In the USA, “The Holidays” broadly means the entire season from before Thanksgiving to after Christmas and New Year’s Day. This season sweeps through Yule, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, HumanLight, and Ramadan, with Boxing Day on December 26th. This year, The Holidays seemed to start before Halloween: I saw my first red- and green-labeled carton of eggnog around October 25. In this country’s popular culture, The Holidays are supposed to be a happy, bustling time when people love to buy gifts, decorate seasonally, have large gatherings, play and sing seasonal music, and eat and drink copious quantities of rich and sweet foods. Yet many feel mildly- to completely stressed during this time. If you are one of those who get stressed, these tips are for you.
First, simplify. It’s important to realize The Holiday Season now reaches over almost a 3-month period, so you need a strategy other than trying to ignore it. What plan have you used for previous holiday seasons? Write down everything you usually expect from yourself, such as: buy seasonal candy, put it in seasonal candy dishes in home and office, buy cards and mail, buy gifts for 10 relatives and take or ship, attend 4 parties with special appetizers you made, attend 2 holiday concerts or dance performances, attend 2 on-holiday family dinners, take the kids for a carriage ride around Kierland or Central Park, take holiday photos, post all those activities on FaceBook, feed the homeless at St. Vincent de Paul on Christmas Day, buy larger pants in New Year’s sales. Whew! Did you feel energized, or did you feel tired and worn after reading this list? Now that you have written it all down, try cutting those expectations and events by half. Now order the gifts and have them shipped. Use a card service to get the cards out, or email your good wishes, or skip the cards altogether this year. Take the photos with your phone or your kid’s phone, and post them and your holiday wishes on FaceBook.
Second, take timeouts. Even if you cut your expectations of yourself, there is a lot of busy activity around you, wherever you go. It’s a very stimulating time of year, and now it’s a quarter of the year. It’s like the anti-vacation. So you need microvacations to see you through. Take quiet moments in a still area of your home. Exhale and drop your shoulders, imagining quiet energy moving from your head down to your toes; picture your cells holding onto that quiet. If you enjoy praying or meditating, take time for those regularly, giving them your full attention. If you like to read fiction, take two hours at a time to get totally involved in a good novel. Practice totally letting go of the hustle and bustle around you.
Third, give your body extra support. Drink extra water between holiday beverages. Eat fresh fruit, vegetables, and lean protein whenever you have the option; these will strengthen you between sweet and rich holiday meals. Add ginger to your chicken soup to counter the effects of sugar. If you can nap, take naps. Different lengths of naps work for different people, but research has shown that naps as short as 20 minutes can totally refresh you. Create time to walk, hike, or work out, to flush the toxins and clear your mind.
Fourth, enjoy what nurtures you. Whatever there is about The Holidays that fills you, uplifts you, or restores you, keep those pieces. If spending a day with Grandma makes you feel great, be sure to spend a day with Grandma. If Skyping with your niece or grandchild leaves you joyful all day, make time to be fully present for that. If walking alone in the snow, or attending Midnight Mass, or journaling, or practicing your guitar, leaves you feeling calm and happy, make those priorities.
Take these tips to heart, and you will beat stress during The Holidays. Remember, it’s your life, and you are always at choice. Will you choose to take care of yourself during this season? It’s up to you.
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