From Triggers to Tools in 10 Weeks #5 – Holiday Music and Paired Associations

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We’ve been looking at common holiday triggers and sharing our best tools to help you cope. Click here for previous posts or subscribe to receive them by email.

The trigger: Holiday music and paired associations

We all experience it this time of year, whether in a store, listening to the car radio, or attending a concert or school event – holiday music surrounds us. And just a few seconds of these recognizable tunes can transport us back in time to earlier holiday seasons.

And we don’t only experience the holidays through our ears; our other senses are involved as well. The familiar scents of common holiday foods can also take us back, whether they appear in your own kitchen, at someone else’s house, or at sample displays in the grocery store. Then there are the shapes, colors, and details of the decorations that seem to adorn every corner of the world these days.

Being constantly reminded of earlier, childhood Christmas times can trigger a compulsion to restrict food or over-exercise, or to overeat. Maybe because that’s what you’ve done in previous holiday seasons, or maybe because you have other unhappy or even traumatic memories of those times.

You may also have tender, loving holiday memories of someone who is no longer with you, and every time you smell the dish they made every year, it fills you with loss and grief.

The tool: Embrace your feelings

Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. Write about it in your journal, and then share your writing with a trusted friend, family member, or professional. Remember that just because you ate a certain way in previous years, you don’t have to eat that way this year. You can create new rituals and associations with the holidays.

You can also write a letter to that person you’re missing. This will honor them and your own feelings, and help bring peace to your heart.

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