Is your holiday season different this year? Maybe you must work and can’t be at events with family or friends. Perhaps you are feeling depressed and anxious already, and as you are learning to manage it, with holidays upon you, you are feeling you’ll never get hold of the emotions. It’s possible someone close to you died this year, and the point of holidays seems removed from you. Or maybe you are struggling with an illness and so the thought of holidays, food, or get-togethers just isn’t as important to you as you deal with the illness. Whatever may be different this year for you, perhaps we can simplify it a bit and make your holidays seem more possible, more manageable, and doable.
- Keep Calm and Take 3 Deep Breaths
So, the idea here is to just stop – slow down – breath. For those of you who have anxiety, pain, or need to take a bit more time, I love this practice and recommend it regularly. For the breaths:
- Breath in slowly through your nose to the count of 4;
- Hold that breath to the count of 7;
- Release the breath to the count of 8.
Dr. Weil has a demonstration and discusses it at https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/the-4-7-8-breath-health-benefits-demonstration/.
- Give Up Perfectionism
This is one of my weaknesses, if not the one that is most difficult to deal with during the holidays. I may want to do it all, have all the gifts perfectly wrapped, have the exact right gift for everyone, and then also have the perfectly cleaned home, decorated beautifully and completely, and still get cards out to everyone, plan and prepare meals that I find either new and healthy or older and traditional, be at each of the events I’m invited to, and then also be sure that for each group I am a part of also be at their activities as well. Well, those who know me know that those things don’t all happen, in fact, over the years I’ve reduced what I aim for and then work on the most important first, then drop what I can’t get done as I keep moving through the holiday season with enjoyment. Brene Brown’s quote sums up what happens when we are not diligent in evaluating what we can do (healthy striving) and perfectionism:
So, stay out of paralysis, exhaustion, reduce anxiety and depression, and work toward healthy striving. One year it may be a minimal holiday season, another more involved. Either way, the healthier you move through the Thanksgiving through New Year’s holidays, the better and healthier you are on January 2.
- Adjust how you shop
This is very important, particularly if you are ill, short on cash and want to be solvent in January, or just don’t have the energy to go out into the shopping malls for Christmas or Hanukkah gifts. You don’t need to put miles on your car to do so. What about simply ordering on-line from stores? What about catalogues? Or, you could consider ordering gift cards and making a wonderful card to enclose them in. I love to do this for families, in particular, and get the gift certificate towards a family activity, be it bowling, a pizza night out, a movie, or their local favorite activity like a zoo. All of this can frequently be done via computer or tablet or phone call.
The other thing you can do is share from your heart. You might consider making their favorite baked good and writing a personal note on it. Or, write out your most precious memory about your time with them. One year I bought a calendar and put little notes throughout the year in it of what I appreciated in the person, reminders they are loved, and wishes for important days in their life. My friend loved it – and felt closer all year although we lived hundreds of miles apart. And I still have a gift my niece made for me when she was just a little girl:
Finally, you can get creative. Check out Pinterest for ideas. Ask your friends for their thoughts or what they’ve done. The goal here is to keep it simple and low stress whatever you choose to purchase or make.
- Plan first for down time, for a break, for the rest you need.
It seems so vanilla to plan for the rest before you plan for the day or week. However, the biggest problem we have is with fatigue. When we are tired, not resting, over-done, we do not deal with the rest of life as well. According to Mental Health America we need rest not just to regrow our energy reserves, but also regulate some of our hormones, repair muscles, enhance cognitive processes including memory, and help keep depression and headaches at bay. Have you ever noticed dogs? They love to go and do and be with us. However, they also love to sleep.
They are generally better than we are at assuring they get what they need in rest. I was recently reminded by my dog’s trainer that Murphy needs downtime with me, but I need downtime and rest to best be alpha to him, and so allow him to keep relaxing. So – for your own sake, please remember to book this first.
- Make some time for feelings.
It’s hard to allow feelings during holidays if we feel that we must be “up”, “happy”, “excited” and instead feel tired, are grieving, or are depressed or anxious. It’s much easier to move through this time of year if you take the time to acknowledge what you’re feeling on a regular basis. You can journal, talk with a close friend or loved one, see your therapist, draw a picture, cry, or simply acknowledge to yourself what you are feeling. When we own what we are feeling it becomes easier to then move forward and make a decision about how we are going to deal with our feelings at the time. Sometimes just writing it down or saying it aloud to ourselves or another allows the intensity to reduce and lets you move forward to something else. Remember that when
we avoid feelings we just delay experiencing them and the usual result is expressing them in ways or at times we wish they hadn’t come out. Five minutes of journaling or quietly being still with oneself can do a lot to overcome the feelings back up that often occurs.
- Finally, remember to watch your exercise and foods/drinks you consume.
Although we may give ourselves permission to eat and drink more at times during the holidays, do remember that we need to also make the choice to keep up on water, exercise or take a walk if possible, put limitations on sugars and alcohol, and keep the vitamin and self-care rituals we generally use in our days. We all tend to know these things, and it can be hard to follow through, but remember that even one day that we follow our guidelines the healthier we’ll be the next time we choose to allow ourselves to try the desserts, have a hot toddy, or don’t walk. Obviously if you have an addiction, be sure protect your sobriety. An extra meeting might be just what you need on a particular day or days. For Christmas, did you know that many areas have 24 hours of meetings in one location for those struggling on Thanksgiving and Christmas? If you’re in Phoenix, try this on over Christmas:
Christmas Alcathon: Marathon meetings every hour Noon – Noon (except during speaker meetings)
3:00 pm Old Timers Meeting
8:00 pm Speaker Meeting
10:00 am Speaker Meeting
It is held at American Royal Palace Banquet Hall – 1915 W Thunderbird Rd, Phoenix 85023
You can also always call the 24-hour line for meetings 602-264-1341.
This is a time of year that the above quote is very meaningful – it’s not how much we are dealing with in life during the holidays, it’s how we are carrying it. And this includes all of the ideas above and others that you may find are even more meaningful to you. Remember that spirituality goes a long way this time of year. Reading, meditating, going to church or temple, or otherwise getting in touch with our faith and connection to a higher power is essential. I need more candles and music this time of year, in addition to being sure that I’m taking time for church and quiet on Sundays. The sabbath is an essential part of life, as those who are Christian and Jewish learn. A day of rest, taken away from other activities to allow for focus on one’s relationship with God, Yahweh, Christ, is something that can be adjusted for in any faith walk. And even without faith, one essentially can choose to take a day apart to rest and refresh. This is so important through the holiday season. From Thanksgiving when we may want to take 15 minutes to write a gratitude list, to Christmas and Hanukkah services, to new year’s moments for reflection and thoughtful processing of one’s goals and accomplishments, these moments allow us to be more grounded, fully alive, and connected with our spiritual force. Be sure not to cut your holidays short by not taking this time regularly.
So, go and enjoy the turkey and cranberries and pie this Thursday on Thanksgiving. And remember to take the above ideas into consideration if things get hectic during the week. Then approach each day through December in a similar way, taking care of yourself within what is healthy for you – not as you “should” or “shouldn’t” need to do. And have a most wonderful 5 weeks!
Blessings warmly sent to you,