5 Steps for Having a Happy (Stress-Free!) Holiday
Psychologist and Entrepreneur in Residence Lauren Hazzouri shares her advice for making it the most wonderful time of the year.
Just when we get into what seems like a doable groove in our busy day-to-day lives, the holidays come along and throw many of us into a tailspin. Between the parties and the shopping, the grocery lists and the holiday traffic, the decorating and the family get-togethers, we find ourselves dropping many of the daily rituals that we’ve adopted to keep us functioning at the top of our game, in exchange for those that will make the holidays perfect for friends and family. It’s no surprise that the holidays are stressful for everyone, but research tells us that women report higher levels of holiday stress than our male counterparts.
We, women, often take on the responsibilities of decorating our homes, buying gifts, preparing holiday meals and making sure that it really is the most wonderful time of the year for those around us. After all, it’s a lot of pressure to keep up with work deadlines and children’s hectic schedules, while creating the hap-happiest season of all for friends and family. When caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season, it’s easy to lose sight of the true meaning of the holidays—to come together with friends and family, to spend quality time, make memories, celebrate the year passed and look forward to the year to come.
There are several culprits that come between us and experiencing the peace, love and joy of the holiday season. The first is perfectionism, the others-centered hustle to please. The solution is to live in the moment to the fullest, even when the result is a crooked tree, burnt Hanukkah sufganiyot, or holiday cookies that aren’t the envy of all at the neighborhood cookie exchange. Culprit number two is indulgence. Many of us use the holidays as an excuse to stop eating healthfully, stop our exercise regimen, stop our good sleep hygiene routine, then we blame the season for our increased stress levels! Remember, we cannot toss aside the lifestyle patterns that make us feel good and expect to continue to feel good. The solution is to keep taking care of yourself physically throughout the entire calendar year. Culprit number three is time management. We spread ourselves too thin throughout the holidays, responding “count me in!” to each and every invitation.
We must remember we do have the option to catch up with some of the party-goers during the other 11 months of the year. The solution here is to decline an invitation here and there, offering an alternative date in February, March, or April. You get the point! Let’s do our best this year to make the most of the holiday season for ourselves (first!) and, yes, for our friends and our families, too.
1. Stick with the program
We are still human in December, and in order to feel good, decrease cortisol levels and increase joy throughout the month, we are best served by engaging in our regular workout routine, ensuring the necessary amount of sleep (even if it means using gift bags in lieu of elaborate wrapping that would take us into the wee hours of the morning!), and making healthy food choices at holiday parties. We must remember our physical wellbeing is essential to our emotional health, even when loved ones are near.
2. Take time for yourself
With so many obligations and a seemingly endless to-do list, taking time to stop and breathe can feel like a waste of precious time, but hey! You are precious, and you deserve that time for you. Escape to your bedroom for several minutes of quiet time, take a walk and focus on your breathing or use your senses to get present. Taking time to get centered will allow you to enjoy the much mistletoeing later on in the day.
3. Go with the flow
The hype of the holidays leads to unrealistic expectations about everything from relationships to gift giving. We tend to go into the holidays with preconceived ideas of what will make this holiday season the best one yet. We try to control that which we cannot control, doing our damnedest to predict outcomes. Let this be the year that you toss aside your old way of doing things, and simply allow the season to unfold. If he doesn't remember the marshmallows for toasting, have a holiday sing-a-long instead. The best way to prepare for not getting your way this holiday is to not have a way in the first place.
4. Show up
For many of us who struggle socially or have various mood concerns, the holidays can feel overwhelming. With everyone telling you to be of good cheer, it can be frustrating to not be able to enjoy the festivities. For those of you who suffer from depression and the like, do the best you can, and give yourself a break. The key is not to isolate this season. Do the holidays in small doses. Throw on your favorite little black dress and get to the office party—for one half-hour. Show up! Go big. Go home, and be proud. You did it!
5. Volunteer—a new tradition
Making the holidays bright for the less fortunate can have a positive impact on you, too! Instead of your annual girls lunch, head to the local soup kitchen to serve those in need. Take your name off the grab bag list and instead, add the age and gender of a neighborhood child, who could use a new winter coat this winter and hearts will be glowing. Gaining perspective by filling your season with service will make you feel good and teach your kiddos a valuable lesson, too! In remaining true to ourselves this holiday season, we are sure to fully experience the peace love and joy that each of us deserves. It will truly feel like, Yes, the most wonderful time of the year. Oh, the most wonderful time of the year. Happy Holidays!