Newsletter 638 – Avoiding Holiday Death Spirals

Are you in the midst of a holiday death spiral? This is a new concept for me, coming from a post last week by author Donald Miller. Perhaps Miller coined this term (and named it HDS). He defines this as a “deadly infestation of lies that hits us in the holidays where we start thinking calories don’t count and budgets don’t matter. The spiral usually has us thinking we can do anything we want during the holidays because we will correct it in the new year.” In January we castigate ourselves for this unwise thinking and face often-painful steps to undo the damage.

Spirals arise when some behavior or way of thinking gets bigger and bigger until it is out of control aspiral 1nd potentially destructive. A little lie is covered with deceptions that keep getting larger until everything becomes public with devastating consequences. Addicts of all kinds start small and then keep adding more (more alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling) until stopping becomes extremely difficult. A little deviation from a diet or from a plan of action enlarges into deviations that are bigger until everything spins faster and leads to collapse. All of this is aided with mental rationalizations or excuses intended to justify our actions. Other people often encourage our spirals or become enablers who protect us from the consequences of our own out-of-control thinking. Even conspiracy theories or fantasies get bigger and bigger, fed by half-truths and selective perceptions. Of course these different examples don’t always lead to death but the consequences can be damaging nevertheless.

The first step in avoiding spirals is to recognize their power and to resist the temptations that lead to their growth. Goal-setting and determination to change can help protect or get us back on track. But the more we are into the spiral, the less we can stop ourselves. In part this is because our brains change as we spiral so stopping is tougher. A crucial help in avoiding or stopping spirals is the presence of other people like accountability partners who are available and who respect us enough to be tough when we waver. Prayer is a huge part of this, especially when we are supported by others.

So go back to HDS. What are you or your clients doing to experience a holiday season that will not be regretted later? What have I missed in this post? Please comment.


  1. As with many other issues, the best solution is to keep it from starting. This is best accomplished by deciding ahead of time what our limits are and setting personal boundaries in place, so there are a guardrails to keep us safely on the road to life. As we see a guardrail coming we will naturally steer to avoid it. If we bump into it, we are more likely to take action so as not to over-react. If we have not put a guardrail up we are only protected by staying in our lane, so should we waver too far, we are in trouble before we start.


  2. For some this “death spiral” is a learned pattern as one grew up. I would call it then rather a “devastating misunderstanding” than a lie. As one became older it was so hard to change this cultural trait. One finally gives up. It can then become a lie: living on two levels 1) one´s good intentions 2) life in reality. This battle we all face in one way or an other. Thus I need to remind myself daily: Téo, PUT JESUS ON. You are a new creation, now let Jesus shine through, decide to love, to smile, to be truthful, grateful for a forgiving and understanding Heavenly Father.


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