As I write this we are in the midst of the holiday season. Yesterday was the summer solstice, the shortest day of the year, and cookies, fudge and sweet treats seem to be at every table.
I dusted off the old sewing machine to make a few handmade gifts and my husband and I are braving the airport to travel to Colorado to see family.
The cold and darkness are real. It's 9 a.m currently and it feels like the sun hasn't even risen yet. So, this time of year can be really challenging for many reasons. I want to keep this post a little on the short side, offering you a few quick and easy ways to stay sane over the holiday season, whether you're staying with in-laws, or avoiding events all together!
First off, I want to normalize the stress that can come with the holidays. Traveling, eating a lot of strange food or more food than usual, more sugar and alcohol than usual, the disruption of our normal routines, all these things can cause stress. Regardless of if you love the holidays, or feel a little more like the grinch, whatever it is, you can use these tips and tricks to help you through the next few weeks so that you get the most out of this celebratory time and also start your year off in a great way.
I love to optimize habits, I love to consider the simple routines of life that can create a significant impact towards doing more of the things that you love, connect with the people that you love, show up in a better way, and feel happy, healthy, and energized at the same time. It's been a little bit of a journey for myself.
I definitely can remember more than one holiday season where the stress was really high, or my body felt lethargic or bloaty, or I just wasn’t as engaged and energized as I wanted to be. And that can really take the fun out of it. It really has gotten better over the years. So, let's jump into this idea.
Close to Normal Sleep Routine
The first tip that I have for y'all today is about sleep. Over the next few weeks, consider paying attention to your sleep habits and maintaining as much as possible your regular sleep schedule. Obviously that's going to be disrupted, like maybe you're going to be staying up late or something like that. You might be in a place where you're in a different time zone.
I’ve found that when I am cognizant of my sleep schedule, especially in terms of when I wake up, that I feel better about my day and my energy is better. So for me, I've noticed that even if I stay up later than I usually do, if I still wake up early, it helps my entire day. I am the kind of person that loves that quiet time in the morning to have a cup of coffee on my own before everyone else is awake. This is how I get grounded and start my day. So it's really important for me to still have that space, even if I stayed up really late the night before.
Take a moment here to identify for yourself which parts of your sleep, bedtime, or waking routine help you to stay balanced and centered the most. For you it might be something slightly different, like taking a shower right when you wake up or something like this. When one routine is disrupted it’s easy for many other small routines to also change. Which ones do you need to hold onto more intentionally?
Breath, Walk, and Go Outside
Alright, tip number two is all about getting some movement in your body. The most common for me during times of travel and lots of family time, is to simply take a little extra time to practice some intentional breathing, along with getting outside and going for a walk, hike, or sometimes a run or quick workout.
This could also look like stepping outside and away from the hot bustling kitchen to simply get some fresh air and take 10 slow deep breaths before going back to check on whatever's cooking. It could be intentional breathing while you slowly and thoroughly wash your hands in the bathroom and enjoy a moment of quiet and calm in the middle of the busyness.
Can you tell that I am an introvert? Ha! Probably these ideas will be quite different if you are an extrovert. Or these suggestions might land differently for you. You might find yourself getting overwhelmed, you might find yourself getting annoyed, you might find yourself getting overly controlling or judgmental. Whatever the situation, the idea here is that you can catch yourself entering a state of stress and dysregulation. At that moment, how can you hit the pause button? How can you easily and quickly pull yourself out of the situation and take a moment to collect yourself, breath deeply, go outside, or have a quick movement snack.
And the more that you can do this proactively, at the start of your day, the more resilient you may find yourself throughout the day. At least that’s certainly true for me! The main thing is that these things don't have to take a long time.
Small Ways to Assert Your Needs
This last tip might look pretty different for different people, but regardless I think the holidays can be challenging in terms of communicating with family, friends, and in-laws in terms of meeting everyone's needs and desires. The grandkids might want to go sledding, the grandparents want peace and quiet, and the parents are trying hard to please everyone while hopefully getting a little of their own needs met. Not to mention multiple events, social engagements, and parties.
It can be easy to get swept up in the schedule, in the commitments, and in the needs and priorities of the group. This can easily create a dynamic where we start to ignore our own needs. Maybe that means forgetting to drink water all day. Maybe that means you suddenly realize your neck and shoulders are cramped and tight, and you feel a sense of disease in your body. The practical tip here is to ask yourself, what do I need and how can I vocalize this to others? You might try saying something like, “wow, I haven’t drunk any water yet today!” and just saying that out loud can help create more momentum to consistently drink water the rest of the day.
Even if there's all this other stuff going on, how can you let go of some control? If you're the person that's making the whole plan, how can you let it roll by itself and maybe pull away for a moment so that you can check in with your own self and your own needs?
If you're the person that's getting swept up in the plan that somebody else created, then how can you look for small, simple ways to assert your own preferences. I think that's really a great tip wherever you are on that spectrum, if you're the person organizing and hosting the event, or if you're the person that's a guest and stepping into somebody else's space, it's always a community effort.
It's always a collaboration. And so looking for these little ways that you can contribute or pull back, right? Like, maybe you don't like the playlist that somebody else plays of holiday music and it just grates on your nerves. Like maybe you can proactively be the person to bring a playlist or something like that, right?
Find the Light
I hope these ideas are helpful to you. Ultimately, you get to do the things that are most in line with what your heart and soul need to find an inner sense of light and warmth during these cold dark winter days.
In Movement and Stillness