Ohh, the holidays. What a time.
This is what we think our holiday season is going to be like:
And what it all too often looks like:
Let’s just say that if you’re struggling with your relationship with food or your body (as so many of us are), then the holidays are (at best) equal parts joyously wholesome and extremely stressful.
Today’s post is all about helping you set intentions long before you sit down to the Thanksgiving table so you don’t end up “in need of a major reset” by the time 2020 finally rolls around. Here’s a step-by-step process to help you help yourself.
1. Get clear on your values.
We talk a lot about values here and it’s for good reason. When you’re clear on your values, you intuitively make decisions that support the life you ultimately want to lead. Your values are what you stand for. They’re what’s important to you as a person. They’re core to your being.
Keep in mind that your values aren’t chosen, they’re simply part of who you are. But because of external influence, insufficient self-awareness, or a lack of self-inquiry, you might not be in touch with your values. This can cause a lot of frustrating behaviors and unfulfilled or unfulfilling goals.
So your values are there, you just need to develop an awareness of what they are.
If you need some help uncovering your values, you can review this worksheet to determine yours.
Keep in mind that you probably have more values than you can focus on or prioritize at a time. As you’re going through this exercise, start broad and then think about the 3-5 values that are most relevant to you at this point in your life.
2. Determine the behaviors that support your values.
Examples are always helpful so let’s go through some that apply quite nicely to the holidays.
Let’s say these are three of your top values: health, family, and joy.
Because you value health, you may choose to exercise before the Thanksgiving meal begins.
Because you value health and family, you may swap your normal 3 mile run for a 1 mile walk with your grandma while she’s in town for Thanksgiving.
Because you value joy, you may choose to allow yourself all of the delicious, special holiday foods that are part of the Thanksgiving meal.
Because you value joy and health, you may happily enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie until you start to feel full, at which point you put your fork down.
Cool. But things don’t always happen in this picture perfect, “balanced” way and knowing your values is super important regardless. Even when you make decisions that seem oppositional to your values (it happens to all of us), you recover faster and without shame or guilt.
Let’s say you didn’t put your fork down in that pumpkin pie example. Does that mean you don’t value your health? Absolutely not! And because you know you value your health, you’ll simply return to your normal healthy behaviors and thoughts.
But if you weren’t keenly aware of your values, you may think that overeating pumpkin pie makes you a glutton, or it signifies your lack of self-control. So you say, “screw it” and eat the whole pie. Or you restrict yourself from food entirely, skipping breakfast the following day. Spoiler alert: These are all far less healthy reactions.
3. Set an intention and strategy for holiday events or food-centric celebrations.
Knowing your values and distinguishing the behaviors that are in alignment with those values is such an important piece of the health puzzle any time of year. But when it comes to the holidays, we encourage you to get specific. You’ll do this by setting an intention and a rough strategy for the holiday events and food-centric celebrations you’ll encounter.
At your company holiday party, think about how you want to carry yourself. How many drinks does that translate to? And when you hit that number, how will you react if someone offers you another? What if the person offering is your boss? Seriously, spend some time thinking about this stuff. Don’t leave it up to chance.
When you go to your aunt’s house to celebrate Christmas, how will you react to your Grandma’s commentary about your body or dating life? If she makes comments every year, don’t waste your time and energy worrying about if she’ll do it or what she’ll say. It’s going to happen. That’s a given. But you get to choose how you react through your thoughts and actions.
If nothing else, remember that the holidays only come around once a year. We encourage you to stay clear on what they really mean to you and how you can make the most out of them. And if they don’t go as intended? Shame, guilt, and regret won’t take you back in time. Self-compassion is a far better tool to support you doing better next time.