How to De-Stress in a Holiday Mess
Last week, I went to write down the date and my hand struggled to complete the task: December 15th? That can’t be right. Staring at the wall in front of me, I had to think. Wasn’t it just November 15th, like, yesterday? When my brain finally caught up to the present, December 15th, my stomach turned. I was struck with the kind of terror that took my whole body in waves. In ten days, it will be Christmas. In eight days, we’ll celebrate Christmas with my side of the family; then, in nine days, it will be Christmas Eve with his side of the family, and then, in ten days, everyone will come to my house for Christmas brunch. My head spun. What the heck do my kids even want for Christmas? Mallory’s gluten free now—do I have a recipe for gluten free biscuits and gravy? I have to run to my brother’s to get fresh eggs. My dad is so hard to buy for; I should have started thinking about his present six months ago. Ruby wants a squishy and a gallon of glue—what’s a squishy and what happened to the easy stuff like Barbie, My Little Pony, and Legos?
Thank goodness there was a chair behind me because I collapsed.
Every year, it gets worse. Time gets away from me. I’m responsible for more, my kids are even busier, and I have more people on my list (seriously—stop getting married, people!). I have to ask myself, do I even enjoy Christmas anymore? The last thing I want is another job to do. When I was younger, the magic of Christmas could not be described. The lights, the excitement, family, and the spirit of giving to others…it’s all replaced with stress, holiday road rage, and the tick tock of a rushed clock. It feels like work now. I don’t look forward to work—I look forward to after work. And what do I do after work? I de-stress, of course.
A Guide to De-Stressing!
If I can’t feel my best, none of it is worth it. That’s what I’ve decided, which has led me to put together a holiday stress guide—How to De-stress in a Holiday Mess. I’ve pulled out the big guns, searched far and wide, and naturally, I tested them on myself:
- (Duh) Plan Ahead: I’ll do this next year. I’ve already made a schedule for 2018 and put it into my calendar.
- For example, on June 25th, 2018, my calendar is set to warn me to start thinking of my dad’s gift (yes, it’s that bad).
- On November 1st, 2018, my calendar will remind me to ask the boys for their lists.
- On December 1st, 2018, my calendar will remind me to sit down and regroup. Where am I in planning, shopping, recipes, etc.
- Essential Oils: This is my go-to for just about every emergency known to man. When the holidays have you in a mood, lemon oil or any kind of citrus can be an uplifting touch. Diffuse it or just rub it in your hands and take a big whiff. I know it sounds strange, but it works. Trust me. For times when you just need to wind down, lavender oil will put you at ease. I like to rub it on the bottom of my feet or temples. When the lavender doesn’t do the trick, it’s time to bust out the frankincense. If that doesn’t work, perhaps it’s time for an exorcism.
- Yoga/Meditation: I always feel better after a session with my yoga instructor, Jules. During the holidays, I go as much as possible. Time is of the essence, though, and I do know that some people just can’t fit an extra hour into their schedule. If you can’t get to yoga more than once per week, meditate on your own. Take as much time as you can and give this to yourself. There are guided meditations on Spotify, YouTube, and even Alexa (Amazon Echo) has a few to follow. It can be a minute or an hour—you choose. You can be in a quiet room or driving in your car. You can chant, breathe, gaze, visualize…whatever puts you at peace. Meditation is about quieting the mind, soothing the spirit, and observing the breath and body. Everyone should meditate at least once per day.
- Sunlight: We take time to smell the roses, right? While there are no roses here in Michigan at this time of year, there are rare gifts of sunlight. When those rays of natural light shine through your office or kitchen window, bask in them! It doesn’t matter where you are. Take a few minutes and stand under the rays. Close your eyes—unless you’re driving; bask with your eyes open, if you’re driving.
- Be Grateful: The point is to take a minute to be grateful. You’re alive. You have a family to love and love you in return, even though they’re stressing you out at the moment. You have breath in your lungs and sun on your face. Be grateful!
- Walk/Jog: Yes, unless you live in the glorious South, winter means that it’s cold. That brisk air can be refreshing, though. Try a nice, 30 minute, wintry stroll to bring balance to your heart, body, and soul. Bring a loved one, hold hands, talk about your day. Do you want to be alone? That’s fine, too. I do my best head-clearing during a good run. Studies have shown that 30 minutes per day of walking or running can tranquilize the brain, improve sleep, and decrease anxiety. And, hello, it also gets rid of the jiggly parts on your body. Who doesn’t want that?
- Squeeze: I’ve just started this, but I think we should all test it out together. I trust all things Chinese, from food to medicine. Whatever they tell me to do, I do. There’s a fleshy part between your thumb and index finger. In traditional Chinese medicine, it’s called the hoku spot. Applying firm pressure there for 30 seconds can reduce stress and tension in your upper body. So, when we find ourselves getting honked at by an angry driver with her car dressed up like Rudolph (totally happened to me last week), or when an angry man is yelling at the poor cashier at Macy’s, let’s all stop, squeeze our hokus for 30 seconds, and breathe. We’ll all report back to each other next year.
