There are all sorts of ways to prepare for the festive season, that will be really helpful if you want to be sane with food – because, frankly, it’s rather an insane time! There’s just so much busy-ness in the run-up. Parties, get-togethers, shopping, spending (and budgeting!), cooking, making up spare beds, cleaning… more cooking…
There are 3 types of preparation I’ll talk about:
- Emotional and
This is the thing we spend the most time on, when it comes to this time of year. You know, it’s all the logistics. Planning the menus, buying the food, getting the gifts, decorating the tree, visits, parties… all that kind of stuff. We do such a lot of this that we physically exhaust ourselves.
This is why it’s so important to build in periods of rest – remember this from the last post on self-care – taking a proactive rather than reactive approach.
This may mean letting go of some of the to-do list.
Are you willing for some parts of your holiday to be imperfect, or ‘good enough’ so that you can take care of yourself? Bring to mind what you came to in your visualisation. It ain’t gonna happen if you don’t take steps. It may not be easy, but this is what it takes. I have to admit, being a recovering perfectionist, this one does push my buttons, but I am getting better at it. I promise, the sky has not yet fallen down when I’ve not got things done the way I’d have liked.
You may even find that making your physical rest non-negotiable, actually makes you more effective and efficient at all the doing.
This time of year can be a bit of an emotional roller-coaster for many of us. On the one hand it’s lovely to see people. On the other, let’s be honest, sometimes we feel obliged to see people we’d rather not spend our time with. And don’t you find sometimes that those old family dynamics resurface? Do you sometimes find you’re not acting like the grown person you are, but have fallen into an old pattern with your relatives? Then there are the worries about who you’ll be with, and who you won’t be with. Who gets left out, who is included and how they will all feel about that? On and on it goes.
Here’s one thing you can do to prepare yourself emotionally:
- Get out your journal
- Write down all the things you’re worried about regarding the holiday period, without censoring
- Write down all the things that have happened in the past that you fear happening again
- Put a big smiley face next to any of the worries that you have any real control over (clue: there won’t be many). If some of your worries are that you’ll binge, overeat, gain weight, be careful about putting a smiley face next to those. While you are in ‘charge’ of what you put in your mouth, unless someone is actually force feeding you, getting into a control mindset about eating over the holidays, or any time, is not going to bring you peace – quite the opposite in fact.
- The one thing you do have some control over, is how you will respond.
- So practice! Look at all the scenarios that are causing you stress, and visualise yourself being with them and handling them in the way you would like to. It’s important to feel the feelings associated with handling these situations the way you’d like to. What are those feelings? Pride? Open-heartedness? Compassion? Relaxation? A sense of empowerment? Feeling the feelings reinforces the new neural pathways – so don’t skip this bit (we did this in the visualisation).
- It would be helpful to do this visualisation for just a few minutes a day.
- Then consciously choose to let go of the outcomes (including how/what you’ll eat, and what size you’ll be come New Year!). You’ll feel freer and more relaxed. Promise. Attachment to outcomes causes suffering. Every time.
The last point above is all that really needs to be said for spiritual preparation: letting go. From the time we are born, we are learning to let go. As we get older, fear sets in and we tend to hold on.
But letting go is just so much more relaxing! We are not in control of very much at all! Practically anything could happen at any time.
I remember reading a story about a delegation visiting the Dalai Lama. I can’t remember the source, and I don’t think it matters. The story goes that the delegation arrived right at the time that there had been violence against the monks in Tibet, and someone close to His Holiness, had been killed. The visitors were distressed at the news – the Dalai Lama, quite composed. The question arose: how are you able to meet this news with such calmness and composure? His answer: this is why we practice.
While I don’t want to compare the Tibetan conflict with your possible conflict with Aunty Betty over the making of turkey gravy – the point remains the same. Consistent practice of letting go is an exercise. It builds your capacity and strengthens your spiritual muscles. Then your composure and calm are there for you when you most need them. Or at least that’s more likely! It’s like doing your training before the marathon.
Meditation is a way to practice. Our minds are such active monkeys – a practice of meditation builds the capacity to let go of thought after thought, feeling after feeling, distraction after distraction. Things like:
- how you think you should be (including how you think you should eat/ how you should look)
- how you think others should be
- how you think the holidays should be
- your expectations about it all
- your hurts and disappointments
- all the outcomes (including your eating)
It will serve you to spend 10-15 minutes a day, doing a simple meditation practice – there are tons of them available online or in app form, for free.
The next blog in this series is all about dropping the food rules – it’s such a crucial element to eating peacefully over the holidays (and every day!). Look out for it.