As much as we would wish otherwise, the holidays end up being a stressful time for many of us. In many ways, it feels like it has gotten harder with the advent of social media and platforms such as Pinterest, where we all can feel like we are hopeless crafters together. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of Pinterest and I have found many inspirations for projects, but it is so easy to get discouraged when my results aren’t anywhere close to picture perfect. (Enter, Etsy.) For me, once the result becomes more important than the experience, it is easy to lose the pleasure of the holiday.
A big part of staying healthy for me is to manage my stress levels. When I am successful, I enjoy myself more, sleep better, enjoy my family more, and am less likely to get physically sick.
This year, I am making an effort to bring back my holiday joy once again. It’s a hard time of year for my family these days, with my mom passing away so close to Christmas three years ago. Missing her will never go away, but the memories my little family is making help immensely. It is easy to forget how simple the joy is at a young age, before life and the expectations of others get in the way.
One thing that has been reinforced over and over again in my life over the past few years is that all emotions and feelings are valid. Whether it is fear, grief, anger, happiness, what you feel is valid. This can be hard enough throughout the year, but the holiday season seems to amp up expectations. Expectations for family harmony, for a Martha Stewart Christmas dinner, or for enforced family togetherness. Whatever your expectations may be, having them and not realizing them is a great source of stress this time of year. I invite you to let go of the expectations and let go of some of the stress that we voluntarily place on ourselves.
In all of the family togetherness, don’t forget to take some time for yourself if you need it. Take the opportunity for a solitary walk around the block, or a nap. We can’t take care of others well if we aren’t taking care of ourselves first.
Balance out the extra sweets with some additional veggies in other meals. Don’t be afraid to add veggies to your breakfast routine. Growing up, we were always big fans of an egg and vegetable scramble. It is a wonderful way to use up leftover vegetables and include a variety throughout the day.
Find a way to give a little back. This year, we decided our daughter was old enough to understand that Christmas was more than a day after a visit from Santa, so we decided to adopt two service men for the holidays. The kids helped my husband put together a package for each of them, then drew some pictures and helped write a short note. They were so excited when my husband read them the thank you letter we received in response. Helping others, even in a small way like this, helps ourselves too. We are trying to teach our kids that bringing joy and a spirit of giving is what this season is about. Sure the gifts are nice, but giving to others helps nurture our emotional health as well as bringing joy to all those involved.
Above all, be gentle with yourself. There are many landmines that we have to navigate around the holidays and whether you have family difficulties, are signing up to deliver that picture perfect holiday meal single handedly, or simply are missing loved ones, it is all okay. I’m planning on having a good cry then a snuggle with my kids and will toast my mom on December 18th to make room for bringing joy back to my Christmases.