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Feeling Threatened by the Holidays?

By Debbie Mandel

For many of us the mere thought of the holidays evokes a rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing and every nerve fiber is on high alert to fight, flight or freeze –this is just the physiological stress response to a perceived threat. Imagine the emotional and spiritual costs? What exactly is so menacing about the holidays?
  • Fight: Do you end up raising your voice with family, friends or colleagues during a party?
  • Flight: Do you escape (or wish you could) the crowds, preparation and structured fun to a tropical island or a cabin in the woods to start a new holiday tradition?
  • Freeze: Do you retreat inward feeling like you’re not good enough smiling awkwardly during the festivities?
The best way to deal with this type of fear, this perceived threat, is to meet it head on as you tap into your more intuitive animal nature. Ask yourself this life altering question: What would an animal do?

First, animals do not obsess about their appearance like how big their thighs are or if their skin is wrinkled; they just strut their stuff playing to their strengths. I have never encountered an animal who pretended to be someone else. Animals express themselves according to their true nature. Their approach to food is not conflicted or laden with guilt. There is no emotional eating; rather it’s “how lucky for me to find something to eat and survive today.” Note: they will eat until they feel full and then stop eating even if there is tempting food is in front of them. Also, animals expend a lot of physical energy by moving - stalking their prey and running to find shelter – dieting is never an issue and metabolism is basically calories in versus calories out.

Animals keep it simple and don’t get into negative worry loops reassessing their day’s to-do list. They are not filled with self-pity if they didn’t find food that day. Every day is a fresh start for new opportunities and adventures. Animals are completely present and listen attentively while they observe with their other senses; most importantly, they don’t do all the talking.

Since animals clearly have a lot to teach us and perhaps, we are not yet on their level of elemental living, here are a few quotes from our fellow human beings which might help us make peace with the holidays – even enjoy them.
  • There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so (William Shakespeare). Reframe holiday events, activities and socializing with a positive spin avoid idealizations with unrealistic expectations – the McHoliday. Begin with this premise: I’m alive and it is a great day.
  • Attachment is the great fabricator of illusions; reality can be obtained only by someone who is detached (Simon Weil). When someone is pushing your ego button, take a step back to see the whole picture more clearly and move out of your narrow mindset.
  • The reasons angels can fly is that they take themselves so lightly (G.K. Chesterton). Okay, we are not angels, but we can try to take ourselves less seriously.

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: