by: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
In .28 seconds I found 64,800,000 tips—honestly—on Google on how to “survive” the holidays. Sixty-four MILLION tips on how to “survive” the holidays! What in the world has happened to us? Have we gone mad? C’mon now. We need more than sixty-four MILLION tips on how to “survive” the holidays? When did the media create this insanity?
Focus on friends not food, make time for fitness, get plenty of sleep, serve others, create a “to-do” list, don’t compare, get plenty of vitamin D3, drop your expectations, forget Norman Rockwell, don’t dread it, be honest with yourself, avoid the pressures of family get togethers, set manageable daily goals, don’t drink too much, avoid the “shoulds,” don’t pressure yourself, yada, yada, yada. Do we really need to be told this stuff year after year, in sixty-four million different ways?
The message from the media is that the holidays are draining, emotionally depleting, exhausting, stressing, anxiety producing, and downright unhealthy. Are they working for the drug companies or something? Well, pharmaceutical companies DO advertise in the media, so maybe there is that connection. Even the American Psychological Association gives tips such as identifying your stressors that are triggers. What stressors? Does the APA really believe there are stress monsters waiting to pounce on unsuspecting, innocent, minding-their-own business holiday “survivors”? Utter nonsense.
Fortunately, there are 268,000,000 hits on Google for the “joy” of the holidays. Whew. For a moment, I thought I was abnormal since I enjoy the holidays, find nothing at all stressful in the beauty of the season, the decorations, the celebrations, the excitement, the music and the general feeling in the air.
So what’s with these stressed-out, nervous, angry, grief-filled, depressed, over-eating and under-exercising “survivors”? What are they surviving?
Here’s the secret. They are surviving their own thoughts, the thoughts they ingest from media “commercialization,” and nonsensical, irrational and inaccurate thoughts and self created beliefs they focus on about how “tragic and difficult” a time this season of the year is. It’s none of that, unless you believe it. Then you can make the holidays anything you want. You can even believe Martians will fly out from under a treadmill in the gym. Why you’d want to believe that though, I wouldn’t hazard a guess. Same when it comes to erroneously thinking the worst will happen, filling your mind with totally inaccurate thoughts about how horrid of a person you are, giving the worst case meaning to events in your life surrounding the holidays and feeling sorry for yourself that “everyone else” is having a better holiday than you. Here’s yet another tip—don’t believe everything you —- think!
Want a joy-filled, fun, peaceful and loving experience over the next month or so? Understand that your mood and the events around you are not at all, in any way, connected. You can create any positive mood you want, regardless of your actual life-situation. Any mood you want, REGARDLESS of your actual life situation.
Thoughts are just thoughts. You create them, you control them, and you can change them. And get this—you can do all that without an “illness” requiring a “diagnosis” and signing up for tranquilizers, anti-depressants or mood stabilizers—that have little evidence really matters anyway for mild to moderate normal upsets.
If you are reading this, you are probably a member of one of San Diego’s finest health clubs, the Sporting Club of San Diego and the La Jolla Sports Club. That means you already have at your disposal the longest-lasting, most effective method for helping yourself create happiness, joy and positivity—exercise. It will help you clear your mind from that negative, erroneous thinking you slip into with the encouragement of the media who wants you to believe the holidays are so “stressful.”
With moderate to intense exercise, you reset your thinking, your mood, your biochemistry, your brain cells, and your health. Stress is not something we “get” nor is it inherent in any event—it is created when we think about life events in specific ways that may anticipate “awful, horrible, terrible, catastrophic” outcomes that we absolutistically demand must not occur, or see—view—life events through a lens that defines situations as unusually negative and harsh. Again, don’t believe everything you — think. Exercising can help you catch your breath, take a moment to reset your irrational thinking, challenge what evidence you have for such nasty thoughts, and identify alternative ways for thinking about a holiday gift, a party, a get together, an invitation, or whatever you were troubling yourself with.
The holidays are days. Filled with activities, events, situations, people, or not. Think of them in a way that leaves you happy, or believe the media and suffer—you can’t do both. Thankfully, that’s the choice most of us have—we just need to be reminded of it.
Keep up your workouts and, truly, happy holidays ahead!