It’s officially the holiday season. The days between Thanksgiving and New Years are filled with occasions to create memories that will last a lifetime. Unfortunately, for many of us, they are also filled with plenty of stress.
The holidays, and the season of giving, brings with it the tendency to give too much of ourselves. There are always plans to be made, presents to be wrapped and self-imposed expectations to be met.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to enjoy the holidays even more this year by somehow managing to keep the stress under control? Wouldn’t it be nice to feel a little more holiday cheer because you actually have some energy left?
It isn’t as out of reach as it may seem. To enjoy the holidays in a way that fills your spirit, all you need to do is take a little time to make yourself a priority. Here are a few tips for keeping the stress low, your sanity in check and your heart full.
Let the Sun Shine
Even a few minutes of sunshine a day can boost your mood and alleviate stress. Those of you who live in northern climates during the winter may find this to be more of a challenge, but hear me out.
Just 10-15 minutes of sunshine is enough to improve your vitamin D level, which is important for staying healthy. Vitamin D helps you sleep better, helps to keep blood pressure low and is a proven mood booster.
But, how, you ask are you supposed to soak in 15 minutes of rays when the skies are gray and filled with snowflakes? The answer is to get out there anyway!
UV rays still shine through even the densest of snow clouds, you just might have to stay out a bit longer to soak in enough. Now is also a good time to think about a vitamin D supplement. While natural vitamin D is best, supplements make for a great alternative when short daylight hours limit access to sunshine.
Don’t Let Your Routine Slide
We are creatures of habit that thrive on routine. When our routines get interrupted, we become more prone to stress and all of its side effects, even when the interruption is for things we enjoy.
During the holidays it feels like there is always something else to be doing. You might skip your afternoon walk because you have to make an emergency trip to the store for a last minute gift, or you might snack through a dinner because you are in charge of planning the office party and there just isn’t time for a homecooked meal.
The reasons our routines get uprooted during the holidays are endless, but for the sake of your own sanity, it’s time to step back.
Make a commitment to yourself that some parts of your routine are non-negotiable. For example, if you normally get up a little earlier in the morning for some quiet time, don’t hit the snooze button because last night’s gift wrapping session kept you up too late. A little extra time to yourself is more restorative than 15 more minutes of sleep.
The same applies to other daily routines like workouts, walking the dog, reading to the kids, etc. You have made these things part of your life because they are important to you. If holiday life is so crazy that your little daily routines start to slide, it is time to step back and acknowledge that you are trying to do too much. Then give yourself permission to take care of yourself by making time for your daily routines.
Sniff Some Citrus
So, let’s say that you haven’t been able to get all that vitamin D, and you let the daily routines slide, even though you know that you need them, and now you are feeling the consequences. You are fatigued, stressed and your fuse is growing short. Is there a quick, short term remedy to help get you back on track?
The answer is yes, and its glorious citrus. The scent of any citrus fruit alone is enough to perk you up, invigorate and brighten your mood. Any citrus scent will work, but grapefruit and lemon seem to be the preferred scents for putting stress and tension on the back burner.
Keep a bottle of citrus essential oils around to grab and sniff when you feel the stress building up, or you can use a diffuser so that the scent floats lightly through your entire home. Not into essential oils? No worries. Fresh citrus fruit works just as well. Cut up some grapefruit and simmer it in a pot on the stove, and even add a cinnamon stick for a holiday touch. Or, inhale the scent of a lemon as you slice it to put in your water or tea. Consuming fresh citrus fruits means extra vitamin C in addition to the aromatic perk.
Keep it all in Perspective
The one thing that eventually gets almost all of us is the idea that it all needs to be perfect. Picture perfect holiday images on social media and sites like Pinterest haven’t made this any easier.
Make a promise to yourself to keep things in perspective this year. The cookies don’t need to be perfectly decorated, the bows don’t need to be perfectly tied and if you don’t get around to making your signature holiday dish, the world will go on.
It only takes a minute to eat a cookie, seconds to unwrap a gift, and a dish missing from the holiday buffet is a chance to come up with a new favorite. Why run yourself into the ground over the smallest of details when you could be spending that time relaxing and enjoying the spirit of the season instead?
Make Room for New Traditions
When you get so caught up in everything that must be done, you don’t leave any room for new customs or traditions to form. If a holiday ritual has become more burdensome than joyous, it is ok to let it go, even if you have been doing it for years. When you get rid of what doesn’t bring you joy, new opportunities will always arise.
Let’s say you decide to skip out on the neighborhood holiday dinner that always turns gossipy, and instead pick up a new holiday movie, slip on your pajamas and have a quiet movie night with the kids? Boom. New tradition made, and its one that actually relaxes and restores you instead of contributing to your holiday burnout.
Have a Tech Free Holiday
We’ve all had a chuckle, or maybe a sad sigh, at the memes and cartoons where everyone has their heads bent down focusing on the phone in their hands, instead of the world around them. Unfortunately, many of us look at our own holiday tables only to see the same scene. This year, set a few tech use ground rules.
Make a point of saying no phones during family meals or holiday gatherings, unless of course, it is to take a picture. These are the moments that we should be focusing on the people and experiences around us. Even have a phone check-in at the door if need be.
This applies to you too, and not just at holiday gatherings. Put the phone down. Stop obsessing over everyone’s perfect pictures or trying to find the rock bottom price on that one must-have gift. Putting aside the tech will help you slow down, prioritize and even give you more free time to take care of your ever-growing to-do list.
The Spirit of the Holidays Has Nothing to do With Emptying Your Wallet
The holidays are stressful for many of us because of the financial strain they put on the budget. Maybe you are having a hard-enough time keeping your head above water financially, and now you have to shell out money for gifts. Or, maybe you are stressing out about how to afford the airfare to get your family of five across the country to visit relatives this year. This is the time of year when the economy starts to make up for lost ground, and it’s the time of year that many people end up in debt that will actually take them years to pay off.
If finances are tight for you, or even if they aren’t, focus on what you can give or share that won’t come with additional financial stress. For example, commit to bringing your grandparents dinner once a month for the year, or offer to babysit for the new mom who hasn’t had a moment to herself, let alone the time to get out and get anything done. Volunteer at local organizations that need your time more than your money.
This is also a great chance to start a new tradition with friends or family where you agree to a no gift policy, but maybe do something else instead. Everyone donates $5 to sponsor a family during the holidays, or each year pick one person to be the host and everyone comes with a handmade ornament to place on their tree. There are so many ways to share the holidays that don’t involve maxing out your credit cards.
A Little Pampering Goes a Long Way
Finally, make the time to take care of yourself in indulgent little ways. Get the manicure, take advantage of the huge sale and buy yourself the sweater you have been eyeing all season. Go for a walk, or enjoy a glass of champagne, garnished with sugared cranberries, all by yourself in sweet silence. One of the easiest ways to a stress-free holiday is by taking care of yourself with the same amount of commitment that you have for taking care of others.
The holidays truly can be the most wonderful time of the year, if you take the time to take care of yourself, and keep everything in perspective. This year, make happiness, peace and fulfillment your priorities. Happy Holidays and a wonderful New Year!