tips for staying sane and soulful during the holidays

The holidays are coming. The holidays are coming. I love this time of year but I get overstimulated easily like a toddler all jacked up on Mountain Dew. I need to take some precautionary measures to save my soul before, during, and after I jingle all the way. Recently at a women’s gathering I co-hosted with friend and wellness teacher Charlotte Hardwick, we discussed helpful ways to ward off holiday craziness and cultivate more meaning and joy.

1) Simplify. Remember the scene from Elf when he shares his plan for the day with his dad? This is what he has in mind: Make snow angels for two hours. Go ice skating. Eat a whole roll of Toll House cookie dough as fast as we can. And snuggle. My goal during the holidays is for my to do list to look more like Elf’s.

2).Crowding out. Charlotte helps people learn to eat simply and healthfully. One way she encourages healthy eating is by reminding her clients not to focus on what they shouldn’t have but instead focus on filling up your plate with healthy, delicious food. Automatically, we crowd out some of the less nutritious nonsense. Such is true with life. Fill up on the good stuff, make room for what fulfills, replenishes, and brings you joy, the rest will take care of itself.

3). Set an intention. If there is an event you have to go to but would really rather be sitting on the couch in elastic waistband pants while watching your 5th Hallmark movie of the weekend, try setting an intention first. Saying no is crucial but sometimes we have to say yes and show up because we love the people throwing the soirée or the cause is dear to our heart. Set the tone before you go out by giving yourself a little time and space. Let your feelings be felt. Be nice and gentle with yourself. Try writing about it first…what you are worried about, why does so and so annoy you, what do you wish you could say? Let it all out and let it flow without restraint or judgement. Then, set your intention. Something like…I will show up and be open, kind, compassionate and loving, believing that we are all just trying to do the best we can. Or I am a force of good and love in the world. It boils down to how do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be as lovely as the Who’s in Whoville singing around the tree even when they have nothing left or like the Grinch with his big hairy stomach and mean grimace?

4). Bookends. (I LOVE THIS ONE!!!) This is another gem from Charlotte. If you are going away or the actual holiday just really stresses you out, try bookending the holidays with relaxing, joy infused treats. Maybe that means to you, a mellow lunch with a dear friend, time to exercise, scheduling a massage after the madness and planning a day of rest before. Something to help you find your center before and something to look forward to after is a great salve for the soul and psyche.

5). Practice Present over Perfect. When we wish our holidays to be picture perfect, we miss out on the real thing. Adjust expectations. Let go of the need to impress everyone and keep everything sparkly and everyone happy. Don't expect perfect. Expect mess with some magic mixed in.

6). Make a list with your family. One of my favorite homework assignments is the Recipe for Joy and Meaning list created by Brene Brown. What is the most important thing to you about this time of year? What feels good? Get everyone’s input and keep it somewhere to remind you. Missing snuggle time or a much needed endorphin release from exercise to go back to the mall to get one more stocking stuffer doesn’t make much sense to me so I reprioritize and settle in for a long winter’s nap. (Unless maybe I can have an Aunt Annie’s pretzel while there).

7). And of course, GRATITUDE. I don’t meant to sound like a broken record but this one always bears repeating because it works! Paying attention to what we feel thankful for and not just on Thanksgiving. Creating rituals with our families and friends like having a gratitude jar or keeping a gratitude journal. Or speaking your gratitude out loud or in a handwritten note makes others feel valued and appreciated. Focusing on what is not wrong and what is not lost is key to living in the present with a sense of ease and peaceful calm.

8). Breathe and check in with your sweet self. If no one is asking you, “Hey, how you holding up?” and you are desperate to hear this, ask yourself and honor and validate your response. No need to pretend. Or feel guilty. Be honest with yourself. Check in with someone else, more than likely, he or she will appreciate you asking. And real, authentic connection over surface small talk is medicine for our collective soul. Ask for help and offer help.

9). Walking. water, and fresh air. We’re like plants but with the need for exercise. Escape when you need to and go for a walk. Get some fresh air for a quick reset and release of anything pent up or stuck. Drink water. Feel the sun.

10). Read Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris. Trust me on this one, it will make you laugh and maybe tinkle a bit. Or check out Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist to remind you about what matters most. Wishing you and yours, healthy, joyous, meaningful holidays with ample time for the things and people you love most. And sincere wishes for a peaceful, safe, and happy 2019.