Sunday, November 30, 2014

4 Simple Ideas to Deflate Your Holiday Stress and Inflate Your Holiday Joy

I want the holidays to be a special time, but I always end up a stressed out ball of blah rolling around with a smile pasted to my face. How can I change that?  How can I help myself enjoy the holidays? 

I firmly believe that I can't take good care of my family if I don't take care of myself.  With the world telling us to think big and shoot for the stars, my solution probably sounds really off base . . . I've lowered my expectations for myself.  I try (notice the word TRY) not to focus on the number of gifts I'm able to buy or the fact that I stink at decorating the outside of my house or that I don't have time to bake a lot of cookies (not that I want to eat that many any way!).  Instead I focus on purposefully doing FOUR things during the holiday season.  Four inexpensive, easily achievable things that make me happy. 

1) I add whipped cream to my coffee.  I can't afford stops at fancy coffee shops or mani/pedi's or massages - but I can enjoy a squirt of extra creamy whipped cream on my coffee as I prepare to face another day.  The fact that I don't do this any other time of year makes it special for me.  What simple, inexpensive treat can you add to your day to give yourself a treat?  Use peppermint scented lotion?  Buy a pair of fun snowman earrings?  Wear a pair of crazy Christmas socks?
My coffee this morning!

2) I go for walks in my neighborhood after dark to look at the Christmas lights.  Enjoying the lights from your car is nice, but you get an entirely different view when you get out of your car and walk.  I love to head out around 10PM for a stroll.  I occasionally drag my family with me.  They grump at first, but will often find that they enjoy it by the end.  Sometimes we carry mugs of hot cocoa with us and other times I have it waiting for us when we get home.  I love when it is snowing and our footprints are the first marks in the fresh snow.  The fresh air is invigorating, the exercise feels so good after being inside all day and the lights are pretty.  I can't help but feel happy when i get back to my house!  (SAFETY NOTE: Please wear reflective gear and/or carry a flashlight!!!)

3) I sing along in a very loud voice to the Christmas songs on the radio.  No matter what craziness is happening in the "real world," when I close the car door, it is just me and me alone.  How can I not smile as I am singing along to the fun adventures of Frosty or be reminded of the powerful precious gift that God gave to us as I sing the First Noel.  I get out of my car feeling refreshed and ready to face the next event.  I'm sure that I've provided some humorous entertainment to those driving next to me, but I don't worry about them.

4) I pick one special activity that I want to do and make sure I do it even if I do it by myself.  This is actually something that I've been doing for the past couple of months.  I'm always telling my husband that we can talk and talk and talk about all of the things that we want to do and accomplish, but nothing will get done unless we take action.   The list of things that I want to accomplish and experience is very long, so I am tackling the smaller items on that list one thing at a time.  I don't give my family any input on what that one thing is because that will lead to an argument.  I simply choose it and invite whoever wants to come with me to be ready at a certain time.  So far there hasn't been a month that I haven't had company.  I haven't decided what my one thing for the month of December will be yet - that's a decision I will ponder during my drive home from my in-laws this afternoon.  Walk around downtown Pittsburgh to look at the Christmas decorations?  Tackle my grandma's Pizzelle Cookie maker?  Drive out to Ohiopyle State Park for a hike?

The one word that is not included in this post (until now) is guilt.  As a mom and a caregiving spouse, I often struggle with feeling guilty about 101 different things every day.  The key for me when it comes to doing these four things without guilt is what I mentioned earlier - If I don't take care of myself then I can't take care of my family.  My family reacts to my stress.  In the same way they react to my joy.  So in a way, if doing these four incredibye simple things make me happy, my family will be happy, too! 

I encourage you - as we prepare to flip our calendars over to December - pick even just one thing that you will purposefully do this month to make YOU happy!  What can you plan to do to deflate your stress and inflate your joy?

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