In New York City, where I live, it's beginning to look a lot like the holidays. Manhattan storefronts don bright lights, decorations and holiday sale signs. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade floats are ready to make their annual voyage; the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting is upon us; and the Rockettes at Radio City are set to deliver their eye-high leg kick in perfect unison in a chorus line.
You can practically hear "Jingle Bells" in the distance.
But even with all the festivity buzzing, the holidays are, for a lot of people, a time of challenge and sadness. Especially if you're still healing -- or reeling -- from a Big Life Change.
Part of the reason the holidays are so hard for so many, is due to the expectations we attach to them. We're told we're "supposed" to celebrate them with large, boisterous gatherings of family and friends. Or that "everyone" is shopping to find that perfect, last-minute gift for their mate. Or that something is wrong if we don't have "someone" with whom to share a kiss at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve.
That's all rubbish. Truth is, these scenarios are not reality for lots of folks, especially those of us in midlife, who might be going through a divorce, or spending our first year living in an empty nest or trying to stay afloat after a job loss.
What are those of us who find ourselves in the midst of a major life change supposed to do? Sit on the sidelines and sulk, while everyone else enjoys a perfect Rockwellian holiday? No!
The first step to enjoying the holidays is letting go of the "supposed tos" so you can consciously create the holiday experience you want to have. It's about recognizing the truth in what author Wayne Dyer once said: Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change. So, instead of looking at this season as one of doom and gloom, you can choose to see how it actually can be "perfect" for you and where you are at this point in your life.
Sound too easy? Well, remember that any type of emotional healing is a process, so it won't happen overnight. But here's a good place to start: ask yourself what you're going to get out of sadness. Likely nothing positive. A better plan: decide what you want your holiday season to feel like. Do you want to feel joyful, content, playful, or grateful for your blessings? Now you're talking!
Once you decide how you want to feel, start thinking of things you can do to bring that type of experience to your holidays. Need some examples? Glad you asked.
Here are six to-dos to make this holiday season potentially one of your best ever -- even in the throes of a Big Life Change.
1. Throw a party with other singles, divorcees or empty nesters. Even though it feels like you're the only one in the world dealing with a Big Life Change, you're not. Seek the support and company of others who know what it's like to walk in your shoes.
2. Think about the things you like to do this time of year. Then, do them. Do you love holiday concerts? Baking? Decorating? Think about what lights you want to put up during this season and then do it, even if you have to go it alone. If nothing catches your fancy, take this time to rest and restore. You'll need that newfound energy for next year, which will surely be very different for you.
3. Be the gift you'd like to receive. When we're hurting, it helps to take the focus off of ourselves and place it on others. Find a place this holiday season to volunteer. Lots of community kitchens, centers for the elderly and animal shelters would love the pleasure of your company.
4. Plan a getaway. Where have you always wanted to visit during the holidays but never did because you felt obligated to be elsewhere? Be brave! Plan it, and go!
5. Visualize your new self -- and put it on paper. Take advantage of space and time and create a gorgeous, personalized vision board. Imagining how life will be when this difficult time passes -- and I promise, this too shall pass -- is a great way to work through your grief. Consciously choosing images to illustrate what you want your life to look like in the future will give you something to look forward to and even more importantly, something to hold on to: Hope.
6. Resist the urge to focus on how "perfect" the holidays are for everyone else -- especially your ex. Remember the old adage that all that glitters isn't gold? You really don't know what other people are thinking and feeling. So what if others are surrounded by people and activity? Is that the holiday they really wanted, or is it the holiday they're celebrating out of obligation? Either way, it's not your concern -- stay in your own business. Get busy customizing your own spectacular holiday.
What's my idea of a spectacular holiday? Well, anything that allows me to indulge my creativity and love for others, and that brings me joy and peace and a healthy dash of sanity. In short, it's the marching bands in the Macy's Day Parade, creating a new recipe for an award-winning homemade pecan pie and precious time spent with my fast growing teens on whom the sun rises and sets. Luxuriating in the peace and stillness of my own home while indulging in eggnog with puddles of fresh whipped cream and grated nutmeg sounds quite zestful too. Just the thought of it is delicious.
My experience has taught me that a key to successfully navigating Big Life Change is to give myself permission to be true to me, and to stop feeling so compelled to please everyone else. We can successfully create a life of well-being, we can thrive through adversity and we can flourish -- but only if we do the work to create a sound foundation. I have, and so can you -- and that goes for the holidays and beyond. Come on over and see.
I invite you to sign up now for priority registration details for my exciting signature program: The Society of Zestful Living, launching in early 2013. The Society honors you and the fabulous creation of community -- through private one-on-ones, in nurturing groups of lovely women and a transforming retreat -- energized by love and designed with inspiring solutions to spark your renewal and blossoming through Big Life Change. I'll be unveiling details and opening registration in the coming weeks. Sign up here, so you don't miss the news!
Until then, take stock in yourself and decide to make it a good holiday season.
If you are throwing the party, have plenty of plastic containers on hand. As the soiree comes to an end, divvy up the desserts and invite guests to take home extra treats.
Stretch your dollar save your waist: Bring home leftovers from dinners out and have them as lunch the following day.
Have a healthy cookbook exchange as opposed to an expected cookie party or pastry swap. The Mayo Clinic Cookbook and Williams-Sonoma Cookbooks are a good place to start.
Favor family over food. Make the gathering about catching up instead of eating. Break out your favorite board games, make your own decorations together, quiz each other with family trivia (What is Uncle Bob's favorite baseball team?), or foster a day-long joke by seeing who is the most stealthy at sticking a snowman on relatives' backs.
Save room for your favorite food and don't overdo it on appetizers. According to nutritionist Tracy Gensler, a portion of cheese cubes comparable to the size of two AA batteries comes out to 80 calories, and most people eat three to five times that much. Instead, head for the shrimp, a popular appetizer and crowd pleaser, that serves as a low-fat option, especially when poached. Playing host or hostess? Serve up delicious holiday appetizers under 100 calories per serving like Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade with Crostini or protein-packed Tex-Mex Pinto Bean Spread.
Eat a healthy snack before going to the party so you don't overindulge on a ravenous, empty stomach. Reach for something light, like an apple with cottage cheese or a handful of edamame with a spritz of lemon, to curb your pre-dinner grumblings without completely ruining your appetite altogether.
Only drink wine, beer and liquor on a full belly. Not only are you more likely to make poor dining decisions and overeat when drinking on an empty stomach, but the beverages alone quickly rack up the calories. An average 5 oz serving of red wine and white wine can have up to 125 calories. Beer can vary from standard American lagers like Budweiser containing 145 calories and Sierra Nevada Bigfoot containing 335 calories.Eggnog, a treat you're sure to encounter, already comes out to 350 calories per per 1-cup serving, without any added liquor. Keep tabs on your intake and try turning your wine into a spritzer or your beer into a shandy.
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