Instead of getting stuck in the holiday spiral this year, use this time to ditch perfection, comparison, and overwhelm.

How to Avoid the Holiday Downward Spiral & Cultivate an Intentional Season Instead

In this episode, we talk about the different ways the downward holiday spiral comes up in self-talk, we compare two versions of the same holiday weekend, one in the downward spiral and one that is more intentional and incremental, and we talk about specific tactics to use to approach this holiday season intentionally and incrementally.

Today we are talking about how to avoid the holiday downward spiral and how to cultivate an intentional season instead.

Whether you’re someone who feels like they fall off the wagon around this time of year, we’re going to talk about how to flip the script on the whole idea of wagon, as well as some specific, actionable, tactical things you can do to make the most out of the few months we have left in this year.

I love going to you guys and asking for ideas for shows, and this one came right from our community, both from questions and DM’s from Instagram @realfoodwholelife as well as on the Real Food Whole Life Community Facebook group, which you can join here, or just search and request access.

I noticed a lot of questions and conversations around how to really make the most of the holiday season instead of turning into this downward spiral where you’re not making intentional choices and then you feel like you’re in a hole going into the new year.

If this episode really resonates, I would love for you to share it on instagram and tag me @realfoodwholelife, and tell me a couple of ways you’re going to be more intentional and incremental in this holiday season.

This episode is brought to you by our Wellness Personality Guide that you can grab here.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to take the quiz before we go through some updates and it’s gone (as long as you’re on our email list you’ll get the new one!).

There are so many amazing things coming in 2019, and I don’t want you to miss it!

And knowing your wellness personality really helps you be intentional and be incremental as we go through the rest of this year, and into the new year.

On the remainder of this year:

For many people, this combo of Halloween and the beginning of November is really the official beginning of the holiday season.

As this show goes live on November 7th, we officially have 54 days left in 2018!

What I think is so interesting about our perception of time and our whole mindset around the holidays, is that we have 54 days left of the year, we have two full months left, and yet, sometimes we get stuck in this idea of of all-or-nothing, might as well throw in the towel, go crazy for the next two months, and just make up for it in January.

But if you just take a step back and think about it, 54 days is a lot of days.

It’s a great opportunity to start making some intentional, incremental changes now, so that when you hit January 1st you don’t feel like you have to start over.

And that’s really what this whole conversation is about.

On how the holiday spiral shows up:

I want to talk about how that holiday spiral shows up by really calling out some of the thoughts we have or the ways that we talk to ourselves as we go through the months of November and December.

Sometimes that shows up by the voice in your head saying something along the lines of:

1 | I already blew it, so why not

2 | I’ll start in January

3 | I deserve to indulge

4 | It’s a tradition

5 | It’s a special occasion

6 | I don’t want to disappoint anyone

7 | The holidays should be perfect

8 | Everyone else is living a Christmas story

The holidays can really provoke feelings of isolation, of loneliness, of anxiety.

It feels like there’s a never ending to-do list with all of the extra things or like everyone else has somebody and you’re feeling alone.

It’s a really interesting dichotomy between what we think it should be and what it is in reality.

First, it’s really knowing and hearing those things that you’re telling yourself so you can become aware of them.

And then you can flip the script a little bit, and go through these next 54 days with a different perspective and some real tools to make it a better, more fulfilling and intentional experience.

Two versions of a holiday weekend:

So, my family has a go-big or go-home mentality about the holidays, and it took me some time to learn to step out of this spiral and make some intentional choices so that I don’t end up feeling like I have to start from scratch in January.

I want to walk you through two versions of a holiday weekend: one weekend that’s more of a spiral version, and one that’s more intentional and incremental.

First, is this downward spiral version.

Let’s take Thanksgiving weekend, for example.

This is a very real example of something that’s coming up in the next couple of weeks for our family, and many of yours as well.

Usually I take a half-day on Wednesday to go to the grocery store, and if you are somebody who is responsible for Thanksgiving dinner, then you know what a mistake it is to go to the grocery store in the afternoon the day before.

It’s very aggressive and people are not in a great mood because they feel stressed and overwhelmed and they have so much to do.

So, I go to the grocery store, try to battle it out for a parking spot, try to grab everything I need, come home, unpack, spend a couple hours getting things ready, maybe have several glasses of wine because I’m exhausted, tired and overwhelmed.

And maybe family is home or my sister comes into town but I ignore them because I am focusing on creating a perfect Thanksgiving meal.

The next morning I get up early, because I have so much to do, so many things to get ready, so much to prepare for, and I don’t workout, I don’t get dressed.

