The holidays are a time for warmth and joy, but there’s no doubt that many of us also feel stress, fatigue, and worry.
Sometimes we put extra pressure on ourselves to find that perfect gift, make everyone in the family happy, and create the perfect holiday meal or treats.
We can find ourselves running around frazzled trying to get everything done, then when the actual festivities arrive, end up disappointed in the outcome.
It’s true that there is only so much we can control about this time of year. To ensure you find some joy in your life no matter what, try these seven tips.
1. Accept family and friends for who they are.
You probably go into the holidays hoping that everyone will be on his or her best behavior. Most people probably will be, but sometimes, someone will disappoint you. Old grievances may come up, or old arguments that you just can’t seem to put to rest no matter how hard you try.
Instead of beating a dead horse, so to speak, try to accept everyone just as they are. Lower your expectations, and realize that everything doesn’t have to be perfect for you to enjoy getting together with loved ones. Most likely, there will be bumps in the road, but you don’t have to suffer because of them.
Relax, take a deep breath, and work on how you can manage your own responses to avoid any big blow-ups. In the end, you are the only one you can control.
2. Ditch the guilt.
Guilt is an easy emotion to fall into over the holidays. You may feel guilty that you don’t have the finances you hoped for to get the gifts you wanted, or guilty that you can’t take as much time off as you planned, or travel as much as family wanted you to, or whatever. It’s so easy to feel guilty for something!
Try to think back on what you enjoyed about the holidays when you were growing up. Likely it was the simple things, like playing in the snow with your family and friends, sharing a warm meal or a cup of cider around the fireplace, or exchanging homemade gifts that didn’t cost you much more than your time and creativity.
Leave guilt out of your holiday celebrations. Whatever you can do is enough.
3. Ease up on your schedule.
It’s easy to overschedule ourselves during the holidays. Before you know it, you’re beat and you still have five parties to go to.
Try to cut back on both your holiday activities and any other activities you have going on during the holiday months. You’re going to need time to recover and regroup. The more of this kind of time you can give yourself, the more likely you will enjoy the holidays. So don’t be afraid to say “no” when you need to.
Better yet, plan some downtime into your schedule—time to take a walk, turn in early, and just do “nothing.”
4. Stay healthy, but don’t stress about it.
Most of us know that we tend to gain weight over the holidays, and in most cases, fail to lose it afterwards. That’s not healthy, so you may be worried about over-indulging.
Try to stay healthy without the stress. The best way to do this is to cut your servings at each event. Allow yourself to enjoy those foods you love—just take less than what you’d normally take. Eat slowly. Savor the flavors. This isn’t the time to police yourself too much. Just think of two words when it comes to eating: slow and small. It works.
5. Meditate each morning.
Even if you don’t already meditate, this can be a good time to start, as it can help bring peace and calm into your heart when you’re feeling frazzled and stressed. After you get up, find a quiet place to sit, set a timer for five minutes, close your eyes, and focus on one of your favorite places to be. For that five minutes, allow your thoughts to come and go, and keep bringing them back to that favorite place.
Picture it in all its detail. Allow yourself to imagine how it would smell. How warm or cold is it? What are the textures around you? The more detail you can bring up in your mind, the more deeply you’ll go into your meditation, so that when the timer goes off, you’ll come back refreshed and ready for the day.
Exercise is one of the best solutions to stress that we have. You may be inclined to eat a lot and sleep during the holidays, but if you can work a walk into your schedule, you’ll definitely feel better. Exercise boosts feel-good serotonins in the brain, and can also help you better deal with other sorts of stress.
Get the family involved if you can. Try a game of basketball or baseball, a walk after dinner, or if the weather is nice, a bike ride around the park. Being active with others also helps improve everyone’s mood and interaction with one another.
7. Have fun capturing memories.
Holidays can be memorable times—why not have some fun capturing the moments? Take pictures and then arrange them in a fun scrapbook, or get everyone involved in creating a family video. Ask everyone to write down what they enjoyed about the holiday and drop it in a specially decorated jar, to be opened in five years. Create note cards with the following questions on them, and then have family members draw a card and answer:
- What was your favorite memory from this year?
- What one thing do you hope happens to you in the next five years?
- What was your biggest mistake this year?
- What was your biggest triumph this year?
- What challenge did you overcome this year?
- Who gave you a helping hand that you’d like to thank?
You get the idea. It’s a fun way to share with one another, and if you want to create some laughter, add in some cards asking about the most embarrassing moment, or the funniest thing that happened, or the weirdest thing that happened. Assign someone to be photographer so you can capture each person’s story.
How do you make sure you enjoy the holiday season?