The month of December opens with great anticipation and excitement as we head straight towards Hanukah, Christmas, and Kwanza. COVID may change the way we shop this year, but it won’t stop the stress and pressure we place on ourselves to create the perfect holiday. Self imposed expectations of what the perfect holiday looks like diminishes the joy and peace offered by the season. Holiday stress is seductive. We don’t realize we are falling into the dark, stress pit until it’s too late. We fool ourselves into thinking we are in control and acting out of love, but instead we overextend ourselves physically, emotionally, and financially. If you are tired of “surviving” the holidays take a step back, reflect, and make a plan to reclaim the joy that is waiting for you.
Don’t survive, thrive this holiday season! Here are a few suggestions to help you find joy during the holidays:
1. Gift Time and Attention
We are wired to equate material gift giving with the holidays. What is this season really about? The best gift you can give is your time. Sharing time is how we say, “I love you,” and, “You are important to me.” Set aside time to spend with your spouse and children. Schedule a phone call or Zoom call with a friend. Have a wine date with your girlfriends online and laugh until you hurt. Gifting someone your time and attention is more special and memorable than any store bought gift.
2. Set a Realistic Budget
There is nothing worse than over extending yourself financially during the holidays. Suzie Orman says, “You can’t give what you don’t have,” and I live by this rule. The people that love you and truly care about you don't want you to get into debt or miss paying your bills especially during these COVID challenging times. Gifts should be tokens of affection not centerpieces of wealth. Take an honest look at your bank account and determine how much “free” money you actually have to spend on gifts. By creating a realistic budget for gifts we honor ourselves by setting a healthy, sustainable financial boundary. “It’s the thought that counts,” is not just what your Mama says, it’s the absolute truth. A true friend will cherish the gesture and the thought behind your gift because they cherish you.
3. Morning Reflection
I have played with my morning routine to see what truly works and what does not. Creating a morning routine that begins with reflection is key to reducing stress throughout your day. So many of us wake up and grab our phones. We are instantly inundated with news headlines and social media posts that only create mental noise. Instead of reaching for your phone as soon as your eyes open, capitalize on your refreshed morning state. Be still. Relax. Take in the morning sunlight. Breathe. Reflect on the fact that this is a new day filled with new possibilities. Think about how you can serve and help others. Offer thanks for the gift of life you are experiencing at that very moment. Think about your loved ones and feel grateful for their presence in your life. Do this instead of grabbing your phone first thing in the morning and a sense of peace will be yours the entire day.
4. Positive Self-Talk
We are constantly thinking and making self-judgments. We all know the phrase, “You are your own worst enemy,” and we are our own worst critics. Stop negative self-talk by using affirmations when stress begins to build. Quietly say these to yourself while focusing on your breath.
I will find joy right now where I stand.
I accept myself and know all is well.
The harmony of the season brings me joy.
I stand in gratitude for all the love that is present in my life.
5. Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously
A sense of importance is key for healthy confidence, but it needs to be tempered with the realistic view that the world does not revolve around you. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Most things are really not that big of a deal. When you misstep, forget, or simply f-up, have a good laugh and move on.
6. Creative Gift Giving
Think about what you can create rather than buy. Every Christmas I open my memory box, look at each gift that has been made for me over the years, and have a good, joyful cry. One of my all-time, favorite, handmade gifts came from my husband. He wrote a beautiful poem for me on beautiful stationary and made a collage of photos of our family and framed it. I was truly speechless. When someone takes the time to “make a gift” rather than buy a gift, they are gifting you their time and their vulnerability. This vulnerability leads to deeper affection and connection. From beginning to end the giver magically infuses love into their gift for the recipient. As we all know from Peter Pan, “Love is a powerful thing.” Get creative and let your love flow in your handmade crafts. (I will be adding a creative gift idea guide next week!)
7. Write a Letter to Someone Special
2020 has shown us how important family and friends are to our very existence. I am grateful everyday for the love and support I receive from my tribe. I’m a big fan of writing letters especially thank you notes. Writing can be an easier way to express our true feelings. Write a letter or a short note to someone you cannot live without. Tell them how important they are to you and recognize all that you appreciate about them. Don’t hold back. Be genuine and vulnerable and let them know how important they are in your life.
8. Schedule Sexy Time
A great way to eliminate stress is to enjoy intimacy with your partner. During the holidays our tired, over extended selves usually just drop into bed exhausted. We’ve all been there! Clinical studies indicate that romance can be a great stress reducer and it also creates healthy connection. Schedule sexy time with your partner and follow through. Set the mood with candles and oils for full relaxation. Start with a massage and let the rest build organically. Have fun and enjoy!
9. Go For a Walk
Going for a walk either through your neighborhood or local scenic path will recharge your batteries. Walking gets your blood circulating, your breath regulated, and opens your mind to creativity. Last night we walked our dogs in the evening and stopped to enjoy all the beautifully decorated homes. We returned feeling calm, relaxed, and in the holiday spirit. Go for it, take a walk!
10. Listen to Music
Music is therapy. Music transports us to different places, regions, and times. Turning on some eighties tunes always reminds me of my younger years and quickly puts a smile on my face. Holiday music fills us with joy and nostalgia. Remember singing in your elementary school holiday show? When you are feeling out of sorts or a little anxious, turn up the music and let the melody carry you away.
You got this. Create your own plan during the holidays and know that you are not defined by the gifts you give. You are resilient and flexible. The holidays are about joy. By making the decision to experience joy, you won’t just survive, you will thrive this holiday season. Happy Holidays!