AH HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA! Are you out in the madness? If not, YAY! Good for you! Don’t buy (see what I did there?) into the hype and rampant consumerism that has come to define this season! ::grumble grumble::
But if you must participate in the nutty consumerism, BUY BOOKS. And/or ART. And/or MUSIC. And/or LOCALLY MADE COOL STUFF! Support creative communities by legally purchasing the work that emerges from them. YAY! CREATIVE COMMUNITIES!
And now, my handy-dandy how-to-get-through-the-holidays tips. We here at Women and Words want you to stay sane and healthy through this time of year!
1. Okay. First, chill. This time of year is always stressful, even if you like the holidays. So make sure you take some time for yourself. Treat yourself to a massage if you can afford it or do a mini stay-cation at home and read or watch movies or whatever it is that relaxes you. If you can, take one day a week for me time. If not, try to do 30 minutes a day for me time.
2. Everything that’s edible this time of year has at least 40 million calories per serving. Don’t deprive yourself, but watch your intake. Too much sugar isn’t healthy and makes you sugar-crash, which then makes you want to eat more. Processed sugars are designed to get you hooked, so be careful about how much of that most excellent fudgie chocolatey goodness you indulge in. Moderation, friends. It’s all about moderation.
3. Watch your alcohol intake, especially if you’re going to a family gathering that does not make you feel happy happy joy joy. I know, I know. It’s the holidays and everything seems to feel better with alcohol (short-term), but if you don’t drink much anyway, maintain that habit. Alcohol has a lot of sugars and it’s also a depressant, and for those of us who have to deal with depression issues, it’s important that we pay attention to our alcohol intake. If you don’t drink at all, good on you. I drink a lot of sparkling water and herbal and decaf teas. Hot cider is also a festive drink that doesn’t require alcohol. Throw some oranges and cloves in there, and BOOM. Deliciousness.
4. Exercise. If you’re not a gym bunny, take a few more walks. Even in the winter time, if it’s not 30 below with wind chill, do it. Bundle up and walk with a friend, a family member (including the 4-legged variety), or a neighbor and get some chatting in. If you’re fine walking by yourself, do it. A mile will take you about 20-25 minutes and it really does improve your overall well-being. It can also be part of your “me time.”
5. Get some rest/stay rested. If you’re running around like a freak, you’re also running your immune system down. Make sure you get some naps in and stay rested (as best you can at night). OH, and it’s totally okay if you don’t feel like decorating. 🙂
6. On gifting: My family and I do still exchange holiday gifts, but we also have certain charities that we donate to every year as a family. One of those is Heifer International, and as a family we pick out what we’re going to donate. We love donating money for at least one goat and a couple flocks of chickens and bees. Hit the link to see what I’m talking about.
Something else you might consider doing is having holiday get-togethers instead of buying gifts for everyone. Make ’em a potluck gathering that doubles as a book club meeting. Or do what a group of my friends and I used to do when we’d get together (I moved out of that state, so I have different gatherings now) this time of year. We’d do a potluck gathering every year and at that point, we would decide which local charity to donate to. One year we donated to a group that helped women inmates and their kids, so we got a list from the organization and divvied up the item numbers and bought enough to help 10 women and their kids. Plus, we got to hang out with each other in a fun, low-stress get-together.
7. On family: Okay, I know. This is a tough topic. If this time of year really stresses you out because you have issues with your family of origin (and who doesn’t?) and you feel roped into having to go deal with them, re-think that. Especially for those people who are LGBT and have not-so-great relationships with family of origin, think about how you can stay healthy if you end up going. If you decide that this year, you’re just not going to put yourself through that, kudos to you. Don’t feel guilty! If that’s what it takes to keep you healthy, then that’s what it takes. It’s okay to make new holiday traditions with your family of choice (and the family of origin members that love and accept you for who you are).
If you end up going to a family gathering and you know how it’ll play out (buckets of suckage), well, that can be a good thing that you know the pattern because you know when to duck out of the scene to protect yourself if things really start getting crappy. Set clear boundaries for yourself and stick to them. That is, what you will and will not accept and what you will and will not engage with. Yes, you will have to adjust your own expectations and behaviors slightly. But it’s worth it. Some engagements aren’t worth the effort, so ponder that before you go. The important thing is to protect yourself from holiday dysfunction, and it is possible to do that even when you’re in the middle of it.
Quick n’ dirty: avoid fights, keep busy in the kitchen or doing whatever, maintain humor. Click here for more.
7. Check in on your neighbors and friends. This is a tough time of year for a lot of people, and especially for people who have lost loved ones in the past year. The holiday season is a trigger for grief over lost loved ones, so if you know someone who is dealing with that, check in. Take some food over or take them to a movie or out to coffee or something.
Don’t avoid the topic. Just say something like, “I know this time of year is hard because [lost loved one’s name] isn’t here to share it with you, and I just wanted you to know I’m thinking about you and can I take you to lunch?” If the person wants to talk about their loved one, let them. It can be helpful and cathartic for them to share a bit about that loved one, and that can help them cope, if they know someone is aware of their loss and how it affects them at the holidays and is willing to listen to them.
Also, if you have older neighbors, check in on them. Some older people don’t have family around, and tend to become isolated, which can exacerbate depression.
8. Keep your pets healthy. Make sure you’ve secured your household from holiday things that could be dangerous to pets. Here are 9 potential hazards for pets. And remember that this can be a stressful time for them, too. ASPCA has some more tips.
9. Keep your kids healthy. There are going to be jillions of people coming around. Keep an eye on your kids and make sure you’ve got them super-trained to wash their hands often. And if your kids are young, why not establish new holiday traditions? When I was growing up, one of the traditions my family had was a vacation every Christmas instead of presents. We’d go somewhere warmer (usually driving) and we’d explore new museums and places for a few days. I really loved those vacations, because memories last a lot longer than a toy. If it’s too expensive for a vacation, maybe attend a local cool event with your kids to help get them out of the BUY BUY BUY frenzy that comes with this time of year. Kids’ museums usually have really neat stuff going on all the time. Check the local schedules.
OH, and COOK WITH YOUR KIDS/GRANDKIDS. Start teaching them how to get around the kitchen. Cooking is a life skill that will ALWAYS be handy.
10. Do something new this holiday season. Go to a museum you’ve never been to or take a drive to a neighboring town and have coffee. If you live in a heavily urban area, take public transportation to a part of the city you rarely visit and explore. Take a friend or two.
The important thing is to stay safe and take care of yourselves. Be healthy, friends!
Got some tips of your own to share? PLEASE DO! Happy Friday!