The holidays are upon us, and for many of us—and let’s be honest, for the majority of women—we’ll be flat-out busy and going at it full tilt until the start of the new year. That means cooking, cleaning, shopping, gift giving, card sending, wrapping, entertaining…I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
Personally, for me, this is a crazy time of year since my mother lives in another state, and every year we make the trek there so we can celebrate the holiday with her. When my folks were younger, we took turns traveling to each other’s homes. But in the past decade as they’ve aged, and once my dad passed away, that arrangement changed. It only goes in one direction now: my husband and I go there. I’m not complaining as it really has to be that way. My mom is ninety-eight and much too old and frail to travel anymore. Anywhere.
Oh, and did I mention how we also bring everything with us? Prior to the holiday, I prepare and cook the meal, wrap and pack it, and wrap all the gifts (including mine, so I can open it with her, and she can feel included in the day’s festivities). Not only that, I also prepare treats for those relatives I love, but I can’t spend time with.
Did I also mention that I still need to fit in my regular monthly visits with my mom, run her errands, and take her to any doctor’s appointments she has scheduled? This December, she has two.
Ok, kill me now.
Personal rendition of my untimely demise.
Look, I know other families have it tougher, with much bigger to-do lists, particularly when they have both elderly parents and kids involved.
So, I’m not complaining. Really, I’m not. In fact, I like doing it. It’s what we do as women—we’re trained caregivers. We’re taught to attend to the needs of others from day one (or nearly), and the older we get, the better we get at doing it. Hey, it’s an awesome skill to have. It’s just that it’s also a lot of work.
A lot of work.
Sometimes, it’s at the expense of our own health—both mental and physical.
Forgive me, if it sounds like I’m lecturing you about how to spend your holidays, that’s not my intention. What I’m trying to say is this: while we’re all busy running around and taking care of everyone else this holiday season, what are we doing for ourselves that’ll make our lives just a teensy bit easier?
If you’re not sure, never fear, I’ve got you covered.
I’ve pulled together a few ideas—fun things we can do for ourselves that should ease some of the stress we all feel right about now. Here we go:
Meditate. Wait, I know what you’re thinking, but here me out. Even if you only have five minutes, and can fit it in once, maybe twice, try it and specifically, try meditating with one of the new Apps (Apple or Android). There’re so many out now—both free and paid—that it’s easier than ever to select one and give it a whirl. All you do is close your eyes and listen to the narrator as she/he takes you on a journey of relaxation that, trust me, is worth every nanosecond. You’ll release some of your stress, feel relaxed, and be happy you did it. Some of the programs I’ve looked at are: the UCLA Mindful App at https://www.uclahealth.org/programs/marc/free-programming-resources/ucla-mindful-app, www.calm.com, https://buddhify.com, and the Meditation Oasis App. I like the Meditation Oasis App best, but that’s just my personal preference;
Photo by Nathalie LV on Unsplash
I have a rule about online shopping at Christmas time, and it goes something like this: one decent and notable gift for someone on my list, and one fun and inexpensive treat for me. It needn’t be big or expensive, (hell, go ahead and make it big and expensive if you can afford it), but it’s a simple method I use to (1) reward myself for all the hard work I’ve done up to that point, and (2) spur me on for all the difficult work I have left to do. It’s also the way I remind myself I’m a good person for tackling it all;
Actually, a more specific approach to #2 is to buy myself some junk food—maybe something you’ve been dying to eat. Something you’ve been craving. Then get it. It’s the holidays, and we’ve already decided you deserve it. Over the years, some of the sweets I’ve indulged in have been cupcakes in a jar from the awesome https://www.wickedgoodcupcakes.com, and, yes, I’ll be ordering a six pack from them again this year. If you’re hip to the idea of baked goods, but cupcakes aren’t your thing, you might want to try https://www.cakemonkey.com (they have it all, and in too cool retro) and https://www.cookiedonyc.com (cookie dough at its best).
Or, if you’re in the market for a whole cake, then go straight to https://milkbarstore.com because I’ve had their Chocolatey Classic six-layer birthday cake (three layers of cake, three layers of frosting) and they’re scrumptious. If cookies are more your thing, I’ve also found reason to reward myself with a dozen overstuffed cookies from https://levainbakery.com and https://gooeyontheinside.com and they were both so worth it. While I’ve yet to try https://rebeldaughtercookies.com or https://www.bittenbakery.com, they’re next on my list.
I only need to find a reason. And if gourmet popcorn is more your speed, I’ve got you covered there, too. This year I’m going with https://www.savannahraes.com. The Red Velvet Cake and Oreo Cheesecake flavors look like they’re to die for, and since I need a gift for the lovely ladies at my dog’s daycare, I’ve already decided there’ll be a small bag in it for me, too;
Schedule a facial or a massage. If you can toss the kids at your husband (or anyone else) for a couple of hours and find some time to squeeze one in, do it. Whether you call your favorite salon or check out a new one, just book it. It’ll give you a renewed sense of energy, and it’ll help you get through the next few weeks;
Find time to nap. Yes, nap. Fit in a 20-minute siesta and when you wake up, you’ll be surprised at how much better you’ll feel about your to-do list;
Exercise. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, even 30 minutes is enough to encourage you to feel as if you’ve brushed off some of the tension and are prepared to face those overcrowded highways and long check-out lines again. And make it simple. Take a walk, a jog, run—anything to get the blood flowing and the heart pumping;
Get off social media. I’ve seen many of my fellow tweeters/posters take a couple of weeks off during the holiday season. So, if you believe this might be part of the key that helps you remain calm during this time, then do it. It’s ok. We’ll all still be here when you get back;
Take a drop-in yoga class. Sometimes studios will allow you to purchase a single session without forcing you to sign up for the whole season. If so, take one and stretch out those muscles until they relax. There are also Apple and Android apps for yoga, if you’d rather go in that direction;
Let someone have the right of way the next time you’re out and about driving around town. No, really. The next time you’re waiting in a line of traffic, look for an opportunity to fit it in (safely), then wave them on and let them cut in ahead of you. You’ll be surprised at how good you’ll feel having done it. It’s a gentle way of reminding ourselves that everyone is stressed out and under pressure this time of year;
Prioritize your tasks. Write them out if you have to (I make lists for my lists. It’s true). Next, decide which of your responsibilities can wait and which absolutely can’t. Then tackle the most important ones first. This way you know you’ll accomplish those all-important chores, and they won’t be forgotten or brushed aside later when you find yourself becoming truly worn out. Now is not the time to brow beat yourself over…anything, let alone the things you marked as important but didn’t get the chance to do;
If you need to stop writing during these next weeks, go ahead and do it. Guilt free. If you need to put your WIP on a back burner, or up on a shelf, allow yourself the grace to tuck it away for a while. It’s not going anywhere. There’s no shame in reserving all your energy for powering through everything that’s required of you during this time. Don’t feel as if you have to barrel through that next chapter, too. Let it go. You’ll be glad you did, and you might even brew up some new ideas when you finally come back around to it in the new year;
Lastly, be sure to remind yourself you’re doing the best you can—because whatever you’re doing, you are doing the best you can. Say it, think it, even breath it, often and with gusto.
So, there you have it—12 ideas to help you relieve stress and tension during the holiday season. I hope at least one or two of them will be helpful. The holidays come around once a year, and sometimes it’s the only time we get to see the people in our lives we love the most. So, let’s all try to enjoy them!
Happy Holidays to you and yours and whatever you choose to celebrate!