Tis the season to be jolly…right?? It’s truly a mixed bag when you poll the masses as to whether the holidays are loved, honored and embraced or whether they are dreaded, despised and stress-producing. Perhaps you fall somewhere in the middle. I know, I do. I love the holidays…mostly. But when I am in the THICK of the holiday season, I would be lying if I said I am not stressed out with over-commitments: making cookies for the cookie swap, buying gifts, sending holiday cards, attending holiday parties, hiding that damn Elf on the Shelf…and the list goes on and on. Where’s the time to relish in the moments that truly bring holiday cheer? You know the ones…snuggling with the family watching your favorite holiday movie, or sitting by the fireplace with the one you love sipping on some egg nog, or listening to some holiday songs and reflecting on the holidays of your youth. Between days being shorter, over indulgence in unhealthy foods, dwindling bank accounts and rising credit card debt and all our over-commitments, HOW can we manage to enjoy “the most wonderful time of the year”? Whether you love the holidays or dread them, here are some sanity-saving tips to keep you fa-la-la’ing into the New Year.
- Stay in the present moment: What other moment do we have other than right now? When you find yourself in a heap of holiday frenzy, just stop. Take a breath, look around and enjoy the present moment. It’s the only moment we have any control over.
- Decide to be thankful: Yes, I said decide. It’s so easy to get caught up in what’s NOT working in our lives. If we focus on all the stress, the deadlines, the shopping that must get done…we’re not truly being thankful. What do you have going on in your life that you are thankful for? Think about it…feel it. Cherish it. There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.
- Just say NO to over-scheduling: Why do we allow societal pressures (or our own!) to get us so stressed out that we don’t enjoy a season that is supposed to be about love and togetherness? Skip the holiday cards this year…you probably shared your photos on social media anyway! Decline holiday party invitation #5. Choose not to participate in your work’s “Secret Snowflake”. You won’t self-combust if you just say no to over-committing yourself…I promise. In fact, you may even thank yourself.
- Reflect back on past joyous holidays: Did you know that merely reflecting back on past positive memories can actually increase your current level of happiness? What’s your favorite holiday childhood memory? Reflect back on it. Share that memory with a loved one…and don’t forget to smile while you’re doing it.
- Get some sun: With the days being shorter in the fall and winter, a lot of people struggle with low mood. Some even struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) where depressive symptoms increase because of reduced exposure to sunlight. Take five…or ten…or twenty minutes to go outside and breath in some crisp, cool air and enjoy the sunshine on your face.
- Do your best…and be okay with it: Can’t find the perfect gift for your loved one? It’s okay. Forgot to hide the Elf on the Shelf last night? It’s okay. Didn’t get around to putting up your Christmas tree until a week before the big day. That’s okay too. You don’t have to be perfect. Just do your best.
- Focus your energy on those who lift you up: Spending your time with “Debbie Downers” is a surefire way to get depressed during a season that already produces a lot of feelings of stress and overwhelm. “Energy Vampires” will suck out whatever holiday cheer you have left…if you let them. Surround yourself with people who are happy, grateful and appreciative. Don’t allow the whiners and complainers to suck you into their vortex of negativity. Even more importantly, make sure YOU are not the one doing all the whining and complaining!
- Exercise/eat right/sleep: While obvious, it is so, so, so important to take care of yourself…not just around the holidays, but always. Eat nutritious food, get enough sleep each night and get yourself moving. Even laps around the mall can get your heartrate up. You only have one body…treat it right.
- Help a friend/volunteer/donate: There is loads of research which shows that helping others can improve one’s overall happiness. The holidays are a time for giving…and it doesn’t have to be just gifts. Watch a friend’s child so that she can get an evening to herself. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Donate winter clothing/coats that you no longer wear to local homeless shelters. Buy a coffee for the person in line behind you at Starbucks (hopefully that person will be me!).
- Stop comparing yourself to others: It’s okay if your cookies aren’t as tasty as your co-worker’s cookies. It’s okay if you’re house isn’t decorated like an image out of Pottery Barn magazine like your neighbor’s house. It’s okay if you bought all your nieces and nephews gift cards for the holidays this year even though your sister bought each of your kids creative, thoughtful gifts. Comparing yourself to others will never make you happy. Be happy that you’re you because you’re pretty great just the way you are.
Try some or all the strategies above and maybe, just maybe you’ll be able to enjoy “the most wonderful time of the year”.
By Lucinda Testo, MS, LPC
Photo by Jeffrey Wegrzyn on Unsplash