I sat down intending to write this post about the best modern holiday decorations or the top ten ways to make your house sparkle with holiday cheer using things you'll easily find in your pantry and then I thought, 'Holy smokes, we can't, in good conscience, tell our readers they should gleefully be placing glittery glass balls in a bowl or wrapping the banister with silver and gold garland while singing every carol in the book.'
This can be one of the most intense times of the year and I can't pretend it isn't. The holidays have the capacity to be magical. They can be beautiful. They can be heartwarming. And they have the potential to be incredibly stressful. I'm talking, like, insomnia-inducing, heart-palpitating, breakdown-inspiring stress. The gifts to buy, the traffic to navigate, the places to be, the food to make. Are you feeling superduperanxious yet?
OK, deep deep breaths, baby. We're going to help you alleviate the holiday stress and take it in stride, by being pragmatic and present and deep breathing (no joke). You can do it.
#1 - DEEP BREATHS BRING YOU BACK
It's SCIENCE -- deep breathing positively impacts your heart, brain, digestion, and immune system. Imagine that your deep breaths are the brake that stops a careening car (your body) from gaining additional speed and crashing into a brick building. One of the best and most effective breathing exercises I've learned is this: Breathe in through your nose for a FOUR COUNT; hold the breath for a SEVEN COUNT; release through your mouth for an EIGHT COUNT. Do this a few times and I promise you, it's like a shot of endorphin tequila leveling out your soul. (And then maybe do that shot of actual tequila anyway, just in case.)
#2 - LESS TIME CLEANING, MORE TIME BEING
The dirty dishes can wait. And you don't have to clean underneath the sofa before your guests arrive or take on the landscaping project of the entire backyard to start and finish in two weeks. If it's crazy-making to even consider the elements of resolving a project, that's a sign that the frenzy will only escalate as the insuperable reality of the job takes hold. Your friends won't care (or even notice, most likely) if your home isn't spotless (tip: it will never be truly "spotless"!). What's of much greater importance are the conversations and humor and time bonding with your beloveds.
#3 - YOU CAN SAY 'NO' + STILL BE LOVING
During the holidays, we're invited to about one billion fetes and events and gatherings and "white elephant" parties. If you're anything like me, you want to say yes, you want to be able to do it all, and do it all well. But, hey, will missing an art opening across town on a Thursday night be the worst thing in the world? NO. No, it will not.
Just say NO. Try it. Practice it in the mirror to get used to the sound of it coming out of your own mouth. Now, mindfully and with love, say no to the events you cannot make, the dinners you cannot attend. Set those boundaries, baby, because you're the only one who can.
#4 - TAKE-OUT TIMESAVERS ARE NO-BRAINERS
Your favorite green bean and almond dish, butternut squash and arugula salad, and ginger cake with salted caramel glaze are tried and tested showstoppers. You don't need to make these delectable concoctions from scratch. Make it easy on yourself and order these elements of the holiday meal ahead of time and pick them up, ready to roll. No prep time = more time for you to breathe deeply and ground yourself.
#5 - BE NICE. BE GENEROUS. BE KIND.
Being altruistic to others makes us feel positively about humankind in general and specifically in regards to the people upon whom we're bestowing our magnanimity. And it goes both ways - the trust and connection created from kindness mirrors itself between the giver and the receiver. Giving releases oxytocin, the hormone released during sex (YOWZA!), galvanizing feelings of warmth and euphoria and connectivity. When you're on an oxytocin high, you feel more empathy and compassion towards others, and this high can become infectious, with the ability to kick off a "virtuous circle," person after person becoming generous and kind. Can you even imagine? A contagion of kindness making us all a bit cheerier and allied with one another? How phenomenal and astounding could that be?
Volunteering your time at an animal shelter, soup kitchen, hospice, community college or non-profit organization, or even donating blankets to an animal rescue you follow on Instagram and adore from afar can elevate your soul, reduce your stress levels, and, wonderfully and surprisingly, lengthen your joyful life.
Let's do this thing, holidays! You got this.
xx - Rebecca