I stay in my pj’s, I cook, I skip breakfast because I have so much to do and I want to save room to indulge during Thanksgiving dinner.

Noon comes around and I might as well open that bottle of wine because I’m exhausted, tired, and stressed, and people are around me but I’m not able to engage or connect with them because I am so concerned about all the things that need to be done.

Of course, I skip lunch too because I am going to make the most out of Thanksgiving dinner.  

And things just kind of devolve from there.

We sit down to eat and I really overdo it, eating way too much so that I feel sick and stuffed and I can’t even really enjoy all the work that went into it.

I have dessert, and then I go back for seconds and thirds because it’s Thanksgiving, so why not?

I go to bed lethargic, super bloated, and exhausted and then here’s what happens: one day out of 365 is not a big deal, but the next morning is where things really start to spiral.

My family has this tradition of eating pie for breakfast (dad- I blame you!).

And this is the thing that happens- other people around you have traditions and they want you to indulge and they want you to have fun.

So the next day when I wake up not feeling great, I just grab a piece of pie instead of starting fresh, because why not?

And then I have two or three cups of coffee, and I was going to work out this morning because I have the day off, but I’m just not feeling it so I skip that.

And then lunch rolls around and I’m going to have leftovers, and then dinner rolls around and I don’t feel like cooking so we order takeout, and there’s wine left so let’s just open that.

We go into the weekend and it’s just a repeat of this with pie for breakfast but then maybe I make my way out to the mall and do some shopping and I might take advantage of the new peppermint mocha, because now it’s Christmas and it’s time to get into Christmas mode, and then we go to lunch, and then we come home and crash on the couch, and I go to bed and I’m exhausted and tired and just don’t feel great.

You’re holiday might not look anything like that, I just wanted to give it as an example of a way we can start this overall spiral.

Maybe your holiday involves people in your family who you just don’t get along with so the holiday is just filled with fighting.

Or maybe you’re someone who is alone right now, so instead of having all that family around, you don’t have a place to celebrate.

There are so many ways that the holidays can play out and that downward spiral can trigger thoughts like I already blew it so why not?, I’ll start in January, etc.

Now I want to present you with an alternative, which is an intentional more incremental approach to that same weekend.

Then we’ll talk about some very tactical things you can do to flip the script, change the way you’re approaching this, and have a different experience for these 54 days.

Instead of going to the grocery store the afternoon before, I spend some time planning a week ahead, and I go the weekend before early in the morning (early morning the Sunday before Thanksgiving is pretty quiet at the store).

I take about 20 minutes to plan and get that out of the way, or I take advantage of online ordering, and I have the groceries delivered.

Either way, I’m not battling the craziness of the grocery store on the day before a holiday.

And then I get very incremental about prepping for dinner.

I could prep a couple things Monday evening, I could make the stuffing on Tuesday night, and then Wednesday afternoon maybe spend a couple hours making one or two things but especially inviting my family into the kitchen where we can spend some intentional time prepping food and actually talking to each other.

The next morning I get up and have a huge glass of water, and I go and move my body.

The fun thing is that a lot of exercise studios around the country offer early Thanksgiving morning classes, so I’ll go to my yoga studio, or we go do a little run at the Turkey Trot, or we take a rainy day hike.

I come home and actually have a good breakfast with some protein, fat, and fiber, giving myself the nourishment I need for the day.

And then I take care of whatever cooking I have left to do and spend some more intentional time with my family, even if that just means hanging out and watching a football game.

We like to do something called “The Turkey Bowl”, where we have different games going on around the house, like darts in the garage, a few different board games, something like bags or cornhole, and we might change things up but the idea is that we spend time together doing something.

Then, at Thanksgiving, I get all the things I really love, but I leave all the things I don’t.

If I’m not a big fan of something, I don’t have it just because it’s Thanksgiving.

“I just take one moment as I’m creating my plate to say, what do I really want, and how much of it would it take to fulfill me without overdoing it?”

Same thing when it comes to dessert, I might want to try all the pies so I may take a sliver of each, but I’ll still continue to ask myself, do I still really like this, or am I just eating it because it’s on my plate?

It can be really tricky, but it’s a great strategy, especially when there are times when you do want to indulge.

Taste it, and ask, is this really worth it? and if it is, keep going, if it’s not, you have permission to stop.

So when you wake up the next day, you have the perfect opportunity to reset, and not beat yourself up or feel like you fell off the wagon so you might as well have a whole crazy weekend.

