Ah, the holidays – cozy fires, smiling snowmen, warm candles, frosty nights, and joyful singing all around is the holiday image portrayed in movies. Unfortunately for many, the reality falls far short of the ideal. Instead, the holidays are instead filled with multiple round trips to the mall, a marathon of parties, and intense pressure to buy the “perfect gift.” Family gatherings, rather than being rejuvenating, can be trying, with old patterns and hurts surfacing to dim the holiday cheer. For other others who don’t have all these demands, the holidays may be a lonely time that intensifies their feelings of isolation.
Nothing can guarantee a perfect holiday; however, there are things you can do to make your holiday season better and less stressful.
Examine your expectations - of yourself, of the holiday, of your time. When it gets right down to it, a holiday is just another day. The thing that makes it different from the day before is the meaning behind the holiday.
- Don’t expect your family or your life to magically transform one winter morning and become dramatically different than it is the other 364 days of the year.
- Allow others to be who they are, but take the time to appreciate and celebrate what is meaningful to you.
- You can’t be everything to everyone, and are likely to run yourself ragged trying to do so.
- Take time to discern what is really important to you, and then prioritize your preparations and errands accordingly.
- Ask yourself, “What would I most like to get out of this holiday season? What would I most like others who I meet to take away from our interactions?
- Whenever possible, make choices about what you are going to do with your time based on your own priorities and values, rather than what you think is “expected.”
Create new traditions – There is no rule which states that your home must look like a Norman Rockwell painting or have a bigger, brighter display of flashing lights than your neighbor’s.
- If your traditions are becoming more work than joy, they are no longer serving you.
- Perhaps instead of going to the Christmas party that no one in the family really wants to attend, you drive around together and look at lights.
- Your time is precious. Make sure that the activities you spend it on will give you a return on your investment.
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the demands of others, give yourself permission to take time for yourself. No holiday police will break down your door if you choose to get a massage instead of baking 4 dozen cookies.
- Make sure you take the time to renew yourself because you can only give what you have, and the holidays take a great deal of energy.
- Focus on others if you are feeling lonely. It is no secret that the holidays can be a very difficult to be by yourself. It is easy to imagine that everyone else in the world is happily celebrating with friends and family while you are sitting alone in your house. The truth is that everyone else in the world is not doing that, and there are other people feeling exactly like you do, perhaps even worse. Many people are still out of work, low on cash, and without family or friends. Reaching out to others and offering your unique talents can take the focus off of your misery, and interacting with others can elevate your mood. Helping someone else can make both you and them feel better. There are many organizations that would greatly benefit from an extra volunteer this time of year.
Take care of your health – This time of year it is easy to get caught up in the rush and skip a few workouts (or a dozen) or to substitute cookies and treats for healthy foods.
- Now is the time of year to pay more attention to your diet, not less. Both stress and consumption of refined sugars rob your body of nutrients.
- Make sure you are eating fresh fruits and vegetables and high quality protein every day.
- Exercise can dissipate stress hormones, relieve frustration, and provide space and time to clear your head from the demands and deadlines around you.
- Consider the use of supplements. Supporting your body with B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin C, and natural herbs such as maca and ashwaganda can help your body manage the increased demands of the season.
Remember to find joy – In a season in which joy is assumed to be so prevalent, it can sometimes be surprisingly elusive.
- Slow down and allow a little time and space for joy to show itself. Joy can come in many forms and, believe it or not, does not usually come decorated in paper and bows.
- Experiment to find out what brings you joy. Maybe it is by choosing to allow the woman with the crying baby ahead of you in line, or viewing what you have in gratitude rather than thumbing through a catalogue and feeling deprived by all the things you don’t.
- Try making eye contact with the people around you, smiling as you wish them a good day. Experiencing positive emotions such as joy, compassion, and love actually decreases stress and strengthens the immune system.
- Laughter lowers stress hormones, changing the way your physiology reacts to and manages the stress of the season.
The holidays can be stressful, but by making little changes in the way you think about the season and your expectations, the way you respond to the stressors you encounter, and the things you do for the health of your body, you can create an entirely new holiday experience. You can make it through the season with your sanity and your health intact, and maybe, just maybe, with a little more joy.
About the Author
Dr. Lise Naugle (ND) is an associate of Dr. James L. Wilson. She assists healthcare professionals with clinical assessment and treatment protocols related to adrenal dysfunction and stress, and questions regarding the use of Doctor Wilson’s Original Formulations® supplements. With eleven years in private practice focusing on stress and adrenal health, she offers both clinical astuteness and a wealth of practical knowledge. Dr. Naugle also maintains updated information about the latest scientific research on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and develops educational materials about stress and health for clinicians and their patients.