Holiday stress is about as famous as the holidays themselves. Maybe I’ve been lucky (or maybe I’ve just been yoga-ed), but the holidays don’t freak me out too much. Now, I know I am quite fortunate in that I have a mellow family with only one passive-aggressive member, and since the rest of us all know who that person is and what s/he is up to, it’s fairly easy to manage.
Still, I’ve given this some thought, because I hear a lot of people say they wish the holidays were over already.
First: if holidays are difficult because you’ve recently lost a family member, I get that. I lost my grandmother the day after Thanksgiving a decade ago. Those first years are hard.
Beyond that, here are my thoughts on how to manage holiday stress and enjoy the season for what it is.
Take It Easy on Gifts
Every relationship is different with different levels of pressure on the gift-giving, but don’t let the stores tell you what you need to be buying for someone. Don’t put yourself into financial struggle or discomfort just so someone else can open something he or she may never use. Gift giving is fun, but if money is an issue this year, look for inexpensive ways to give. I’ve given completed photo albums and baked goods and items I’ve found on sale. Check Groupon for experiences you could enjoy together with your recipient.
Take It Easy on Each Other
I know we all get disgusted when we see photos of people running over each other to be the first to take advantage of a Black Friday deal, but remember: those people have their own perspective about life. Same goes for a mother who nags about your choice of spouse, an uncle who somehow turns every event into All About Him, a friend who says, “Are you going to eat that?” They may not be doing it the way we think they should, but we can give them the benefit of the doubt, understand that they’re doing the best they can within their own framework for living, and choose a response rather than allowing them to stimulate a knee-jerk reaction.
Let Go of Expectations
There’s no “right” way for the holidays to go. The parties and the family gatherings and the gift exchanges will unfold as they will. Our expectations that Grandma will behave or that a child will love a gift and light up like a Christmas tree upon opening it can set us up for disappointment. I’m not saying you should assume it’ll all be a disaster, either. Be neutral. Be observant. Enjoy what happens rather than expecting something happen.
Go Guilt-Free on the Food
Guilt-free holidays are a choice. Don’t let an extra cookie or glass of egg nog make you feel like you’ve failed at your health and fitness efforts. You haven’t. You’re just enjoying life. You’re being totally healthy the rest of the year (with a little guilt-free slip up at Halloween and maybe the 4th of July). You don’t need to “punish” yourself with extra workouts–just do the workouts you normally do. Eat a healthy breakfast and lunch, then enjoy the party that evening. Feeling guilty about the food you put in your body won’t help anything, and in fact, I believe it’s detrimental not only to your physical self, but your mental self as well.
Find the Joy
It’s okay if you’re just not a holiday person. We don’t all love everything the same way, and that’s the best part about being human. Instead of feeling a pressure to conform to all the holly jolly, just find joy in what you can. Lights? Egg nog? Family? Ugly holiday sweaters? Ignoring it all and keeping with your regularly scheduled programming? Perfect. Embrace the little elements you find joyful, even if the rest is unappealing.
You Do You
Decorate or don’t. Attend parties or don’t. Give gifts or don’t. Celebrate (or don’t) the way that feels good to you.
And Do Your Yoga