I admit that my focus here is on Christmas because it has become far too commercial, but really, we’ve gotten away from the meaning of many holidays. At any rate, here are a few suggestions on ways to put joy back into your holidays.
- Simplify. Enjoy being with family, watching children celebrate, good food – remember the GOOD things about the holidays. Don’t get caught up in commercialism, overindulgence, trying to go to every party or event. Pick a few nice events that you really want to attend and simply spend time enjoying family and friends otherwise.
- Don’t overspend – or overindulge. Overindulgence in food or alcohol (or both) will leave you feeling out of sorts, uncomfortable, and generally unhappy. Enjoy the treats of the holiday – but do it in moderation. As for spending, you can avoid that type of hangover as well, by not overspending either. Buy gifts – or better yet, make them – that mean something between you and the recipient. Spend time really thinking of something they would enjoy.
- Eat what you enjoy – but enjoy what you eat! It is so easy to overdo it with food. Keep in mind at each meal that it isn’t the last chance for you to eat anything on the table; you can always get more at the next meal. Try to keep your portions down to reasonable sizes; if you are going to have dessert, for example, have a small piece of pie rather than a larger one. Eat one cookie, rather than four. Eat only what you really enjoy – once you are getting full, you lose the true enjoyment of what you are eating.
- Say NO. It really is possible to tell a friend or family member, “I’m sorry but I can’t make it that night. Why don’t we try to get together when things quiet down a little?” Just be firm and polite.
- Stop…and look at the lights, listen to carols, visit Santa (or not). Take the children on a drive on weekends to see the Christmas lights. Listen to Christmas carols and sing along. Visit Santa, if that is important to you as a family tradition – or skip it if it causes too much aggravation and stress. Focus on what is important to you and your family and cut out the things that simply do not measure up.
- If it is a source of stress, don’t do it. There is enough going on during the holidays that it doesn’t make sense to do things that make you tense. Obviously, there are some things that you simply cannot avoid, but do what you can. Cut back on your commitments, focus on the ones that mean the most to you.
- Cut back on the cards – write meaningful letters to those closest to you. I’m not talking about the mass “family newsletter” that so many people do. I’m talking about chatty family letters to those closest to you to let them know how much they mean to you and what’s going on with you. Write to older relatives that you don’t get to see often and enclose pictures; they will LOVE it.
- Sit down to dinner as a family. Everyone may be busy during the holidays, with school plays, concerts, work parties, family parties, and the like. Still, even if it is with fast food, make time to sit down with your family over dinner and talk about what is going on with everyone. It CAN be done and it will help everyone stay calmer.
- Emphasize the proper things about holidays. Think about where your focus and that of your family is during the particular holiday. In this case, I am thinking specifically about Christmas, which has become so commercialized. Have you thought about the real meaning of Christmas? Even if you aren’t Christian, surely it isn’t all about “give me, give me, give me” and how many presents are under the tree! In the case of other holidays, it seems as if we’ve gotten away from the real purpose of many holidays: Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day leap to mind. Have you thanked a veteran? Have you visited Arlington National Cemetery or honored the people who fought to keep this country safe in other ways? (Yes, I’m American and I write from that point of view.)
- Make time for your hobby. If you have a hobby that relaxes you, it is particularly important to try to make time for it when you are stressed. Even if you can only work it in for 15 minutes a day or so, that will help. Read a book, write, keep a journal, crochet, knit, … find something that relaxes you and find a few minutes each day.
- Be sure to get your sleep. At least one night a week during the holidays, make a point of going to bed early. Try half an hour early the first night and see how much it helps.
- Make your meals – at least SOME of them – healthy. Holiday foods are fantastic, but frequently not healthy at all. Try to make other meals more balanced and healthier. Try to eat less fat, less sugar, and drink less caffeine and alcohol. Work in a salad or two. Make sure you get some fruit – preferably some that isn’t in pie, jelly, or dipped in chocolate.
- Take time for yourself each day, even if it is just 5-10 minutes. This can be spending time on a hobby, taking a walk around the block (or around your office building), time soaking in the tub, quiet time alone in your bedroom, or even quiet time in your car on the way to work. Take a few minutes at lunch during the week to sit in the car and listen to your radio. If you have an office at work, close your office door for five minutes at the beginning of the day to gather your thoughts for the day, or for five minutes at the end of the day in order to plan for the evening or for the next day.
If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to contact me or leave them in a comment!