How to Thrive During the Holiday Season

If this were an article written for a mainstream magazine or blog, it would probably focus on where to get the best deals on Christmas gifts or how to set up an amazing light display in your yard. But instead of adding to the chaos, let’s infuse some self-care into a month that is packed with celebrations and expectations.

Here are some ways to make sure you’re caring for yourself while you’re preparing for your holiday gatherings – or to navigate society’s expectations if you don’t have big plans.

Simplify, simplify, simplify. You can significantly reduce your holiday stress by changing your expectations of what you “should” be doing. Choose your most beloved holiday traditions and ask your immediate family members what their favorites are. Then focus on those activities, letting some of the other stuff go. Chances are you’re the only one putting so much pressure on yourself to do it all.

Light candles. Here in New England, we’re now in the time of year when the nights are longest. This can affect you emotionally as well as physically. Light candles in your home in the evening. Take a few moments to savor their warm light. Gaze into the flame and let your thoughts drift.

Bundle up for an evening walk in your town and enjoy the holiday lights and decorations. As you walk, meditate on the return of the light. Think about your priorities and what the holidays truly mean to you.

Read more. If you want to make this a family activity, read holiday books to the kids or to each other. Or just take time off from holiday preparations and curl up with a good novel.

Make homemade gifts. This is fun because you’re doing things for others, yet you can spend time alone on quiet creative pursuits. As you work you can focus on the person you’re making the gift for or simply let your creative energies flow. Don’t think of it as just another task that needs to be done, but truly enjoy yourself.

Smile at everyone you encounter, especially people who look stressed out. Share your light, joy and inner peace. If you’re feeling far from peaceful yourself, you can empathize with your fellow shoppers. Be extra kind.

Write letters to your loved ones describing how you feel about them. They will cherish this more than any gift you could purchase.

Celebrate the Winter Solstice which is happening on December 21st. Feed the birds and squirrels, or give them extra treats if you already do this. Leave milk and goodies out as offerings for the spirits of the land. Make a donation to your favorite charity.

Make soup. On one of these cold dark nights, make a pot of your favorite soup or other hot comforting meal. Savor it slowly, bite by bite, and feel it nourishing your body and soul. When your body is warm you feel comforted and held. Bonus tip: throw a robe or sweatshirt in the dryer for ten minutes then cozy up in it while you enjoy your homemade meal.

Enjoy silence. Deliberately add some silence to your day. Shut off the radio in the car or go without TV or music when you are at home. Go for a walk and listen to the sounds of the natural world. Take a break from “daily news,” especially political news. Talk less and ponder more.

Take a true day off. If at all possible, take an entire day off from work, school or your daily activities to do nothing or anything. Don’t go holiday shopping or do the laundry unless that is truly what calls to you. What a luxury this is! Enjoy it. If this is difficult to do because you have young children, involve them in your day off. Compromise with them on the fun activities you’ll do together on this special day.

Perhaps the most important tip of all is: don’t try to do all of these things.

The winter holidays add to our personal workload and come with all sorts of expectations. By taking time for more self-care you’ll enable yourself to thrive in the midst of the chaos.

Maybe you’ll also inspire others in your life to find gentler ways to navigate the holidays.

Wishing you joy, light and love this December and beyond!

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