Just to say I really enjoyed myself this weekend and it was totally worth it.

Or maybe there were some things that weren’t worth it, but I’m going to have a big glass of water and a big breakfast (that’s not pie- or maybe it is if that’s something that brings you happiness!).

And maybe I eat leftovers for lunch, or maybe I go back to my normal lunch, because for me, eating multiple days of leftovers is not worth it that I know from the past.

So maybe I freeze leftovers or I find someone else that wants to eat it, but I’m going to go back to my normal way of eating.

And then I get moving.

I go on a long walk with my sister so we can catch up or take advantage of Small Business Saturday as a chance to get a lot of walking in and connect again.

That was the exact same weekend, with a little more intentionality and a little more of an incremental approach.

And you can apply this to every single one of the 54 day we have left this year.

“Every day is a chance for a reset.

Every meal is a chance for a reset.

Every moment with your family and friends is a chance to be there, to be intentional, and to be present”.

You don’t have to get it right every time!

The idea here is not to be perfect.

The idea here is not to compare yourself with what other people are doing, what you think the ideal version of the holidays is.

And it’s not to get so overwhelmed by what you think that you’re supposed to that you miss out on what’s really happening right now.

On actionable tips to make a plan (for these 54 days):

First, start by getting intentional about approaching this holiday season.

1 | Getting intentional:

Create a holiday splurge list:

Go through the next two months (whatever traditions you observe, November and December are filled with opportunities to celebrate) and think about what you really enjoy doing– the splurges that are really worth it.

Whether it be that Thanksgiving dinner, or drinks out with friends, or a family tradition of Christmas cookie decorating, those really special traditions that make the holidays.

I don’t think we should have to go without or be in total deprivation mode, it’s just a matter of taking a moment to really reflect on what’s worth the splurge.

And once you come up with that splurge list, you have a game plan for the holidays.

Create a holiday to-do + to-don’t list with purpose:

This is one of my favorite things to do, planning ahead and looking at all the things I need to-do for the holidays, and all the things I’m not going to do.

“The not-do is just as important as the to-do”.

First, I look at all the events we’ve been invited to and say yes to the ones that do have meaning to us, and we say graceful no to the things that are not going to fill our cup.

Saying no or declining invites can be hard and a little bit uncomfortable, but at the end of the day, I am trying to create an intentional two months.

We really have to be disciplined here about saying yes to things, and then also about saying no to things.

I really want you to create a filter of do-to and also of to-don’t, so that everything does not become a to-do.

Granted, there may be a lot of things that you feel obligated to do, but always ask yourself, do I have to do this, or is this a want-to-do?

And every time you add something to your to-do list, think about if you can take something off.

My second tip is about getting incremental.

2 | Getting incremental:

Manage the 3 M’s: Meals + Movement + Mind:

This is a season to take baby steps.

When it comes to the 3 M’s, come back to them daily or weekly and just ask yourself, how am I managing them?

How am I managing meals?

Am I getting completely off track? If so, how do I get back on track?

Start with eating breakfast, and then a lunch, and then a dinner at home, and go from there.

Same thing with movement- how am I managing movement?

If I have found days have gone by without movement, how can I change that?

Is it because it’s dark and cold outside? How can I take advantage of online workouts, or how can I sign up for a gym now?

And how am I managing my mind?

Am I getting enough sleep? Am I connecting with people in a meaningful way?

If I’m feeling lonely, am I finding a way to connect? If I’m feeling anxious, am I finding a way to take a breath and find some meaning and grounding?

Use those 3 M’s as guideposts to give yourself a sense of where you are in managing them on a daily and weekly basis.

2 out of 3:

How can I get 2 out of 3 when I’m in a season of indulgences?

It can really be applied to everything, but I often apply it to my meals throughout the day.

If I have a splurge dinner, I try to make sure that the breakfast and lunch are full of really nutritious, nourishing, real food.

It can also be days, if I have a day that really felt out of control, I try to make the next two days full of movement and great meals.

You can even think about this in terms of weeks, if you have a bad week try to make the next two weeks really about nourishment and really taking care of yourself.

It gives you this permission to be a human, to have some wiggle room, and to just be incremental.

“We’re going for process, not perfection.  What you do most of the time matters more than what you do some of the time”.

Reset days:

Give yourself a full reset day.

Make sure you have those in your calendar- plan in full reset days where you don’t have anything going on.

These are days when you’re getting enough sleep, where you fill yourself with hydration, movement, real food, and connection, so that you can fill your cup and go into the next day feeling refreshed and revived.


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