If you're like me, then you tend to feel two ways about the holidays: somewhat excited and somewhat in dread.
I see the holidays beginning with Halloween, which I LOVE!!! My husband and I live in a perfect neighborhood for this holiday. Sidewalks everywhere, houses with front porches and friendly inhabitants, and kids, kids, kids. It's a day of decorating and an evening of helping the kids to celebrate this fun and festive holiday.
Then comes Thanksgiving. I'm funny because I always loved going to my grandmother's house to help her make Thanksgiving dinner, but I never liked eating it. Every year after dinner I always felt awful. My parents chalked it up to eating too much, but I never ate near as much as everybody else. But every year it happened - the bloat, the headache, swollen thumb joints, and extreme malaise.
And then a few years ago I had some extensive food allergy testing done and found out that I am allergic to turkey! Well, that explains it. If I had only thought a little harder about what it was I was eating and listened to my body a little more closely, I might have figured out myself that turkey was no friend of mine. In fact, I've never liked turkey but always ate it at Thanksgiving because that's what you were supposed to eat. So now, I make something different every year for Thanksgiving. No typical turkey and dressing at our house - thankfully my husband is okay with it and we warn friends before they accept an invitation to dinner. This year's offering? Leg of lamb.
And then we get to Christmas. In the past five years this has proven to be the trickiest holiday for me. Five years ago was when I realized that I always lived with some level of stress in my life. It's just how I was, I "vibrated" at a 2 or 3 on a 1-10 stress scale. I found it just as hard to truly relax as to fully engross myself in work or a hobby or a workout or time spent with a friend because there was always some amount of worry about what else I should be doing, or was I doing or saying the right thing, or was I hiking fast enough, or understanding what I was reading, blah, blah, blah. I was a body of worry and, therefore, stress.
When I started to learn more about nutrition and natural foods, I did a bit of reading about stress and the adrenal glands and cortisol and how each affects the other (negatively and positively) and it was then that I realized that while stress didn't cause the Inflammatory Bowel Disease I'd been living with, it certainly made it a whole heck of a lot worse. Plus, that same stress was depleting my cortisol levels and fatiguing my adrenal glands and that was part of the reason I was feeling tired, lethargic, irritable, cold, and generally run-down. (In another post I'll go into adrenal fatigue more in-depth.)
So, I decided that I had to learn to be a bit selfish. Not selfish in an egocentric, self-absorbed, mean way. Rather, selfish in a I'm-no-good-to-anybody-else-until-I-take-care-of-myself-first sort of way. So, I learned to do more of what made me happy or feel good such as meditate, yoga, reading chicklit (and not feeling bad about it). But the hardest thing I did was to stop traveling to my family home for the Christmas holiday. Yes, I would miss seeing my family, especially my parents, but I wouldn't mind not having to travel on an airplane full of sick people (every year I ended up sick after this holiday), spending the holidays in a freezing winter tundra (I'm cold to begin with so going to an even colder climate has never made me feel well), or trying to cope with all of the family stress and drama that can happen when too many adults get together in a childhood home and everyone forgets that we're no longer children.
After telling my parents that we were not going to attend, my husband and I spent a quiet holiday in our own home with our own tree and ornaments (which I hadn't seen since my stepson was in grade school) and just a couple of gifts to show our appreciation for each other. We made dinner together and shared it with a few of our local friends who were alone for the holiday.
That was my first selfish Christmas. And it led into a year of learning to de-stress. I am more successful at that some times than others, but overall I now vibrate at a 1-2 on that stress scale and feel better for it.
Over the next few holiday years my husband and I have stayed in our own home for the Christmas holidays with a few derivations from our original one - some years we've forgone having a tree, other years we've had a bunch of people over to celebrate while last year we had a wonderfully quiet day with just the two of us. But the main goal has always been to make this time of year as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.
The holidays are about family, friends, celebration, and joy. And how you choose to attain that is up to you. But if you find yourself in these next months getting stressed or frustrated or short-tempered or if your gut goes off into a flare, take a step back and reassess the situation. See how you can be a little selfish, figure out what is truly necessary to make your holidays a time of happiness and joy for you and your family and do it in as stress-free a way as possible.
This year we'll go home to my family. We'll drive instead of fly. We'll stay in a hotel instead of my childhood home. And I'll remember that it's okay to be a little selfish if it's for my own good.
Published On: October 21, 2013