Sunday, December 8, 2013

How I'm Surviving the Holidays

Alphie in his holiday best.

This is a hard time of year for many people. Personally the cold weather and darkening of the sky at 4:30 pm contribute to me getting  into a funk on and off from now until March. Blah. But this time of year can be hard for other reasons. The holidays are a time of year I've always looked forward to among months of grey. Good food, family time and days off of school or work are cause for celebration. But, as years have gone by the celebration has gotten more exhausting. I notice that driving 3-4 hours (or 6 1/2 for our last trip due to traffic), eating and drinking at every turn, trying to fit in every last bit of face time with people that I do not see enough and little sleep leave me run down and not exactly pining for the next holiday season. All of this makes me feel like I'm somehow missing the point altogether. So, I have been working to make our holidays a little less stressful and more enjoyable. Below is a list of things I have identified as ways I need to take care of myself this time of year. 

1. You can't make everyone happy all of the time: For the first four years Nick and I were together we went to see every family member, every event and ate every meal. I did not want to complain, after all, who complains about being loved and welcomed?  But this was unmanageable. I was really scared to share with our families that we could no longer attend everything and would be alternating the holidays between them. But both sides were very supportive and understanding. And after a few years it has become normal. 

2. Doggies: Traveling with one dog is no problem. Traveling with two dogs is a pain and poor Asa does not adjust to change well. (He may take after me in that area.) So this year we are not bringing them to any holiday events. I'll miss them, but they are staying home. 

3. Green Things: All the holiday foods I love are brown, off white or filled with sugar. While it tastes delicious I feel uncomfortable and icky later. So I've been making sure I eat fruits and veggies at each meal over the holidays. At home it's easy, away from home it can be more difficult. But even if that broccoli takes the place of a second delicious biscuit I will eat it. 

4. Alcohol: In the past there has been consumption  of alcohol at most celebratory gatherings. I enjoy having a drink or two but when I am celebrating day after day, event after event it's too much. And as I get older I notice that I don't feel or sleep well when I drink. So I've cut back. I can attend an event without drinking and often I feel much better. I plan to drink little to no alcohol during the holiday festivities this year. 

5. Gift Giving:  Both Nick's family and my family are very generous. And I love giving a gift I know my loved ones will enjoy. But sometimes the generosity makes me feel guilty and pressure for everyone to purchase gifts means a lot of resources are put into gift giving (time and money). Our families have been working on reducing the gift giving to focus more on each other and our time together. Some of the ideas we've had and are implementing: buying for everyone but setting a low limit, drawing names and buying for one person or buying one gift and doing a game for the gift exchange. A suggestion my sister-in-law made, that I loved, is making a homemade gift either as part of another gift or on it's own (such as food, art, something funny). 

The holidays can be difficult for  various reasons. Many people in our lives have had negative experiences over this time of year, others are missing someone they love. Being mindful of not only how the holidays affect us but those around us is important.  Pressure and high expectations are a recipe for unhappiness. Reducing stress and practicing self care can make the holidays even better.  If you were to increase your self care over the holidays what would your list look like?