- Keep Your Schedule: Is there something that you do every week that makes you happy? Art class, book club, massage, nail salon, yoga class, cycle, lunch with a friend? Don’t skip it. Keep that on your schedule, locked and loaded. If it’s something that makes you happy, this is the time of year to make sure you keep that plan.
- Volunteer/Donate: This was the year that my holiday spirit was down for the count. I really couldn’t get into it and I don’t know why. Life is good. I have so much that I’m grateful for, and yet, I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t feel the way I was supposed to feel. You know, like Tiny Tim, Susan Walker, or all the Who’s in Whoville. I didn’t hear Bing Crosby all day long, and I was dreading putting up the Christmas tree. Something was missing. Then one day, after I pulled out of Costco, I saw a young man standing on the side of the road. He couldn’t have been older than twenty. With the back of my car filled to the ceiling with food, I read his sign that said, “Hungry,” and I realized that I was a jerk. I’ve been so blessed. I was raised by an amazing man who showed me so much unconditional love every day of my life. I’ve passed that on to my own children, who will probably pass it on to theirs. I realized then that not everyone has that, an army behind them to lift them when they’re down. I’m not just blessed; I’m lucky. I stopped traffic, fumbled through my wallet and pulled out all the cash I had ($18), went to the back of my car and pulled out a bag of Organic Coconut Bites, honey crisp apples, and bottled water. I just started handing him things. When I was done, I looked at him, and said, “Do you want a hug?” He just sort of shrugged, and said, “Sure.” I hugged him. I couldn’t help it. I wanted him to know that someone cared about him. It didn’t matter how he got there with that sign or what he was going to do with everything I gave him. All that mattered was that he knew that one person in the world hadn’t forgotten him. When I stepped away, I was amazed to notice that the horns had stopped blaring. People were being patient and letting me finish what I needed to do. I drove away hoping that my actions had been contagious, and I realized what I was missing. Do what you can for others. You don’t need to be wealthy. There’s always someone worse off than you. Give. Love. Share what you can. Donate to Toys for Tots or a food drive. Purchase one of those already made up $5 or $10 bags at Neiman’s Family Market and Kroger. If you can, get a group together to sponsor a family in need. Sign your family up to help out at the Baldwin Center and serve food to the hungry. Do something—anything—and you will find your Christmas spirit. I promise.
- Put the Freaking Phone Down: Leave your phone upstairs, turn it off, step away. This is the only way you can be in the moment. I swear, I go on Facebook and two hours later I’m looking at wedding photos of a friend of a friend’s cousin like the biggest stalker ever. What have I gained in those two lost hours? Nothing. What did I lose? Time with my family, time for me, time for a relaxing bath, good conversation with a friend…all the things I should have been doing with those two hours. Now I just feel slimy. My head hurts from all the technology, and it’s bedtime. Total waste.
What we put in our body affects everything!
- Be Good to Your Body: It matters, all the time, what we put in our bodies. Food doesn’t just affect our midsections. It affects our overall health, including our moods. Whether you realize it or not, sugar seems to be the biggest culprit when it comes to the holiday blues. Pay attention after you indulge in that wine, those cookies and frosting, that fudge, or those little chocolate delights. How do you feel? Angry? Buzzed? Sad? Yes, to all those things. Sugar is addictive. It causes inflammation, bloat, a weakened immune system, anxiety and irritability. Sugar is everywhere right now, and it affects you. Just wait until January when you begin your diet. That withdrawal’s going to be a real good time, said no one ever. Now, I don’t live in Lala Land, Nutritional Heaven, although I wish I did. We are all human, of course. If you must indulge, find a nice balance with healthy fats, fiber, and protein to help slow the absorption of the sugar. Choose healthier options during the week to leave room for those weekend holiday parties. It’s okay to pass on the candy and cookies that Barbara brought into the office. Barbara will forgive you. Re-gift that fudge. I’ve actually paid the neighborhood boys with fudge that was given to me when they shoveled my driveway. My sister in law never knew (she might now). Remember that you get one body. Be conscious of everything you’re putting into it, even this time of year.
Be Good to Yourself and the Holiday Season Will Be Good to You and Yours!
When all is said and done, I think the most important part of the holidays is to recapture that magical feeling with loved ones. It doesn’t have to go away just because we’re all adulting. The roles have just changed. I can’t stand the Elf on the Shelf, but I love seeing the wonder in my nieces’ and nephews’ eyes when he’s in a new spot each morning. Somehow, that annoying little doll makes me want to keep that magic alive for them. I can’t accomplish this with stress. When I’m stressed, it’s work. That’s why it’s so important to take a step back and remember to breathe during this time of year. Don’t count down the days—let them come to you. Remember that you have more than others and be grateful. But take the time to be good to yourself, too. Check in with your mind, body, and soul every day, and enjoy your holiday season. After all, it only comes once a year!
Wishing you Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and A Very Happy, Blessed and Healthy New Year!
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