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.
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!