Thanksgiving just passed, marking the beginning of the holiday season. Most major faiths celebrate important holidays in the next several weeks, and this is also a time for joy and celebration among most individuals – whether they are spiritual or not.
Commercialization and other excesses, however, cause some people to face the holidays with trepidation. Too many find that this otherwise happy time is tempered by the fear that they will over-extend themselves in the ways they eat, drink, and spend money. The downturn in the economy in recent years has exacerbated these concerns.
What is really needed is a strategy for taking charge of the holidays rather than allowing them to be a justification for losing personal control. By now, I hope that members and followers of The Mental Health Gym have sufficiently strengthened their self-images to be able to more effectively control the course of events. Because the holidays are such a special time of the year, however, a specific strategy for doing so may be needed.
In developing this strategy, one of my favorite questions is, “How is this going to get me where I want to go?” For example, when the holidays are over, I’d like to be approximately the same weight that I am now. I’d like to not be significantly poorer. I’d like to not be embarrassed about any behaviors, and I’d like to have made some other people happier.
Armed with that strategy, I face any buffet line with the goal of ensuring that my selection and amount of food and drink will be as rational and weight-neutral as possible. I try to avoid buying presents that can’t be paid for immediately or by the time my credit card bill arrives. But I do set aside some money to reward those who have given me good service throughout the year, as well as being able to contribute to charities that I may have overlooked until now. Any major decisions have to meet the test of, “How is that going to get me where I want go?”
You can get lots of advice on managing the stresses associated with the holidays – e.g., “When conversing, don’t hang around the buffet table so that you won’t be tempted to mindlessly eat”, “Give gifts that don’t cost you anything financially – like an evening or two of babysitting”. These strategies can work although I’ve always found them to be somewhat piecemeal and not able to cover all occurrences. That’s why I like the idea of continually asking how your various behaviors will get you where you want to go.
All it requires is a clear definition of where you want to be and what you will want to have accomplished by the time the holidays are over, as well as a commitment to take charge of the holidays by taking charge of yourself.