Coping Without Relying on Food

Do you find when you get around those uncomfortable or awkward family dynamics during the holidays you reach for that extra helping of stuffing or pie? Or maybe an extra glass or 2 of wine? Been there, done that. I have coped in so many unhealthy…

Do you find when you get around those uncomfortable or awkward family dynamics during the holidays you reach for that extra helping of stuffing or pie? Or maybe an extra glass or 2 of wine? Been there, done that.  

I have coped in so many unhealthy ways it’s a bit embarrassing. After watching, reading, listening and observing many other people who are successful at coping, I have developed a strategy that works!  I’ve tried a few ways to cope.  Some end in fireworks celebrating a giant of victory.  Some wind up like a dumpster fire rolling down the hill out of control.

You know what?  The best strategy I have found for dealing with the holidays is by rehearsing how I plan to react waaaaaay before the event happens.  This means my words, (re)actions and yes, how my face will respond, all need to be taken into account.  I can’t tell you how many times my face gives away how I really feel.  You, too? Lean in, give yourself a hug, a little grace and keep reading.

Heres what I do – it might seem a little kooky or strange, but it keeps me from being surprised (most of the time). Honestly, the way I imagine it all unfolding in my head tends to be much, much worse that what actually happens. I practice various scenarios ahead of time and my possible reactions to those conversations I’m hoping don’t happen.

It sounds crazy, right?  It sounds like I’m spending too much time focusing with laser precision on something that hasn’t even happened, right?

Hear me out…

Rehearsing the worst gives me the opportunity to change the outcome.

Instead of stuffing my face with not so good options, I give myself a real-life intensive tough love counseling session, followed up by a pep talk.

I allow myself to get mad at those words or looks that haven’t even happened.  I encourage my inner meanie to say exactly what’s on my mind.  Sometimes I say it out loud when I’m alone.  There might even be a scream or punch our heavy bag sometimes. Yes, we are a martial arts and boxing family.  But there are times I write it down in letter form. Those things that I just know they are going to say, I have the perfectly formed response.  Putting pen to paper works wonders when my aggressive nature doesn’t have the proper access to a more physical outlet.

Here’s the key…

Then I let it go!  I take a deep breath and know this isn’t how I really want to react.  I truly would rather. 

Reactions tend to be emotionally negative for me.  Responses tend to be in control and helpful.

If I wrote it down, I crumple up the paper and throw it away.  I might burn it or even shred it.  The first time I did this, I actually intended on giving the person that letter. It revealed all the ways I had been hurt and how I wasn’t going to stand for it anymore.  It was emotionally charged for sure!  Once I was done writing, I felt so much better.  It really works!  I shredded the letter and moved on.

You have to move on!  Take it one minute at a time if needed!  But you must move forward!

What if that doesn’t work?

Give yourself a time out!  When that potential emotional rollercoaster is taking new passengers, politely excuse yourself for a quick pep talk.  

I’m sure you’ve heard it before… “hurt people hurt people”.  I try to really reframe my mindset to see it from the other person’s shoes.  I really take a few moments to dig into why they are behaving that way. I don’t have to look very far to have the answer. It’s sad, but true.  

Don’t fuel the fire.

Easy ways to excuse yourself to have that time-out: bathroom, check the mail, go to your room to ‘look for something’, walk the dogs, run to the grocery store to get an item, change a baby’s diaper… those reasons are really limitless.

But make sure you go back!  I have made the mistake of staying away too long, then I come off as rude.  I was truly only doing all I knew at the time to avoid getting sucked into a negative conversation spiral.

Is any of this easy the first time?  Heck no! Just like anything, it takes practice.

One last tip…exercise!  Exercise produces endorphins.  Endorphins are happy hormones.  When you are surging with happy hormones, it’s easier to stay positive!

Cheers to a better holiday season and healthier YOU!