The holidays are a beautiful time of year. We get time to spend with our families, we eat great food, and we most likely we have some warm holiday traditions that may also include meaningful or spiritual values. When handled well, holidays can be a time of connection and emotional reward.
But, for many people the holidays can also be terribly stressful. Pressures, like little time off or less money than we feel we need, can be challenging. Managing family obligations and dynamics can feel overtaxing. Even managing the number of commitments, such as holiday festivals, choir concerts, ballet recitals, and sporting events can seem overreaching, particularly when they are added the other pressures of everyday life. For many of us, the holiday season also includes more cooking, cleaning, and shopping – on top of a busy schedule.
Many times, all of these commitments replace the usual down time needed for recharging and relaxation. Ironically, the more time we need for ourselves, the less time we have.
By reading this article, you are doing something to change that. You are considering better ways to live and survive the holiday season. Below are some skills that anyone can use to make the holiday season brighter and more joyful.
Decide to make your self-care a priority
Why is this important? If you take good care of you, those around you will be happier too. We do not exist in a vacuum. We are in a world where we interact with and influence one another. If we are overtired, irritable, or stressed, everyone around us feels it too. By taking care of yourself, you are giving your loved ones a better chance at having a happier holiday season.
Budget extra time – And you can always use the extra time
As described in the beginning of this article, the holiday seasons are incredibly busy. There are the expected parts of being busy, such as shopping, cooking, and activities. But what happens when the unexpected happens? Your child reminds you that you are responsible for two dozen cookies tomorrow, you are to help with the class play, or your child comes home with a notice of another concert or holiday show. Or the lines at the stores were too long to get the gift you wanted. By clearing a few hours from your schedule every week, you may have more flexibility when all of the good, but unexpected things pop up.
While you are budgeting extra time, add in extra time just for you
Whatever extra energy you put into other people or projects, you need to put back into yourself. It’s that simple. It can be something simple, or small, but aim to do something nice for yourself every day. Psychologists often call this “pleasant events scheduling.” Research finds that using this approach can help boost mood, and decrease sadness and irritability. Some examples include:
- A bubble bath
- Nice smelling shower gel during your shower
- An afternoon nap
- Reading your book for an hour without interruptions
- A walk in the afternoon sunshine (if you have any)
- Sitting in front of your sun-lamp for 20 minutes
- Polishing your nails with a fun color
- An adult coloring book
- Art projects that relax you
- Listening to music
- Dancing to music
- Crossword puzzles
- Allowing yourself to look at some P’Interest articles that inspire you.
- Snow-angels or sledding
- Watching humorous clips of funny videos
Remember that there is a difference between being thoughtful and trying to please everyone
It is normal to try and offer thoughtful gifts or gestures to people in the holiday season. For example, you may remember how much Uncle Bob likes your jello salad, or you may try to find a thoughtful gift for a family member. However, it is ok not to stay up to 3:00 am making that jello salad just so Uncle Bob is happy. And it is ok not to go to 5 stores to make sure you have the “perfect gift.” Thoughtfulness doesn’t mean sacrificing your own health and resources so that others are happy. It means doing the best you can with whatever time and energy you have. People who love you will appreciate your efforts.
Take time to eat healthy
- Eating a balanced diet and taking a daily vitamin if necessary will help boost health, particularly during flu season or if you are more stressed. Furthermore, good nutrition helps our bodies and brains what they need when they need it.
- Consider increasing Omega 3 fatty acids, either by eating more salmon (or other cold water fish) or flax, or through nutritional supplements. There has been research that to support reduction in irritability and anxiety symptoms while taking these supplements.
- Do not allow large binges of unhealthy foods. These can interfere with digestion and cause stomachaches, interfere with sleep, and contribute to fatigue and/or poor health. None of these are good for stress.
- Do not skip meals. People with stressful events in their lives are often more sensitive to the effects of low blood sugar. Make sure there is healthy protein at every meal, and regular snacks throughout the day.
- Make sure that you are getting enough water throughout the day. Dehydration can also result in poor health, which contributes to fatigue, lethargy, and stomachaches. At home, serve water at every meal, and have a designated glass in public view to encourage regular water usage.
Take time to sleep
- Go to bed at the same time every night, even on weekends.
- Try to wake up at around the same time every morning, even on weekends. A little variability is ok, but it should not vary by hours, or it can start a pattern of sleep disruption.
- Turn off screens and devices an hour before bedtime. The artificial light from screens has been found to interfere with sleep onset and maintenance.
- Have a nightly ritual to ease into bed. It may be something like snack, bath, brush teeth, pj’s, relaxation or story time, and then sleep.
- Practice relaxation. The more you practice relaxation during the day, the more it will help you or your family member at night when it is time to go to sleep, or if you wake up in the middle of the night.
Use your senses
One of the best thing about the holidays is all of the smells and sights of the season. Take time to breathe in the scents of pine and holiday tea. Notice the way the lights and the snowflakes sparkle. Appreciate some of the tastes of the season in moderation. Notices the chilly air on your face or the crunch of snow beneath your feet. Listen to some peaceful holiday music. All of these sense will help you live in the moment, and let the worry about future events fall away, even if for a few minutes.
The research is clear. People who practice and use gratitude are happier and more resilient to adversity and stress. Take time to write down things for which you are grateful, either in a notebook or in an app. It will change your life, and your mood. Finally, enjoy yourself. Do your best. And remember to find the good in everything.
Happy Holidays from All of Us at Hope Springs!