The winter holidays are supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year” but too often they don’t quite live up to the hype. There’s the lifelong disappointment of never getting that fire truck you wanted when you were five, extra demands, binging (food, drink, parties, take your pick), and our all time fav, family conflict. These magical stressors combined with the ordinary stressors we face all year can lead to sadness, loneliness, anger, anxiety, headaches, insomnia, and a variety of other mental and physical ailments. The excitement most of us felt as children has been replaced by the desire to sprint through the last six weeks of the year as quickly as possible.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are six ways to recapture the wonder of your youth, or at least survive without any casualties this year:
Let Go of Expectations
Your family wants a rundown of your dating life... Every. Single. Year. [Insert massive sigh] You never really want any of the Hannukkah gifts your husband is beyond excited to give you. But overall you love these people and they love you. So let it all go. Tell yourself you’re going to enjoy them and the holidays for exactly who and what they are and put on your cute little elf face. And if you can’t...
Borrow the old school D.A.R.E. phrase “Just Say No”
Only say yes to what and whom adds joy to your life. You don’t have to go to that office party if you really don’t like anyone you work with. Or if you’re too exhausted to spend both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with your family only choose one. Or if they’re truly nasty to you, spend the day with people who actually value you. You are under no obligation to anyone for anything. Except maybe if you have kids. And they really want presents…
Step Outside of the Box
The cost and magnitude of present giving can cause even the jolliest of us to attempt hibernation through the month of December. So only spend what you can afford and if you can’t afford anything there are plenty of low or no cost ways to give a gift. Pick up some pine cones and needles off the sidewalk and turn them into a beautiful wreath. Transform old crayons into candles. Create a stuffed toy out of your child’s favorite tshirt they keep trying to squeeze into. Some DIY and creative thinking are good stress relievers in and of themselves.
Make Peace with the Past
Most families have their… shall we say… stuff… And that stuff always comes up during the holidays. If after some serious reflection you realize you’re related to some decent human beings and everyone’s doing their best, move on. Relationships with loved ones-and your sanity-are far more important than holding onto grudges. But if after that serious reflection you realize you were born into a brood of sucky people, again, you don’t owe them anything.
If you truly have no one and that’s the saddest thought to you in the world put yourself out there. Smile and chat with whomever you encounter. Volunteer at a shelter. Even if you temporarily reside at that shelter they’d appreciate the help. Helping others often boosts your mood and leads to connection with others. And if you can’t muster up the motivation to engage others perhaps seeking some professional help would be the best gift you can give yourself.
Take Care of Your Health
The deliciousness is everywhere! Grandma’s sugar cookies. Spiked egg nog. By all means please indulge but exercise moderation. And while you’re at it exercise your body. And get enough sleep. And all that self-care stuff you already know to do all year round. You still need to take care of your health and that means eating a balanced enough diet, getting enough sleep, and moving those bones of yours. This will all assist your mood in being able to handle another one of Uncle John’s dad jokes.
The winter holidays can be a trying time for many but we always have the power to transform them into whatever we want them to be. Set boundaries, find gratitude for what you do have, and create your own traditions. Here's to a very happy holiday season this year and for many more to come!