With Thanksgiving just around the corner, holiday stress is starting to sneak in for many of us. Worrying about getting it all done, fear of the in-laws judging your cooking, dreading the office party, agonizing over how to handle meddling family… Can you relate?
I’m going to share with you ten tips for softer holidays. Five tips are for you, specifically intended to help you be kinder to yourself. You are amazing and deserve to have an enjoyable holiday season. Having a checklist of tips to remind you of this will come in handy over the next few weeks.
The other five tips are also for you AND for those around you. Not only will these tips make you feel terrific, but it’s also an opportunity to deal with situations that in the past may have felt frustrating. Those around you may leave these situations with a befuddled look, because you’ve defused the situation and left them with a big ol’ dose of soft. And that feels really good.
You ready? Here we go…
Being Softer To Yourself
1. Eat The Food! I spent many holiday seasons doing things like filling up on salad before I left the house, having only a glass of wine because it was lower in calories than the yummy cranberry cocktail served at a party, skipping the dessert table completely and eating only from the veggie tray. That’s ridiculous! Holiday food is special, much of it created only once a year. Why should you deprive yourself? Look for the best of the goodies at the party, truly savor their decadence, slow down and taste how good the food is. Give yourself the gift of approving of your food choices. (I’m not suggesting you throw aside your food allergy or intolerance restrictions, I’m suggesting you choose food that works for you and enjoy it!)
2. Breathe. Have you ever noticed how many times in an exercise class the instructor reminds you to breathe? Like we could somehow forget to do the very thing that keeps us alive? Much of what we do when exercising has a similar effect to our stress response. Our breathing becomes more rapid which increases our heart rate and elevates blood pressure. Or we hold our breath, shoulders up at our ears, ready to pounce. In a calm moment, when you aren’t ready to come totally unhinged with holiday stress, take a moment and really notice your breathing. It’s slower, deeper. When you are feeling stressed during the holidays, take just three minutes to do nothing but focus on your breathing, emulating the breath that you felt when you paused to be mindful of it. You’ll feel much softer, more focused and ready to take on the world again.
3. Speak Kindly To Yourself. Remind yourself OFTEN that you are amazing. No comparing yourself to others, no cutting yourself down. You are perfect just as you are. Turn off the negative soundtrack and turn on the positivity!
4. Soften the Schedule. Feeling overwhelmed? Start trimming what isn’t absolutely essential. It’s not possible to keep our sanity intact if we attend every holiday function, volunteer at every charity opportunity, spend every waking hour stressing about getting it all done. Lighten your load so you have time to enjoy the holidays.
5. Let Go of Perfection. Your guests won’t notice if you don’t have coordinating place card markers with their names in perfect calligraphy. What they will notice is how stressed and tired you are. If Pinterest is fueling your need for holiday perfection, step away from it and remember why you are gathering with friends and family this time of year.
Tips for You and Yours
6. Redirect Uncomfortable Conversations. “When are you finally going to marry that man? Are you still at that dead-end job? So is there a baby on the way? Have you gained weight?” You know the questions and they may be well-meaning but still make for very uncomfortable conversation. What I’m about to suggest isn’t easy. It is, however, very effective and will leave you and everyone else feeling less stress. “I need you to stop asking me about this. Let’s just enjoy our time together.” This needs to be delivered with a big smile and a firm voice. It’s not confrontational. It’s just you stating your needs and your desire to truly enjoy the time together with friends and family. So again, “I need you to stop asking me about this. Let’s just enjoy our time together.”
7. Don’t accept unsolicited advice. “I work with a lady who is trying the new ramen noodle diet. Have you considered that?” Or “I know a couple who got pregnant after seeing a naturopathic doctor.” And “I have a friend whose daughter got a job after seeing a career counselor. I’ll put you in touch with her.” Big sigh. Rolling eyes. Visible frustration. That’s how I used to react. Now, I simply say, “Thanks for your concern. I’m not looking for advice right now though.” Again, important to say this with a big smile and a firm voice.
8. Don’t Feel Obligated to Explain Your Food Choices. Many folks want to know more about why we are not eating gluten or why we are eating kale or how we can possibly survive without dairy. Sometimes these questions are asked from a genuine place of curiosity, sometimes the questions are asked in a very defensive way, as though we are threatening someone else’s way of eating with our own choices. It’s best to defuse this situation quickly. “I’m eating what works best for me right now. Perhaps we can talk more about it another time. I’d really just love to enjoy this meal with y’all right now.” Big smile, firm voice.
9. Embrace The Good Stuff. The family members that grate on your nerves are probably the same ones capable of warming your heart. When they are doing all of that wonderful, mooshy heart warming stuff, catch them at it! Tell them how much you enjoy it and how wonderful they are at creating those moments.
10. Let Off Steam. This doesn’t have to be a solo activity, but it can be. It’s also a great family and friends activity. Go on a walk, take a leisurely weeknight drive to see holiday lights in your neighborhood, get a pedicure, go to a restorative yoga class. It’s important that we take time to release the stress this time of year can create, either solo or with others. (Choose your “others” wisely. If they create stress in your life, don’t invite them along when you are letting off steam.)
I know I promised you ten tips, but I’ve got a bonus for you:
11. Phone a Friend. Before the holiday stress takes up residence, designate a friend now that will agree to listen to you on the phone for 15 minutes while you decompress about the stress of your family gathering/work party/social function. This friend will agree to support you without offering advice or passing judgment. In return, you can offer to do the same for this friend. Fifteen minutes makes a world of difference. Try it!