The holidays are supposed to be fun. So why do we beat ourselves up this time of year? It’s time to change that. “Guilt, by definition, is something we do to ourselves, so no one can make us feel guilty,” says psychologist Cheryl Fraser. Here’s how to take control of the kind of thinking that leads to guilt.
Guilty thought: “It has be perfect.”
“As women, we think we should do everything just like Martha Stewart, and if we don’t, we’re a failure as a mom and wife,” says Fraser. “It’s ridiculous.” Just pick one fun thing, like baking or sending greeting cards. If you want the big day to be just you and the kids, Fraser suggests you plan a get-together with extended family on another date over the holidays. Tell them you appreciate it may be hard for them, but it’s important for your family to be on your own at this time.
If family is staying with you, take some “me” time: Have a long bath or leave the house to do errands when you’re feeling fatigued and stressed. Remember, you’ll feel less guilt taking this break than you would if there’s a family fight. “You have to make healthy decisions for you and your family,” says Fraser. “The alternative? You end up a stressed- out, bitchy person to be around.”
Guilty thought: “I mustn’t gain any weight!”
Research shows people gain an average of one to two pounds over the holidays. That’s not worth stressing over as it’s not tough to lose that little bit. Still, there are some tricks for avoiding extra pounds. Registered dietitian Angela Dufour advises using a small plate at parties so you don’t eat too much. If you’re hosting, buy pretty takeaway containers for guests, so you’re not tempted by leftovers. Finally: “Don’t skip a meal before the party. Eat, and the party food will seem like a little extra,” says Dufour.
Guilty thought: “I just don’t have time to exercise.”
If time is short, simplify workout sessions but increase intensity, says Natasha Vani, director of physical activity at Newtopia in Toronto. If you have to reduce the number of exercises, focus on big muscle groups—chest, back, legs and glutes—because these burn a lot of calories. “If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up,” says Vani. Get the family moving. “Go for a walk, or go skiing or ice skating. Just get outside!”
December 2011 issue of Best Health magazine