Eating Mindfully

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Coping with the Stresses of the Season

'Tis the season...for joy, peace, and holiday stress.

“Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas means a little bit more” says The Grinch in Dr. Seuss’ classic tale. This holiday sentiment rings even truer this year given the recent tradgedies at Newtown, CT and the devestation wrought by hurricaine Sandy. I imagine that many of us will hold our loved ones a little bit closer this holiday. However, it is all too easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the season. Finding the perfect gift (even if it means scouring several stores at all hours of the night to find this years must-have item) often becomes the focus of the holiday season. The pressure to create the “perfect” holiday can create stress and anxiety. Here are some tips to help manage holiday stress so that you can spend more time enjoying the true meaning of the holiday season.

1. Don’t try to create prefection. Finding the perfect gift, cooking the perfect holiday meal, hosting the perfect party; when you aim for perfection you will usually fall short leading to feelings of disappointment, failure, worry, and sadness. These feelings may trigger overeating or other maladaptive coping behaviors. Try to practice acceptance. You weren’t able to snag Let’s Rock Elmo at the mall? Instead of catastrophizing that Christmas/ Hannukah/ Kwanzaa/ Festivus has been ruined, take a few breaths and try to accept the current situation. Has this turn of events really ruined the holiday? If so, okay, try to resolve the issue. But more likely, your family will be able to have an enjoyable and meaningful holiday without the toy. And they will appreciate your calm presence in contrast to the frazzled state that you would be in if you were out all night fighting your neighbor at the mall over the toy.

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2. Enjoy the season. Take a mindful walk around your neighborhood and admire the holiday decorations. If you have the time, walk without a destination. Just go where you feel inclined at each moment. If you don’t have time to spare, walk your usual route mindfully. Use all of your senses to observe the current moment. Notice the physical sensations of your feet moving along the sidewalk. Notice the smells-perhaps some freshly cut Christmas trees or roasting nuts. Take in the sights of the hustle and bustle of the season. What does it feel like to observe and not participate in the holiday rush? Try to be mindful as you engage in your holiday activities. Baking cookies with your children? Stay present in the current moment and try to avoid mentally planning your next activities. When we worry about things yet to happen in the future, we miss out on the gift of the present. 

I hope that these tips will help you savor each moment without getting too caught up in the holiday chaos. I wish you all a healthy and meaningful holiday season. 

To learn more about mindful eating and Dr. Conason's practice, please visit her website at www.drconason.com

Alexis Conason, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in practice in New York City and a researcher at the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital.

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