“I hate Christmas…”
I have heard that a lot these days. I think that people hate the season for a bunch of reasons:
- The season has lost it’s meaning and today it is merely unabashed materialism
- We feel obligated to attend every Christmas function that people can dream up
- It reminds us about our families and that can sometimes be painful
- We remember the people and the relationships that we have lost
- Religion and Jesus are everywhere
- Every damned commercial is about Christmas and selling crap
- Santa is just another form of a scary-clown
- Food, booze, parties, over-spending and over-consumption are expected
What do you think about Christmas?
For me, Christmas is a major trigger. Food and alcohol are everywhere and there is tremendous social pressure to attend social events where overeating and drinking is normal. I have less of a struggle with alcohol, but food can be a major trigger for me. It is how I cope with my stress, my social anxiety, my depression and pretty much anything else.
I am well into my mental health recovery, but the Christmas season comes at the peak of an unholy food-binge trinity for me:
Christmas is hell on my recovery
I love the glittery lights, the snow and the presents. It reminds me of a lifetime of good memories and family who loved me. But for me, the season is basically one gigantic relapse just waiting to happen.
It can sometimes seem easier to just avoid the whole thing, or to become a cynic and mock all of it from the sidelines.
The temptations seem to be everywhere, but this year I am experimenting with something different. I am going to be more honest with myself and the people in my life about my triggers. The reality is that for most of us, the season creates Santa sized triggers that we grapple with.
That’s an image that you don’t often see: Grappling with Santa.
The average person will gain around 1-2 pounds per year, this means that most of our yearly weight creep happens at the holiday season. Food, booze, staying indoors, and just sitting around are the culprits for our seasonal Santa-bellies.
Being sedentary and over-indulging for a few weeks will add inches to your waist line and could lay waist to your mental health:
- You will ruminate more about your life
- You will tend to feel down on yourself because you are less active
- You will compensate for your feelings by eating more or drinking more
- You will feel more anxious and depressed
This post is probably a little depressing. Sometimes reality can be a shock to the system.
Sorry if this post is a downer. But there is an upside to all of this. Being honest about our triggers is a sure way to prepare for them.
This year, my wife gave me an Advent Beer calendar. It is an interesting juxtaposition to have Advent Beer. It’s like the angels got together with a few devils and made a deal… or like having some happy Santa-Scrooge cookies. The two just don’t mix.
My doctor reminded me of two inconsolable facts about my newly acquired beer-a-day habit: Drinking every day will add a lot of calories (about 1-2 pounds just in beer alone over the month) and alcohol is a depressant.
So, I started a food journal and decided that my Advent Beers need to gather a little dust for right now. Awareness will do that… it will make you think about your decisions and the impacts on your life.
This gets to the heart of another of the major triggers at Christmas: the damned-crazy pace. Life can become frantic and that makes us less aware of our vulnerabilities. One of the best things that you and I can do for our mental health and our recovery is to be intentional and make time to slow down.
How do you cope with the pressures of the Holiday/Christmas/New Years season?
It might be just sitting by the Christmas tree, using a food and/or booze log, journalling, talking to a good friend or being mindful to regularly get outside. Whatever you do to reflect will help you to be more conscious.
I hope you are well this season. I would love to hear from you about your seasonal survival tips in the comments section.
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Photo by Richard Elzey