Keeping The Holidays Happy
With Thanksgiving and the general holiday season just around the corner, it always reminds me of the complexities of this time of year. Moderately indulging without going overboard with holiday food, feeling excited to see all of your family but then easily getting annoyed with them when you are together, being excited about giving gifts but then exceeding your budget, and trying to stay healthy but then having a few too many glasses of wine, are all things that can add to the stress of the holiday season.
Given that most of us deal with at least one of the above-named stressors, I think it’s a great time of year to look at how to plan accordingly and avoid as much of this stress as possible. In my line of work, and in general, regarding executive functioning, it always comes back to planning and structure, so here are some tips on how to set that up in advance and maximize your holiday enjoyment.
- Spending money. The holidays are obviously associated with lots of gift-giving, which can mean extravagant spending not incorporated into your monthly budget. The most important thing is to buy within your means. If you live paycheck to paycheck, this may mean crafting your own gifts at home rather than purchasing things. If you have savings or get a holiday bonus, set aside the total amount you are willing to spend, and then divide that amongst all of the people for whom you plan to buy gifts. If you find yourself impulsively wanting to buy things beyond your budget, use the 5-second pause strategy before making a purchase. Ask yourself over 3-5 seconds, “How will buying this impact my finances?” Just a quick pause before completing that purchase can make a big difference to your bank account.
- Indulging in holiday food. The holidays are undoubtedly a time for some indulgence, but the key is not to overindulge. What does that look like for you? Asking yourself these questions before you arrive at a holiday dinner is imperative to avoid giving in too much to temptation. For example, if you generally avoid sugar but can’t live without your Dad’s Thanksgiving pecan pie, plan your meal accordingly. Maybe take an extra serving of vegetables that night and opt for pecan pie as your only dessert. Again, so much balancing your indulgence comes back to controlling your impulses. Rely, once again, on that 5-second pause and ask yourself, “Will I be upset tomorrow if I have a second slice of pie?” There is no right or wrong answer. Sometimes going for that second slice is exactly what you need rather than being too rigid. It’s all about using that pause to rely on good decision-making rather than a quick whim.
- Enjoying family time. While hopefully most of us love our families, large family gatherings still mean a mix of several different personalities. It’s normal to feel more tolerant towards some family members than others. To thoroughly enjoy these gatherings, I suggest trying to focus on gratitude with one another, maybe even naming it out loud. Pre-planning an activity like a family football game, a walk, or watching a funny movie together can also be helpful to evade conflict. Most importantly, remember to breathe, especially when you feel yourself getting triggered, as this can help control your reactions.
As you can see, so much of this comes down to impulse control, which is a component of Executive Functioning. When we can learn to control our impulses through pausing, breathing, and understanding our triggers ahead of time, we can control our reactivity and behaviors and be the best version of ourselves. Please reach out if you feel impulse control is something you would like to improve in your life. Wishing you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!
My passion is to help you live your healthiest and most harmonious life, but in a way that’s realistic and practical for you as a unique individual on this planet. My philosophy is all about “balance,” never a diet since a diet is not sustainable for life, aka Kill The Diet.