Through the years, I’ve experienced a kind of love-hate relationship with the holiday season. On a scale, most weigh in as amazing and incredible, but there have been times when the festive season just stink, stank, stunk!
Looking back, the love part includes traditions such as baking cookies with the kids, decorating the tree, ice skating, and celebrating our many blessings with family and friends. Favorite memories of Christmas Eve comprise gatherings with family, attending church, and ending the evening with tucking in the amped-up kids, wrapping last-minute gifts with my husband, stuffing the stockings, while watching our favorite holiday movie. If we crawled into bed before 3:00 a.m., we counted the night a success. The highlight of the magical season came on Christmas morning when squeals could be heard and they spotted their presents under the tree. Oh, what bliss! Gotta love that guy Santa; it is a magical moment indeed.
Now for the darker side of the holiday season. It’s during those hustle and bustle moments of pushing through crowds, waiting in lines, endless cooking and cleaning, and the constant rushing, when I completely succumb to siding with the grouchy and ever-brooding Grinch. I admit, I may have even exhibited some of his mean-spirited expressions and affronted frowns. During times when I had to face loss on a grand scale, some holidays in particular have been especially difficult. With the loss of both parents and a brother near the holiday season, it gave me some insight as to why there is a high prevalence of depression, anxiety and loneliness around the holidays. Amidst those sorrowful and burdened times, leaning on my faith, my family, and friends helped tremendously. But honestly, I had to work extra hard to try to find any kind of endearment or comfort in little Cindy Lou Who.
This holiday season, I am planning on an over-the-top and madly in-love year. With the birth of my granddaughter, I’m excited to start some new traditions, while keeping some of the old intact. Like most holiday gatherings, I expect there will be some bumps in this year’s festivities, but I’m determined to enjoy the true meaning of Christmas, with all of its trimmings, including a delicious Whos’ feast.
To de-Grinch your holiday season, here are 10 tips to help you relax and enjoy.
- Keep active.
Exercise helps decrease anxiety, elevate mood and improve sleep. A 30-minute brisk walk outdoors, on a sunny day, will not only combat seasonal affective disorder, but will also help to relieve those guilty feelings for indulging in that extra piece of pie.
- Set the mood.
Throw a party that sends a message of no-fuss and relaxation. Let your guests know that you will be donning slippers and encourage them to bring a pair as well. Laughter reduces stress hormones, so be sure to include some simple, but fun activities.
- Plan a pajama day.
Rest and refuel with a PJ day. Encourage your family members to lay low and do what brings them joy. Ideas include: playing a favorite board game, bingeing on holiday classics, reading a good book or listening to relaxing music. This day is all about you.
- Stop the madness.
Throw out perfection by leaving Martha Stewart and the lavish Pinterest ideas to those who have an abundance of time on their hands. Know your limits. Ask for help. Stick with clear and realistic expectations for not only yourself, but others as well. To avoid overscheduling, keep it simple and remember that it is OK to say no sometimes.
Serving the community and performing small acts of kindness, not only brings joy to others, but it can help improve your health, boost self-esteem and create lasting impact. The benefits all-around are priceless.
- Minimize overindulging.
To help with overstuffing, begin the day with a healthy breakfast. Before heading out to a festive event, be sure to eat a healthy snack. Drink plenty of water.
- Create healthy boundaries.
For unresolved conflicts, set aside differences during the holiday season. Promote the positive by staying clear of hot topics and confrontation. For those toxic and high tension times, choosing to take flight rather than risk a fight may be in your best interest. There are tons of travel ideas available.
- Reduce holiday spending.
To avoid the post-holiday spending blues, determine your budget ahead with a list that prioritizes the essentials versus the luxuries. Consider opting for experiential gifts that create long-lasting memories rather than rising debt. Ideas include: zoo passes, museum memberships, concert tickets, gym memberships, sports tickets and cooking classes. Homemade gifts add a personalized touch without breaking the bank. Adopting the Four Gift Rule is a trendy idea that helps discourage materialism, while reducing spending. The concept is simple: buy your children no more than four gifts. Include something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.
- Start new holiday traditions.
When cookie and ornament exchanges no longer bring zest to the crowd, it may be time to start some new traditions. Keep the focus on fun and easy. Ideas include: ice skating, sledding, parades, caroling, making ornaments, recording a video message to Santa, planning a “small act of kindness” outing or adopt a family in need.
- Reach out for help.
When isolation sets in, reach out for support. Lean on loved ones in times of need. For persistent sadness, anxiousness or feelings of hopelessness, talk to your doctor or seek professional help.
Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas means a little bit more.
– The Grinch
Happy holidays to all of you!
– Deanna Robb, Parenting Program Director