A Holiday Hijacking

Christmas StressThis really is my favorite time of year, but it can also be a time of frenzied activity, financial stress, and deep loneliness.  It can be easy to get caught up in all the emotion and lose our sense of connection with ourselves missing out on the true beauty and sparkle that is all around.

When we get hijacked by the stresses in our mind we risk missing the very thing that we are often so invested in attaining: joy.  It is also no wonder that we are so prone to overeating this time of year, besides the plethora of goodies everywhere, it is also a time where our propensity to emotionally eat is at its highest.

This holiday season I have had a good wakeup call about how easy it is to let our thoughts and emotions hijack our lives. Our family was in the middle of what seemed like a perfect storm for us; 3 major stressors in our life all came at once creating the possibility of what felt like total impending disaster. Add to the mix the usual ramp up of ‘to dos’ to get ready for the holidays and it was feeling like an internal hurricane.

One day in the middle of ‘the storm’ I was walking my son to school with a frantic mind, I was feeling overcome with anxiety, it seemed with each step the story in my mind grew and grew to the point where I was holding back public stress tears. Then I remembered the question that Geneen Roth posted recently: Am I alright now? Not: Am I alright if x and y happen (or don’t happen), but am I alright now, in this very moment. When I ask myself that question, the answer is almost always YES, I am alright NOW. All the very things that had my heart racing, my throat dry, my stomach clenched, and me on the verge of tears were all a manifestation of my thoughts. They were ‘what ifs’ about disasters that may or may not come true.

The real disaster was that by being caught up in my mind I was missing the incredible beauty of that clear, crisp winter day and the opportunity to engage my son in wondrous preschooler conversation about the magic of Christmas or to experience the love in holding his hand as we cross the street. Then a few days later, news came that dissolved the majority of my stress. I had let the possibility of something to come steal me away from the beauty in ‘WHAT IS’.

I believe, that ultimately we are all looking for the same things: to live joyfully and to avoid pain and suffering. When we get caught up in our stress and let it hijack our entire beings, we sabotage our own potential for joy. We also create suffering by listening to the noisy mental tape of doom and disaster.  There is no way to know what the future holds.  Life is a story being written as we turn the page and yet indulging our mental stories about the future is like suffering twice. Stressing about our lives offers us no benefit and yet it comes so naturally to us and creates so much pain, including the additional pain of a conflicted relationship with food when we use eating to numb the stress.

Over the holidays see if you can catch your hijacker in the act. Notice as you let your thoughts and emotions run away with you; see if that is what is driving you towards a second and third helping. Try instead to just hold on to the moment. One of the practices I teach in the Deeper Cravings Course is to see if you can push the proverbial mute button on the mental chatter, engage fully in the moment, become awake in your body, connect with your breathing and begin observing everything your senses are experiencing, the sounds, the colors, the textures. As if you are exploring the place you are in or the thing you are doing with the deep interest of an explorer.

Doing this for a few seconds, both at and away from the table, will not erase all your cares away or your propensity to overeat but what it will do is create a little space between you and that heavy load in your mind that drives your mindless habits. It is like giving yourself a tiny breather, like coming up for air.  If you do this, even just once, during the holidays you will have claimed yourself just a little more sparkle and given yourself an amazing gift; the gift of your very moment. You may also find that your holidays become a little lighter.


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