Last Christmas, during the 8-hour ride to my parents’ house, I looked around at the other drivers on the interstate.

A few were tapping their fingers on the steering wheel and singing.

Lots of drivers, however, didn’t look happy. Some were gripping the steering wheel with both hands. Jaws were clenched.  I saw more than a few moms shouting at their kids. Some mini-vans were weaving in and out of traffic at 85mph.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

Or… “It’s the most wonderful time of the year?”

For those folks who find the combination of holiday and family to be the slightest bit stressful, or for anyone who grips the steering wheel a little too tightly as they drive towards home – read on.

Let’s face it.

You can do your usual thing. You can try to fix your family. You can spend lots of time wishing they were more, uh, normal.  You can get offended at how no one ever remembers that, “No, vegetarians don’t in fact eat pork.”

Or you can start from a better place. You can start from the only place that you can control.

Inside of you.

A Guide to Holiday Happiness

If you create a strong foundation of health and self-care, you’ll get triggered less. You’ll feel more centered in all situations. Even traffic.

Here are 6 simple tricks to help you build that foundation:

1. Go to bed before 9pm at least once.

This is the most non-decadent decadent gift you can give yourself.

Most of us stay up late obsessively trying to get more done when the most productive thing we can do is rest. If this is you, give yourself permission to go to bed before 9pm one night. (Or EVERY night!)

2. Book a hotel.

If you’re typically a holiday houseguest, then maybe it’s time for a change.

You don’t have to get attitudinal about it.  Just plan ahead.

Get a hotel room.

If you’re worried this will upset everyone, then email your family in advance and let them know that you’ve chosen to do this. Be sure to use proactive language.

There’s a huge difference between self-care (proactive) and self-defense (reactive). When you’re able to communicate clearly and proactively, people tend to follow that energy.

Examples:

Proactive: “I’ve been working a lot this fall, and I’ve decided to stay in a hotel this year to catch up on rest. I’ll still be at all of our family events! Thanks in advance for understanding.”

Reactive: “Because you are all so irreversibly screwed up, this year I am forced to get a hotel so that I can have at least 5 minutes of sanity during these few days…”

(I trust you can sense the difference.)

Once you do this, you’ll be more relaxed about your trip home because you know in advance that you’ll have some time for yourself. You won’t be using energy wondering if you’ll get a moment to breathe.

3 – Exercise.

Many physical trainers offer special rates this time of year because (in the words of my trainer), “No one works out during the holidays. Then they all return in January, and I can’t fit them in!”   She added that this is the time we need to work out the most!

Get out and do vigorous exercise daily. Weight-loss might not be a great motivator. But emotional well-being works every time! Your brain functions better when you exercise. And you’re less likely to get stressed if you’ve had a good work-out.

4. Drink extra water.

It’ll curb your appetite and refresh your system.

5.  Get a good book.

Everyone loves summer vacation reading lists. I use these lists for holiday reading, too. Having a great book adds delight to your day.

When you get back to your hotel room – rather than watching another hour of the 24-hours of The Christmas Story – grab your book, snuggle into bed and get lost in a mystery.

6. Give Yourself Permission to Say No.

You don’t have to go to every event, party, or dinner that you get invited to. Holiday time also happens to be solstice time. And solstice is a deep dark beautiful time to get quiet. Give yourself that gift. If it feels too draining or tiring to go out, then you hereby have permission to hang out, read a great book, and go to bed at 8:30!

———————–

Happy holidays to everyone! And remember to love (even revel in!) the imperfect-ness of your family, friends, and the whole funny messy twinkly happy crazy season!

13 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • Katie

    Hi Christine–

    This is such a great post–I’m sure most people can relate to the stress that you’re referring to. As much as I love my family and relatives, coping with all of the different personalities and dynamics can overwhelm me and make me resentful. Thank you for writing this–I will definitely try some of your suggestions! Happy Holidays!

  • Alison Elissa Horner

    Great tips Christine. Seems like they are generally applicable to everyday life too. Happy holidays everyone!

