How to survive the holidays without tearing your hair out.
So, it’s getting to be that time of year again—lights are beginning to appear on houses, tinny carols are getting piped through store sound systems, and everywhere there is a feeling of….anxiety? For many of us, the holidays are a fine stew of mixed emotions: often stress, anxiety, dread, loneliness, as well as grief. Hardly the Holiday Spirit, in a culture of mandated holiday spirit, but the (sometimes not so) hidden truth for many people facing the holidays.
We often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to feel a certain way, behave a certain way, get that perfect gift, do everything holiday-related in order to make the most of the season. The end result of this is anything but jolly—stress, depressed, and sometimes downright hostility (does anyone else remember Festivus for the rest of us?).
For those of us who lost someone close to us during the past year, the holidays can bring painful reminders of our new reality, along with a more pronounced sense of loss, as reminders of past holidays with our passed loved ones are all around us. It is not uncommon for those of us who are grieving to want to forgo the holidays altogether, hide from the tinsel, ignore party invitations. It all feels anything but merry and bright.
Perhaps, during this time of year, we feel the pressure—or even receive the mandate—to spend time with family members we generally avoid the rest of the year. The holidays can then feel like a dreadful required holiday work party we cannot escape, but suffer through, year after year.
Whatever the reasons, if you face the holidays with more dread than heavenly peace, here are my top ten holiday self-care tips for surviving and, perhaps, even enjoying December again:
10. Gift cards. I know, I know, gift cards are not perhaps as “profound” or as glamorous as a gift painstakingly picked out after much deliberation. However, gift cards are nearly always well received by the recipient (who, after all, doesn’t like to buy something for themselves with someone else’s money, no guilt attached?). Gift cards can also be purchased in bulk with an economizing of time, effort, and even finances that no other gift can allow. Christmas shopping done in less than an hour, no crowds necessary.
9. Plan a Get-Away Vacation. Sometimes the only way to gracefully get out of visiting with the dreaded relatives is to plan to not be there at all. After all, you can’t fight with your sister about some perceived slight if you are on the beach in Hawaii and she is here.
8. Go off the Beaten Path for Holiday Experiences. One way to truly enjoy the season is to get outside, into nature. Whatever your fitness level, there is a walk or a hike in our beautiful Pacific Northwest for you. The beauty of the season can be found in the red of bare Burning bushes and Holly berries, the green of the evergreens, the white of snow in the mountains, and peaceful quiet of many of our trails near and far.
7. Space out Social Commitments with Quiet Evenings. As I wrote in an earlier blog (Triggers), having too many social outings back to back is exhausting and depleting for all but the most extroverted of us. Plan to have a Quiet Evening at home for every Social Event you feel you need to attend.
6. Go Easy on the Egg Nog and Gingerbread. Alcohol and sugar both raise inflammation in our bodies, are difficult to digest, and raise anxiety. Opt for healthier alternatives as much as possible to set your body and brain up for success during this season of excess.
5. Get Enough Sleep. I know, I know, I sound like a broken record, er, CD, er broken hyperlink…? (I think I just dated myself), when I say this, but I really cannot over-emphasize the importance of sufficient, quality sleep. You cannot have a Holly Jolly Christmas when you are sleep deprived.
4. Go Watch a Funny Holiday Movie. Time to dig out A Christmas Story (“Show Mommy how the piggies eat!”), or another of your favorites. Laughter triggers endorphins in our brains, and stimulates our immune systems. As this is also the season of the flu and the cold, we can use all help we can get.
3. Remember to Treat Yourself. Don’t forget to give yourself a present this year, whether that is the gift of time for yourself, a bit of pampering, or some other longed for activity or item, gifting yourself is a way of telling yourself that you are worthy of being treated well.
2. Don’t Forget Your Exercise. When we are feeling stressed by approaching deadlines and/or other demands on our time and resources, we often throw out the very things that de-stress us—exercise being a common thing to go out the window. This is a mistake, because exercise not only triggers endorphin release, leading to improved mood, but it also works off the extra calories we generally consume during this time, warding off gaining those extra pounds that seem to sneak in and stay like a bad house guest. Exercising also gets us out the door, and gives us a break from visiting with Aunt Mildred and her fruit cake.
And finally—1. Remember to Breathe (now you knew that was coming, didn’t you?).
Whatever your beliefs, and whatever your feelings about the holidays, whether you feel more like Scrooge than Bob Cratchitt, I, along with everyone at OptimalLife Wellness Center, wish you and yours a Peaceful and Stress-free Holiday Season, and a very Happy New Year.