The holidays are quickly approaching. I love this time of year. We host Thanksgiving for friends and loved ones, and I love the sparkle of the winter holidays. But I know it can be an extremely stressful time for people. So today I thought I’d talk a little bit about ways to destress during the holidays.
1: Before you commit to events or parties, ask yourself how many evenings and afternoons are you willing to spare during this time. How many can you comfortably attend and enjoy? Make a list of those events that are mandatory in your life. Then look at your remaining free time and decide what else you want to/can do. When someone invites you out, ask yourself how much you really want to attend the event. Because every time you say yes to something, you’re actually saying no to others.
2: Remember: the holidays are about joy. Take time to enjoy those days that mean the most to you. Samwise and I celebrate Thanksgiving and Yule (the Winter Solstice). The solstice is our religious holiday, and it’s important to us, so we aren’t going to plan other things for that day. We host Thanksgiving, and until this year, I’ve worked through most of that week. Usually I had deadlines given to me by my ex-publisher. But this year, I have decided to take the entire week off. I want to enjoy pulling together dinner for friends and to make the house feel loving and welcoming. I want to be able to take my time.
3: If you can possibly avoid them, eliminate spending time with toxic people or those who are only draining. If you must spend time with family members or friends who constantly complain, takes jabs at you, drain energy, then cut that time as short as possible. If they start complaining, murmur an appropriate reply and then move off with a, “I think I’ll help in the kitchen” or other excuse. Don’t ask them how they are, if you don’t want to be assaulted with a never-ending string of complaints. I want you to remember: You are NOT their dumping ground.
4: Can’t afford gifts during the holiday? Neither can a lot of people. Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed to tell people, “This is a tight time for me financially, so I won’t be giving gifts but I hope you know how much I care.” You can give the gift of time—babysitting so Mom has an afternoon free, helping a friend clear out their closet so it’s not so daunting, offering to bring a movie and popcorn over for Movie Night. And if you receive gifts when you can’t reciprocate, all that you need to do is tell the sender a heartfelt “Thank you”…because a gift should be given with love and the joy it brings should be the best reward.
5: It’s okay to be sad. Everybody’s expected to be all “joy joy happy happy” all season long, and frankly, sometimes the holidays are depressing for some people. Regardless of the reason, it’s all right to feel what you feel. Trust me, a lot of people feel left out at this time.
6: I love to decorate — we spend three days fully decorating the house and the outside. Then, I have friends whose idea of decorating is to set out a foot-high tree and stick a decoration on it. That’s their tradition. I know people who go far more ornate and elaborate than I do. It’s their way. Everything is relative to who we are. Respect the differences and enjoy your own path.
7: Holidays can be rough if we lose someone important in our life—be they a pet or person. My mother died on December 16, 2000—that year, the holidays were rough and I didn’t try to pretend otherwise. But if you do want to celebrate, it’s important not to feel guilty. The lights and sparkle can bring their own joy and sometimes, we desperately need joy. So, think about making a new tradition, to help you move ahead in your life.
8: Stop getting offended. Anger uses up so much energy. I say Happy Holidays because I’m not Christian and I celebrate the solstice. If someone tells me Happy Hanukkah or Merry Christmas I return with my Happy Holidays, and say we call it good all the way around. There are so many traditions during these winter months, and NONE of them is the one and only true tradition. So do what you love, and encourage others to do what they love, and recognize that if we’re all focused on traditions of togetherness, joy, and peace, then whatever you call your holiday, whatever god(s) you worship, and whatever day you celebrate it on, doesn’t really matter. Diversity keeps this world alive. Let’s spread understanding and joy.