The holidays evoke all kinds of images– from happy songs and holly on the hearth, to angels and artificial trees. But, if you’re without a special someone during this time, those festive images are likely to come with a sleigh-load of Grinch-like feelings.
And that’s OK. Whether you’re newly divorced or have been for a while, you might feel a little anxious about all the loving and sharing going on around you. Sure, you’ll get busy gathering gifts and assembling gingerbread houses with your kids, but that’s not necessarily the only kind of busy you were hoping for. Having someone special in your life to share the holidays with makes the season that much more festive and fun.
If this is your first holiday season after weathering a stormy divorce, prepare yourself: there might come a time when you’d rather be licking a subway rail than licking the envelopes to your holiday cards.
Let me unwrap that thought for you. It’s going to be yucky. And if you’re someone who tends to focus on what you don’t have in your life (a significant other) and then zero in on all the delicious goodies you do have (cookies and cakes) in your pantry, it might get you down even more.
Here’s how you can leave some of those negative, frosty thoughts behind you – not to mention every cookie crumb that falls in your path – when you’re going it alone for the holidays.
Be thankful. Don’t eye roll! Be truly in-the-moment grateful for the little and big experiences that have gotten you exactly where you are. Take five minutes before lifting your head off the pillow in the morning to meditate on the things in your life that are good. According to Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D, being thankful has real physical and psychosocial benefits, and can help you cope better with every day stressors. What better time than the holidays to give yourself the gift of gratitude? When your mood lightens, you’ll have a clearer mind. Suddenly shoveling 16 sugar cookies in your mouth won’t seem like such a great idea. Promise.
Stay grounded. Keep your finances in check and don’t overspend. It’s easy to justify buying expensive gifts for the people you love (or even some for yourself – hello, sexy sling backs!) because you don’t have to buy for a significant other. But just because your budget isn’t as tight as a showgirl’s leotard, it doesn’t mean you should dance your way around the mall buying everything in sight. This will only feel good until the bill lands in your inbox: there’s nothing like a $1,900 Neimans bill to trigger binge-eating.
Decide what has meaning. You have no obligation to say yes to every holiday function. Field your invitations, respond with maybe, and then decide on a handful that you really want to attend (that goes for work stuff, too). Sometimes being in a crowded room full of festive songs and joyful people (ahem, couples) is enough to make you feel dreadfully desperate for something to call your own. These feelings of sadness may not manifest right there but, as the weeks continue and the parties keep happening, loneliness might creep in. This is a time to turn inward to figure out your feelings instead of turning outward to find solace in food. Or eggnog.
Remind yourself you’re an adult. Sure, it can be great (and sometimes not) visiting family and getting treated to holiday goodies and drinks. But if you know ahead of time that your sister’s idea of a sumptuous spread is fruitcake and fudge, why not just bring your own nibbles? The explanation to those around you is simple: you’re game to enjoy a few goodies, but also want some healthy snacks on hand for when those hunger cues kick in. Don’t get sucked in to eating something you don’t want to because it’s in front of you. Have a semi-flexible holiday fare plan … and then stick to it.
Denounce your desperate feelings. There will undoubtedly be times when you keep sleeping flirting with the guy who won’t pursue anything more with you or going on dates just because you were asked. The “magic” of the holidays does that to us … makes us think there might be some sort of beautiful ending if only we have faith. Just know that if you keep wolfing attention down like a starving orphan “just because it’s the holidays and everyone has someone,” you’re going to find yourself empty. This, of course, means that the Ben & Jerry’s that lives in your freezer will soon be that, too.
Just remember that the holidays truly are a time to enjoy those you love, to relax in the spirit of giving and receiving, and to take note of where you are in your own journey. Don’t get caught up in thinking that every shiny object you see – be it a happy new couple or your friend’s beautiful engagement ring – is just the thing that would make your holidays shine bright. Because, the truth is, sometimes a shiny object in someone else’s life would really just be another gum wrapper in yours.
So be grateful for the blessings you do have.
Be kind to your mind.
And treat your body well.
Doing these three things this holiday season will be just enough to nourish your mind and feed your soul. After all, the goal is a full heart, not a bloated tummy.