The holidays… for me it brings up visions of glamorous parties, festive twinkly lights, tearful reunions, delicious treats, and of course presents, presents, and more presents. In my imagination, it’s all so joyful and exciting. In reality, it’s a time of year when I have even more on my already busy To Do list: holiday shopping, holiday decorating, holiday baking, holiday entertaining, holiday dressing, holiday travel, holiday cards, etc., etc., etc. No matter that I have no intention of doing half of these things – the problem is I want to do all of these things because I worry that I will feel like I missed out if I don’t. On top of that, there is the barrage of holiday commercials and holiday movies and holiday TV shows, all of which send a not-so-subtle message about what the “perfect” holiday season can be if only I would just shop and decorate and bake and dress and entertain and travel, etc., etc., etc. This is what makes people want to crawl into a cave and hibernate until January 2.
No one needs this kind of pressure, and, happily, there is a better way. So, in the spirit of giving, I am sharing a few suggestions that I believe will change your life this holiday season. Try even one of these things for the next 30 days, and I am pretty confident you will feel better – even if just a little – and that’s something.
Five Ways to Make This Holiday Super Chill
1. Go Commercial-free. I got this tip from my wise little sis, and she is really on to something. Since holiday commercials are mostly about consuming and shopping and entertaining and generally being perfect and awesome, eliminating/limiting your exposure to commercials is one of the best ways to minimize “perfect-life brainwashing.” This is the time to upgrade your Hulu (and Pandora, etc.) account to the commercial free option. It costs more, true, but what you pay will be more than outweighed by the benefit of not having to watch (or listen) to commercials, and, though I have no proof of this, I am going to bet you will more than make up the cost of the commercial-free service simply by avoiding even just one holiday “must-have” impulse buy.
2. Be Still. By this I mean make time every day to turn off or step away from all of your gadgets, and just sit. Quietly. Eyes open or closed (you choose!). Preferably at the same time each day (I recommend first thing in the morning). You can call it meditating. You can call it free-associating. You can call it praying. I really don’t care… all that really matters is that you make time to do it. Even 5 minutes of time. Everyone has 5 minutes so don’t tell me you don’t have time. A friend said to me once, “If you don’t have 20 minutes to meditate, you should meditate for an hour.” I thought that was funny. 🙂 But it’s true… the more hectic things are, the more you really need (and benefit) from unplugging. And trust me when I say you DO NOT need to know how to meditate. In fact, do me a big favor and don’t even call it meditation. Just call it “I’m sitting my ass down and not moving it again until at least 5 minutes have passed.” If it feels weird or uncomfortable, it’s working. 😉 And if you like it, add on another minute every consecutive day. I did this last holiday season, and I think it really did make a huge difference. I felt so good after every session, I actually looked forward to the next session.
3. Say “No.” In fact… say “Hell No.” FOMO is a real thing. I know this. And, for me, FOMO takes on a life of its own during the holidays. And I think it’s not just FOMO for the holiday parties… it’s the fear of missing out on creating and experiencing the “perfect holiday season.” The first step in implementing this tip is to just acknowledge – out loud if possible – that, no matter what, you are never ever ever going to experience the “perfect” holiday season. Because it never has existed, and it never will. Make peace with that. The next step is take an honest look at all of the things you have the opportunity to do/make/be this month. Lastly, decide which things you really don’t want to do, and then… don’t do those things. Invited to a cookie swap but hate cookies – adios cookie swap. Feel like holiday cards are waste of trees, gas and time – stop sending them. Feel like holiday decorations are more hassle than they’re worth – or just plain ugly? Don’t decorate. Period. It’s that simple. Yes, I know there are some obligatory things you’ll have to leave on the list, but there are at least some things you can boot off because no one is going to know or care if you decide you just don’t want to do them. What you will be left with will presumably be things you really enjoy doing/making/being. Which brings us to part two of this tip.
Say “Hell Yes!” Here, you make a (short) list of the things you really love doing. “But don’t I already have enough to do without adding to my already enormous To Do list?” you ask. And to this, I answer you, “No. No, you don’t.” It is so easy to get bogged down with “perceived” obligations that we don’t make time for the things we really love doing. And, let’s be honest: the things we really love doing are what make life amazing. So prioritize that shit! Don’t let it be back-burnered until you have time for it. Make time for it. Do you love canning home-made chutney? Can that chutney… can the daylights out of that chutney. Love wrapping gifts in unique, elaborate ways? Wrap those gifts to your sweet little creative heart’s desire. Is decorating the house while you sing Christmas songs at the top of your lungs one of the things you most look forward to each year? Go for it! Whatever it is that makes this time of year more fun – or, hell, even just more tolerable – make those things a priority. And here is maybe the most helpful part of this tip: schedule time for these fun things. Set aside an actual day and time on your calendar. This will ensure it’ll happen. And trust me, you do have time.
4. Practice excellent self care. In other words, put your own oxygen mask on, first. This tip is important all year round because taking time every day to do something nice and special for yourself really makes a difference in lowering overall stress. Self care is different for everyone… some people will make it a priority to eat a healthy diet and/or limit junk food while others prefer to move their bodies – walking, running, dancing, etc. Some will take time to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee (not naming names) or tea or a glass of wine (also not naming names). Things like meditation, massage, hot baths, praying, journaling, reading, coloring, getting a manicure, or spending time with a good friend are just a few of the many ways to practice self care. My opinion is that there aren’t really any rules except that, ideally, you do at least one form of self-care each day, and you feel restored by whatever you choose.
5. Hug a friend or loved one. Or get a massage. According to Alex Korb, author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time, “A hug, especially a long one, releases a neurotransmitter and hormone oxytocin, which reduces the reactivity of the amygdala. Research shows getting five hugs a day for four weeks increases happiness big time.” Can you believe it? Something as simple as five long hugs a day has a substantial positive impact on your happiness. So cool. But what if you don’t have “huggers” in your life? First, my apologies. If we become friends, I will give you hugs if you want me to, which you should because it will reduce your stress – you’re welcome. But until then, you can get a massage. Korb says “The results are fairly clear that massage boosts your serotonin by as much as 30 percent. Massage also decreases stress hormones and raises dopamine levels, which helps you create new good habits… Massage reduces pain because the oxytocin system activates pain killing endorphins. Massage also improves sleep and reduces fatigue by increasing serotonin and dopamine and decreasing the stress hormone cortisol.” Not surprisingly, Korb’s finding show that practicing gratitude is another thing you can do to boost overall happiness.
So there you go: five ways to have a super chill holiday season. If you plan to give any of these a try or if you have your own tips for handling the holidays, please share the wealth by commenting below!
I wish everyone a peaceful, calm and happy holiday season.
P.S. I’m not sending out holiday cards this year. 🙂
City-dweller, designer, writer and lifestyle consultant practicing the art of living well in the 21st Century. Fixated with good coffee, great design, and any little thing that makes life better.
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