By Maureen Suriner
Often when we think of the holidays, it brings to mind the nostalgia of childhood. We remember the magic, the fun, the presents, yummy food, time off from school and special time with family and friends. As adults we are often trying to recreate those memories for ourselves and family. We hope to relive the nostalgia, sometimes to our own detriment. The goal of this talk tonight is to provide helpful tips to bringing back the magic and the true meaning of this beautiful season of Hope, Peace, Love and Joy!
Causes and effects of Holiday Stress: Having unrealistic expectations, financial strain and overcommitting are just a few causes of holiday stress. These can set you up for trouble. Insomnia, depression, worry, headaches & tense muscles, excessive eating & drinking, and feelings of poor self- esteem are often the result.
Helpful Holiday Tips
Have a plan: To navigate the holiday season with the least amount of stress, it is wise to have a plan. Think about all that you want to do as well as what you really feel you must do and make a list dividing everything into these two categories. (Also, are the “musts” true or is it something that is just “expected” and you can let go of). Have a conversation with your loved ones and ask them the same questions. For families, try to find a way to make time for something fun on everyone’s list. Maybe only two people want to get to a holiday movie for example so let them go together. Every event doesn’t need to include everyone, but it is nice if you can do at least one activity together. Write it all down on the calendar. The season is all about family and friends and making new happy memories.
Examining your priority list:
What are the most important ways in which you want to celebrate? When you think about the holiday season what lights you up?
What can you let go of?
What traditions feed your soul and what drains you?
Can you eliminate those which drain you? If not, can they be altered in a way that would be more pleasing?
Are there any new ideas you’ve been wanting to try? New recipes, new traditions, new ways of decorating?
Who are you now?
We have a tendency as we go through life to get stuck in the identity that others have assigned us or through our past actions. Take some time to contemplate your identity. Were you always the “responsible one”; “party thrower”; “giver of the most expensive presents”; “partier”; “organizer”;” volunteer” etc. After careful consideration, are your identity titles still true for you or do you feel like a fresh start in some areas?
Spirit recently shared this message: “Who do you want to be? That’s who you are!!” Our past is our past, never let yourself get mired down in it. Every day is a new day because our thoughts create our reality.
Say “No” for Joyful sake! Not only is it ok to say no, these words can be a lifesaver. Pick and choose what you are willing to put your energy into. You are not any less of a good person, spouse, parent, co-worker etc., by slowing down and setting healthy priorities. Many of us feel pressure to say “yes” when asked in person or on the phone to help with something. Have a response ready to give you the time to really think about this commitment, such as, “why don’t you give me your number and I will get back to you if I am able to help”, or Let me check my calendar and I will get back to you if I am able to help”. The purpose of this is not to discourage you from volunteering to help this season, but to give you time to reflect on where and to whom you are devoting your energy, so you do not become depleted. This will help you keep a healthy balance between both giving and receiving bringing you more peace and joy. Remember on an airplane you need to put the oxygen on yourself first (take care of yourself first) before supporting others. (One of my favorite life lessons!)
Learn to delegate! Everyone needs to do their part.
Stick to a budget. If its been a tough financial year, have an honest conversation with the family to avoid disappointment. Involve the kids in brainstorming new ways to show love and appreciation. Kids are much more resilient and understanding than we give them credit for.
Shop at “off” times
Take a day off from work and shop without distraction
Buy online and avoid the crowds.
Shop locally at mom & pop stores: Supports the community, less crowded, often great customer service.
Clean the house before decorating. It is proven that clutter causes feelings of stress.
Keep the decorations simple
Use re-usable gift bags, easy and better for the environment
Make it a potluck: Save $ & work-have everyone bring their favorite dish
Give kids the opportunity to make some holiday spending money and a sense of pride by:
*Helping out at a party: passing out appetizers, collecting coats etc.
*Cleaning the house
If making Christmas cookies with young ones, don’t try to do it all at once. I suggest breaking the whole process up into two separate days or having the dough made ahead of time. Put on some fun music and enjoy the creative part of cutting the shapes out and decorating.
Try making crockpot or one pot recipes to cut down on dishes and time spent cooking.
Find a way to give back. Some of the best feelings come from the giving to another. It doesn’t get much better than seeing someone’s face light up or knowing you made a difference in someone’s life. Volunteering or finding a way to bless someone else this season is what it’s all about! (remember to do so in a way that is comfortable to you and not overwhelming)
**Be realistic, perfectionism is for the birds!
Finding Joy in the Holidays when you are alone
For many, the holidays can be lonely and sad as distant or lost loved ones are remembered. It is important to know that you are not alone. There are many people feeling the same way.
Here are some joyful ideas:
One of the best ways to feel joy is in giving and volunteering. Here are several ways to become involved in the community:
Volunteer to help at the local elementary school reading to the kids or helping them with art projects. Many need help with holiday fairs.
Spend the day shopping at second- hand shop or pick out brand new items if you can afford it, then bring these items to a homeless shelter or pass out to the homeless.
Stop at a local donut shop for goodies and coffee and bring to an outdoor work crew.
Visit a nursing home and spend time in conversation with the elderly.
Consider adopting a pet in need from a shelter.
Purchase a birdfeeder and place it where you can easily watch them.
Offer to babysit the neighbor’s kids so the parents can have a date night or get some Christmas shopping done.
Just for you
Join a group like Meetup to connect with like-minded people. (www.meetup.com)
If relatives are far away, choose a movie to watch at the same time, have some popcorn and then talk about the movie on the phone.
Spend time looking through old photos and maybe treat yourself to new photo frames.
Treat yourself to something new and wrap it up for Christmas morning.
Nurture yourself: See suggestions below
National Suicide Prevention LifelineWe can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. 1-800-273-8255
A season of self-love and appreciation (This is a must!)
Get outside: Being in nature is one of the best ways to refresh. Even 5-10 minutes of time spent outside will have a positive impact on your mental and emotional well-being.
Exercise: This can vary from gentle stretching to going for a run which will help release feel good brain chemicals called endorphins.
Get 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
Limit use of electronics especially before bed and treat yourself to a good book instead.
Listening to music, singing and dancing can all improve mood
Take time to nurture yourself: sleeping in, taking a day off, visiting a spa, enjoying a warm bath, getting cozy by a fire and eating chocolate.
Watch what you put your attention on and keep it light, for example what you watch on T.V.
If stressed, remember laughter really is the best medicine!! Don’t take it all too seriously.
Energy Techniques to keep you feeling your best
Psychic Hygiene: Cleansing your energy field
Salt baths: Epsom or Himalayan Salt works the best & some have additional soothing essential oils added for additional benefits.
Smudging: The act of using an aromatic smoke to remove unhealthy and unsupportive energy from your auric field. White sage leaves work well.
Grounding: The act of connecting your physical body solidly to the Earth. A must to feel balanced and centered. Supports whole body particularly the first chakra which is all about Survival, family, safety, money, physical health. Picture roots at the bottoms of your feet growing deep down into the Earth.
Aromatherapy: The use of aromatic plant extracts and essential oils to improve one’s psychological or physical well-being. Citrus scents boost moods.
* Note that when using any of the above techniques, putting your Intention (aim, goal, purpose) into what you are doing is the most important part. Our thoughts and beliefs have much power!