The holidays are a time of celebration and joy, a time to enjoy gala foods and exchange special gifts, to spend time with friends and re-unite with distant loved ones. Holidays are a time of happy memories and cherished traditions….
… But many aspects of the holidays are difficult, and for some people the holidays can be extremely stressful.
Take those special foods – loaded with sugar, fat, and calories. For those struggling with weight, the holidays pile on more unwanted pounds, while for those with eating disorders those holiday goodies can trigger cycles of binging and purging. Worse, the holiday feasts usually include alcohol and encourage – even require! – overindulgence. Combining alcohol with travel is a recipe for disaster, as binge drinking – getting drunk only on New Years’ Eve, for example – is the most dangerous pattern of drinking.
For the recovering alcoholic, the siren call of alcohol rises to a shriek during the holidays, with triggers everywhere. Observe the advertisements on the streets and highways during this season and notice how many are hustling alcohol – you’ll be amazed!
Those beautiful gifts, gorgeously wrapped and stacked under the twinkling tree, are the pinnacle of the holiday celebrations. Unfortunately, Christmas shopping often leads to maxing-out the credit cards. Ads everywhere blare at us to ‘BuyBuyBuy’. In every store are tempting bins of ‘inexpensive’ little gifts – why not pick one up for the receptionist? But if you give her something then you’ll also have to get a gift for … and so on. Parents agonize over their children’s wish-lists, convinced that every other parent can buy all that stuff for their children, and feeling guilty that they can’t do more.
The holidays are a time for family, but many of us have family members we’d rather not see. Cousin Ronnie will get drunk out of his mind and knock over the tree, you’ll have to pretend to be happy about the ghastly sweater Aunt Sadie knit for you, and once more Uncle Ernie will pinch your bottom just as you’re lifting the ham out of the oven, laughing hysterically when you almost drop it.
Most people make it through the holidays; after all, there’s always the sure knowledge that they will end, the in-laws will go home to Texas and the kids back to school. But what then? In January and February it’s dark and cold and there’s plenty of time to think about dad’s nasty remarks, and to miss that certain person who’s no longer around. If the blues only last a day or two, lucky you. But if they persist, maybe this year you should keep that New Year’s Resolution about going for counseling.
Counseling gives you far more than just a sympathetic ear; you can get sympathy from your cousin or your hairdresser. What’s different about a counselor is that they’re trained to identify patterns and give feedback. A good counselor acts like a mirror, allowing you to see yourself. After all, you can’t see your own eyebrows – you need a mirror for that. Counselors are trained to mirror your feelings, your behaviors; things that you can no more see than your own eyebrows! And the feedback you get from a professional counselor is not advice. Rather, the counselor will give you information: information about you, your behaviors, your reactions; information that you can use to change your behavior, your reactions, your life! Counseling can’t make your spouse stop drinking or your boss quit picking on you – nobody can change another person. But the feedback that the counselor gives you provides the insights and tools you need to change yourself … and when you change, you’ll be amazed at how much everyone else changes the way they respond to you! That’s the way to change other people – change yourself, and they’ll change the way they act toward the new you.