pumpkin pie.
Happy and healthy holidays to all.