  • inge

    loved the first comment ^^

    this year, we’re staying home. just the three of us. for the first time in years! maybe I’ll wear my pyjamas all day ^^

    have a great one, christine, and I hereby wish you all the bestest and all the loveliest for 2012! <3

  • Theresa Ceniccola

    Great tips, Christine! We travel every year for the holidays – and bring all the kids with us! So, we’ve learned along the way that the water, exercise and hotel are key to our survival! And I always read a good book in the car, while the kids are watching a movie – so yippee for me! I have this awesome coach who taught me how to Uplevel My Life, so I guess I’ve actually learned a few things:-))

    I’ve got to work on the early bed time though…that’s always a challenge…

    And, I also love that your mom comments on your blog! She needs to teach my mom a few things…my moms sends me all sorts of sweet notes and comments via email or phone. But she’s not quite ‘there yet’ in terms of posting a comment on the blog itself:-)

    Enjoy your perfectly wonderful family!

    Theresa

  • Sam Uhl

    So true! I poured myself a long steamy bath last night with yummy essential oils and salts and a good book. It was great to go to bed early feeling so relaxed. Me, Mike & our dog Izzy are shuffling off to Buffalo tomorrow in the Jeep (hoping for a white Christmas) and have scheduled a massage for the morning of the 24th with my daughter, who is meeting us from Canada.

    It’ll be a bittersweet holiday – first one without my mother and my father – but we carry on their fun and relaxed approach to the season. Enjoy every minute everyone!

    Cheerfully,
    Sam

  • Velina Brown

    Nice piece! Thank you. I have been staying up too late recently. Thanks for the reminders.
    Happy Holidays.

  • Paula

    Such great advice! We need to realize that the “thing” most people want is just more quality time with us. Take Christine’s advice and give ourselves the gift of rest so we are at our best. That way everyone gets what they want!
    Happy holidays and wishing us all a big, bright 2012.

  • Jacs

    Thankyou you wonderful lady! I am so glad I found you. I have throroughly enjoyed your blueprint to profits videos & call.
    I wish you all the happiness & love you can for this first christmas with your dad. I remember that one so well. Painful & yet healing too.
    much love
    Jacs x

  • Alba Figueroa

    I must admit that I am guilty of working til late – all the time. So I will definitely be sure to get more rest this holiday. But I find it hard to rest when you have a 4 and 2 year old tugging at you all day long. So I think that I am going to ask my parents to babysit so my husband and I can take a staycation at a hotel. It is much needed and well deserved.

  • Biz

    Awww, how sweet is that, your Mom commented on your blog! I know when my Mom did that I felt all special inside!!! Ok, on to my comment … in reading your guide to holiday happiness, it felt pretty good that I had most of the steps pretty much in place, except for one. Exercise. Hurting my back 5.5 years ago prevents me from doing a lot of strenuous stuff, but it does not stop me from stretching, or walking, or mild dancing – so I am ready to commit to that. Thanks for the reminders, it actually felt good to read something you wrote and say, hey, I can celebrate this, and this, and this…HA! You have a sweet and wonderful quiet time yourself!

  • Jan Schochet

    Funny, Christine, and yet great advice. I gave myself permission last night to go to sleep immediately after dinner (about 5 or 6 hours before usual). I had spent my one allotted day (afternoon) for shopping, which was successful, but left me with a headache.

    Sleep was the answer for a couple hours, followed by a craving to read some holiday fiction. I found a book I’d read last year and loved. So i began re-reading the first 2 chapters. and remembered why I loved it. Then still went to sleep “for real” 2 hours before my usual tlbedtime.

    I feel so much better today–rested from good sleep and looking forward to more “book time.”

    Your article supported my choices yesterday. Thanks for the permission. I’ll do it again in this long, dark season. : )

  • Annette Kane

    Nice piece, Christine. Seriously, this is good advice! Can’t wait to see you and Mickey and Ima.. I hope that the travel is not too bad and that you arrive singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Mom

    • Kimberly Graham

      I just wanted to say that seeing your mom comment on your blog made me cry with joy. My mom isn’t perfect, (neither am I) but she’s my mommy and I adore her. I love seeing your mom’s comment here, Christine. I’m sorry for the loss of your dad, and at the same time, wish you and your family a peace-filled and joyful holiday together. xo! Kimberly