Creating a Stress-Free Holiday Season

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The holidays are among us – a time of year that’s known for its busy nature that can lead to a lot of stress. After all, you likely have invitations to parties collecting on your counter, a list of people you need to send holiday cards to, and the daunting task of finding the right gifts for your loved ones. All of this, on top of your normal everyday life. It can get overwhelming.

I wanted to share with you some ways to navigate this busy, stressful time of year and make this season a lot more enjoyable, less stressful, and a time you will remember with fond memories.

Four tips for making the most of the holiday season…

Put forth great effort to be present. It can be difficult, I understand. It’s almost a reflex to pick up our phones and scroll through Facebook or our email when we have a free moment. One way to dodge this is to leave the electronics in another room or in your bag. Don’t even allow yourself the temptation to pick up your phone and disengage from communicating with your gathered loved ones. When I’m feeling particularly scatter-brained, what really helps ground me is focusing on my breath and checking in with my body or focusing on my senses. What do I smell? What do I hear? What do I feel? Stopping and thinking through what’s going on around you at that very moment really brings you into the present moment unlike anything else. It’s a wonderful tool to use to dial in and be present – and is a great tool to use year-round, not just during the holidays!

Savor it — food, family, friends. For most of my life my maternal Grandmother would admonish me to slow down when I eat. It took a few decades, hard-headed as I am, but her persistence has paid off. I get it now. She was a nurse, so she knew. Digestion, which breaks down our food into nutrients, starts in the mouth. And our saliva has enzymes that begin to break down our food. The more we chew, the better our body can absorb and assimilate the nutrients. This is a delicious time of the year. Mindfully enjoy the meals of the season and every day. Take a bite, chew it slowly and completely, enjoy smell, taste, and texture. And along with the food savor the connection with your loved ones. Every minute is precious. And we’re social animals. We need each other. Studies show connection contributes to a longer life. Grandma turns 100 in April, her mind still going strong. Might that be two of her secrets, thoroughly savoring food and family?

Give up those expectations of perfection. A lot of the stress we put on ourselves this season lies in the notion that we expect things to be perfect. That’d be lovely, of course – but putting your extended family in one house – something is bound to go awry. Therefore, dropping the expectations of perfection will allow you to be prepared for when something may spring up. The meal is not going to be perfect every year, the gift might not be as appreciated as you like, your daughter might not make it back home because she couldn’t get off from work, your son might decide to spend the holidays with his girlfriend’s family, perhaps not everyone is on their best behavior. There is joy to be found in most situations, so even when things don’t go exactly as planned – spend your energy finding gratitude in your circumstances and enjoying as much of your time as you possibly can.

Find time to move. It’s incredibly important to keep movement in your schedule, no matter how busy you may feel. Even if it’s just a brisk walk after lunch or dinner – make it a habit to bundle up in your favorite scarf and winter coat to go for a walk alone to clear your mind, or with someone you enjoy being around. Be sure that you are getting your time outside in nature, breathing in fresh air, while burning off some calories and keeping your heart rate up.

Have a wonderful holiday!