The holidays are supposed to be a time of family, fun, food, love, happiness, caring and sharing. While I can’t think of one Thanksgiving song — and if you have one, please let us know — there are tons of melodies written for the sole purpose of espousing the joys of this time of year.
And this begs the question — why are holidays so often fraught with stress and drama? Is it the expectation? The juggling of different personalities at one time? Our own insecurity?
Whatever the reason — whatever YOUR reason — this time of year tends to be filled with a sort of heaviness we’d like to help relieve for you. So, before we get started with the five things we’ve discovered to make it through the holidays not just unscathed but with a smile on our faces, do this:
Sit down in a comfy spot. Preferably outside in the fresh air — whether it’s sunny, rainy, snowy, cold, hot, whatever. But get out onto the planet and sit, quietly.
Now close your eyes and take a deep, easy, calming breath in then out… in and out... Find your rhythm and get in touch with your heartbeat.
Number One: Slow your holiday roll
Before you dive into this season’s festivities — including shopping lists, planning, cooking, inviting, anything — give yourself over to the technique we suggest above. Take the time to relax and get in touch with you. There’s a frenetic energy to doing all of the things you need to do for the holidays. It doesn’t matter whether you’re just a guest or the host. All the players involved in this season’s eatings have a role and if you can take a moment to breathe, catch your bearings and slow whatever quickening may be happening with your pulse, it will help you take it all in stride.
Number Two: Embrace the imperfect
Perhaps the biggest stress inducer is how much heat we put on the events of the season, the perfection we seek that is unattainable no matter what. So often what you have in your head for the ultimate gathering is beyond your reach for the simple fact that things will happen beyond your control. Whether it’s a tiny fraction below what you had expected or the size of the Grand Canyon, what we envision and what is usually don’t mix. Aspire, for sure, but embrace and enjoy the moments as they come without judging them or feeling let down by them.
Number Three: Let the joy begin!
Not sure if you know this or not, but laughter naturally alleviates stress and boosts positivity and energy. It is one of those things our body does — just like crying — to create emotional balance. Set your sense of humor free and not in that, “Don’t lose your sense of humor” way of simply enduring stressful moments. No. This is literally allowing yourself to indulge in fun, silliness, laughter, and joy. Put on some stand-up comedy while you’re cooking in the kitchen, dance around and get others to join you, stop what you’re doing to roll around on the floor with the kids or pets, sing along with the music at the top of your lungs. Let the little kid in you rise up to help you relieve yourself of the weight of hosting or helping with the days of eating, family and celebrating.
Number Four: Be good to yourself
Eat well, exercise often, take deep breaths. The foods of the season are different than our usual and we tend to indulge and take ourselves for granted at the same time. Kind of at odds, isn’t it? We throw ourselves into the delicious and not always good for us treats at this time of year and we race around not to exercise but get things done, only to crash and burn. Don’t forget to be good to your body, mind, and spirit. Eat healthy meals and exercise. Take walks, swim, run, lift weights, play tennis — whatever you like to get your heart rate going and keep yourself physically engaged. Meditate to calm your mind. Write things down, give yourself the gift of planning without overthinking everything and ask for help when you need it, especially when you’re the one hosting whatever you have in store. By the way, all of this activity - exercise, meditation - can be done with your family and friends. It’s a great way to bond and even decompress together.
Number Five: Rest
Easier said than done, I know. If there are a lot of events you’re going to, hosting, helping plan, slowing your mind and even shutting down for a while so you can get a good night’s sleep may seem insurmountable. But you know you’re better for everyone, especially yourself if you give yourself the gift of rest. Good, true relaxation. All of these tips help you lay your head down easily and without the stress that keeps you up at night. And when you do get your rest, turn off all media, darken your room as much as possible, and create a haven for your mid-autumn and midwinter’s slumber. It’s rejuvenating in general and deliciously indulgent — without gaining you any calories, by the way, and even helping you shed some — during the busy season of giving.
Little things make all the difference
These big holiday gatherings have lots of moving parts, but it’s the little moments of peace that we give ourselves that make it easy to enjoy them. Surviving isn’t the key here. Enjoying, thriving and feeling energized by the time you spend with loved ones is important. Doing little things to relieve your stress — taking a few extra moments to get out of bed in the morning, changing one of your traditions just a tiny bit, trying something new, ANYthing — makes a huge difference.
We’re not saying the season is hard at all. It’s truly one of our favorite times of year. We do know, however, holidays come with their share of baggage, expectations and other people seeking beauty and wonder in their own way in their own experience of the events planned. Enjoy your family and friends, embrace the glorious imperfection of special moments. And remember—
Close your eyes, take a deep breath and find joy in the little moments of bliss when they come. It’s worth every hour spent cooking, cleaning, decorating and planning.