In my adult life, I was surprised to find that of the people who participate in the holiday season (Christmas & New Years, namely) people tend to fall into one of two groups – those who love the holidays and those who don’t. I am, and always have been a fan of christmas time. it is very much a part of my personality to deeply value time spent with family and friends, cozy sweaters, the smell of evergreens, and the smiles, hugs and kisses exchanged in gratitude for wishes fulfilled. I love it all. Rosy cheeks, the smell of wood fires, the stacks of presents wrapped up and pushed under the tree, hanging ornaments, drinking eggnog and spiked coffee. It reminds me of being a part of something bigger. That love is complicated, but atleast for a short while each year, we push our differences aside, and embrace joy and the positive side of love.
There are a myriad of reasons as to why people may not like the holidays. I can understand when this time of year brings up mixed emotions when if you feel like you are obliged to spend time with people you’d rather not, or you find yourself deeply missing someone who is no longer walking among us, or just when you bog yourself down with the stress of over committing to parties and entertaining, getting dressed up or being worried about over indulging in food or alcohol, not to mention woes about finances or where you will find the time to go gift shopping. I wish I had answers to solve all of these problems. That everyone could experience the magic of Christmas. The solutions are not always black and white and what works for some people, may not work for others.
Even though I love Christmas, I am not immune to feeling stressed this time of year. I find there is certain nervous energy in the air, especially as we count down the days to Christmas Eve and day. Stress does all kinds of terrible things to our bodies, including making us more prone to illness and disease, causing hormonal disruptions or imbalances and disturbances in our sleep patterns. My stress this time of year comes from this ” negative energy” I feel around me, and also because of rules I place upon myself. Since I live so far away from my family in New York City, Christmas time has come to mean either I travel, or need to get my home ready for guests to spend with us, which usually means a deep clean, and some shuffling of furniture/large items to better accomodate guests.
In between my list of things to do – shopping, baking, cooking, cleaning, laundry, packing, gift wrapping, etc, I try to make time for myself. Here is a list of ways that I try to reduce stress so I can better enjoy the holidays (or anytime of year, really)
1. Get the bulk of my gift shopping done before dec. 1st. Failing that, avoiding shopping in malls and big box stores on weekends. shopping later in the day (after 5pm, when people are likely eating dinner or putting small children to bed), the stores are usually less crowded.
2. Having a list for any type of shopping I need to do, organized according to store layout. I avoid spending extra time in the store that I’d rather spend at home, and avoid potentially over-spending because I am buying duplicates, or spending outside of my budget.
3. Taking atleast an hour for myself every day to do something special for myself or to do nothing at all.
4. Taking a hot bath with 2 cups of Epsom salts & 6 drops of lavender essential oil (almost) every night just before bed. I soak for a minimum of 20 minutes. It’s enough time to read for a while and get sleepy. I do the rest of my getting ready for bed routine before I get in the bath, so that I can go right to sleep when I’m done.
5. Having a cup of tea or other hot drink (no caffeine after 4 pm for me) and either knitting, or reading while enjoying the warm drink.
6. Doing a breathing exercise any time I feel stressed throughout the day, and right before I go to sleep. Inhale through my mouth for a count of 5, and exhale through my nose for a count of 7 or 8.
7. meditation or sun salutations for 10-15 minutes, ideally done first thing in the morning.
8. Take a nap ( no more than 1 hour)
9. Listen to some music.
What is your favorite way to relax or unwind after a stressful day?