Last Christmas, during the 8-hour ride to my parents’ house, I looked around at some of the other drivers on the interstate.
A few people were tapping their fingers on the steering wheel and singing.
Lots of drivers, however, didn’t look all that happy. Many were gripping the steering wheel with both hands. Many jaws were clenched. I saw more than a few moms turning around 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?”
I had an idea that someone ought to set up “Therapy Stations” in Rest Area parking lots. 🙂
Now, I know some people will read this and think, “How ridiculous! It’s the holidays! No one feels bad about going to see their family! Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year!”
If you’re one of these people, then you have my heartfelt congratulations. And I’ll invite you to stop reading now.
For those who find the combination of holiday and family to be the slightest bit stressful, and for anyone who grips the steering wheel a little too tightly as they drive towards home – read on.
So, let’s face it. You can do your usual thing. You can try to fix your family. You can spend lots of time wishing your family were more, uh, normal. You can be pissed off about having to go to your Aunt Millie’s house every year. You can get offended at how no one ever remembers that, “No, vegetarians don’t eat pork.”
Or you can start from a better place. You can start from the only place that you can control.
Inside of you.
The Guide to Holiday Self-Care
If you create a strong foundation of health and rest and self-care, you’ll get triggered less. You’ll feel more at peace in all situations. Even in traffic.
Here are 7 simple tricks that you can begin working with now to help you build that foundation:
1. Go to bed before 9pm at least once a week
This is the most non-decadent decadent gift you can give yourself.
Most of us stay up too late thinking we can get another hour’s worth of nothing done when the most productive thing we can do is rest. If this is you, give yourself permission to go to bed before 9pm once a week during December.
2. Book a hotel now
If you are traveling to visit family, and if you’re typically a guest at a family member’s house, then maybe it’s time for a change.
You don’t have to get attitudinal about it. You can just plan ahead now.
Get a hotel room.
If you’re scared this will upset everyone, you can email your family in advance and let them know that you’ve chosen to do this. Be sure to keep your language and intent proactive.
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. Here are some examples:
Proactive: “I’ve been working a lot this fall, and in order to honor my needs this Christmas, I’ve decided to stay in a hotel this year. 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 five minutes of sanity during these few days…”
Hopefully, you can sense the difference.
Many hotels offer great rates during the holiday season. Check out each hotel chain website and find a nice room near you. I always get a suite with a kitchen, so I can bring healthy food for breakfasts.
Once you do this, you’ll be more at ease about your trip home because you know in advance that you’ll have some time for yourself. You won’t be wasting energy wondering if you’ll ever get a moment to breathe.
3 – Exercise
I just started working with a trainer who gave me a superb rate because, “No one works out during the holidays. Then they all come back 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 isn’t a great motivator, if you ask me. But emotional well-being works every time! Your brain functions better when you exercise. And you’re less likely to get stressed out if you’ve had a good work-out or walk.
4. Drink lots of water
It’ll curb your appetite and refresh your system.
5. Be aware of Nervous Food
6. Get a good book
Everyone loves summer vacation reading lists. I like to use these lists for holiday reading. Having a great book is the perfect way to add 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.
7. Give Yourself Permission to Say No
You don’t have to go to every Christmas 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!
This series will continue with some practical steps to take before you start loading up your car…