Summer is finally fading into fall – and guess what a chill in the air and changing colors in foliage brings? Holidays! If the hectic holiday season always catches you unaware and leaves you feeling stressed, depressed, or frazzled, read on to discover some tips on how to celebrate differently this year!
Set Realistic Expectations
The holidays inspire us to create a whole slew of nonstop and yet memorable experiences. It starts with creating intricate or trendy costumes for Halloween, then cooking the ideal meal on Thanksgiving, to lighting menorah candles and making latkes and donuts throughout Hanukkah, or purchasing and wrapping the perfect gifts for your loved ones just before Christmas, to finally somehow looking fabulous after all that and fitting into your favorite, chic little black dress at your office New Year’s Eve party. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? In an effort to create one magical experience after another, it’s easy to get lost in the ever-consuming details. Instead of savoring each moment, you arrive at these events feeling tired, wired, cranky, or sadly wondering if all your efforts lived up to what you saw on your Instagram feed.
So this year, give your expectations a large edit! Make one or two events special and allow the others to either be orchestrated by someone else or shelved for the following year. After creating impressive Halloween costumes, give yourself a break for Thanksgiving and order the meal ahead of time from your local grocer. If Turkey Day is important in your household, then make this Christmas or Hanukkah a relaxing celebration with fewer gifts or tchotchkes and leftovers instead of five-course dinners. If enjoying the holidays and keeping yourself healthy is your top priority, then it's important to consider that not every party or celebration need be five-star, Martha Stewart quality.
Prioritize Your Budget
From decorating to taking time off work, traveling to gift giving, and hosting extended family, work parties, or large dinners – this time of year adds up quickly when it comes to spending money. Prioritizing your spending will help you spend less, reducing the shock that steep credit card bills can cause when they arrive in the new year. Focusing on spending goals and then sticking to them may feel like a downer – especially if it means saying no to something you want or you believe someone you love wants. However, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association done in 2020, nearly 64% of Americans report feeling anxious about money. So being financially responsible has its own stress-relieving qualities. And fewer gifts, trips, decorations, or desserts, can actually increase your enjoyment of what you do have. In other words, sometimes less is more.
Enjoy Family Gatherings or Being Alone
The holidays often focus on family gatherings, which can cause serious stress depending on how well you relate to your extended family members or in-laws. Personal, political, religious, or ideologic differences can create a less than harmonious environment at the dinner table, and there are plenty of current issues to spark controversy – from the war in Ukraine to climate change. To curtail a gathering that could easily lead to awkward, tense silences, indigestion, or worse, try planning a few structured topics ahead of time that are neutral and yet interesting. Have each family share so everyone gets a chance to talk, including quieter members. This could make for a much less stressful gathering!
Here are some possible group topics. Have each family member share:
- What they are most grateful for
- Their goals or new year resolutions
- A place or event on their bucket list
- A favorite childhood memory
- An accomplishment they are proud of from the past year
Alternatively, this time of year can often highlight the absence of family or social connections. However, since the pandemic, even Grandma knows how to Zoom now, so don’t hesitate to schedule some chats. Sharing photos over text or email can also help you feel connected to loved ones who are far away, and holiday concerts or community events can improve your connection to your local community. Scheduling ahead this time of year will reduce the chances that you find yourself home alone throughout Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, or Christmas. See if any of your co-workers or friends are also spending the holidays sans family and host a potluck. Or consider spending your time giving to someone else in need. Soup kitchens or food pantries are always looking for volunteers during the holiday season and helping someone else will boost your mood while broadening your social network at the same time.
Master the Art of Moderation
With feasts and parties at an all-time high during the holiday season, so too are binge eating and drinking habits. Besides the increase in temptations for both alcohol and rich foods at social gatherings, and the social lubricant that both provide, the stress that the holidays create can also encourage a third piece of pie or another glass of wine when normally one would do. A report issued by Alcohol Monitoring Systems found that drinking rates increased by 33% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day amongst 450,000 monitored DUI offenders, even though they knew their alcohol consumption was being consistently observed.
Mastering the art of moderation is more important than ever this time of year. There is nothing wrong with another glass of champagne or an appetizer, but keep track of how often you’ve indulged and make sure to moderate your behavior the next time you’re faced with similar temptations. Don’t pile your plate with more food than you can eat – regardless of how delicious it looks – and refrain from seconds or hold a glass of water so you aren’t tempted to fill it with spiked eggnog or Baileys and coffee. Food and alcohol should not replace stress management techniques so make sure you have plenty of alternatives on hand – such as the ones illustrated below.
Know Your Triggers
Knowing your stress triggers and having management techniques lined up is a powerful combination that will keep you healthy and well-balanced throughout the frantic holiday season. Triggers abound between Halloween and New Years – from overcrowded stores, back-to-back events and parties, booze, sweets, family, and financial pressures – there’s something for everyone! Identify what triggers you most and either avoid that trigger or create your own personal stress management tool kit with activities such as:
- Guided meditation
- A warm bath
- Forest bathing or time in nature
- Playing with your pet
The Herb Shoppe's Tension Relief Salve is a perfect instrument to add to your stress management tool kit. Easy to slip into your purse or back pocket, you can take it with you on the go. Simply rub a bit of the salve on your pulse points or wherever you are feeling tense and take some deep, relaxing breaths of fresh air. Made with Kava Kava and Passionflower, which will help relax and ground you, Tension Relief Salve also contains White Willow Bark and Feverfew which are both anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving – perfect for tight shoulders, neck, or jaw clenching – all which can cause tension headaches. It also has a lovely blend of Rosemary, Lavender, Peppermint, and Eucalyptus essential oils, that rejuvenate your senses, raise your alertness, improve memory and focus, and increase blood flow, giving you a renewed sense of energy that will allow you tackle whatever challenge you are faced with – be it eating beyond the point of feeling full, a long line at the mall, or a crowded get-together.
Try incorporating some of these tips and perhaps this holiday season will be your most balanced one yet! Planning ahead is the key, so don’t hesitate to start envisioning what kind of fall and winter you want to have before the season starts to change. You’ll be thanking yourself in the new year!