A Survivor’s Guide to the Holidays

I’m no expert, but I have a tendency to collect ideas that are useful and doable. Simplicity and clarity are my new buzzwords. Here are a few ways to lessen the burden of holiday stresses and demands. It’s okay to acknowledge that this is a tough time of year, but if we peer closer we’ll notice the dustings of magic and joy. Let’s focus on the fun and ease up on the hardship. I know it’s a long post so jump to what speaks to you. Blessings.

Organization

Let’s start with basic organization and clarity. Have a family group text so everyone knows what’s happening.

Consider creating a family group calendar too. Kids don’t necessarily have to be involved until they’re in their teens. The parent who is in charge of an event can be supported by the others when everyone knows exactly when, what and where things are taking place.

We all know the importance of prepping busy days the night before, just a few minutes before you sleep. Either journal your intentions for the next day or think about the problems you need to solve and let your unconscious mind work on it over night. Then in the morning again focus on the intentions and energy you want to bring to your morning routine with the kids. Brendan Burchard in his latest best-selling book “High Performance Habits” suggests you prioritize three tasks that will definitely move the pendulum closer to your intended target.

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As Brendon Burchard explains, there are so many opportunities to reenergize in the many transitions that break up every day. We are constantly moving from one activity to the next. Just take a moment and chose the feeling you want to bring to a phone call, a meeting, the shopping trip or when you arrive home from work.

Start buying presents as early as September. Bath bombs, chocolate bars, special cookies, nougat, home made soaps, boys love gadgets and wooden square shape puzzles. My teens love Hot Topic for tee shirts and teen garb.

Avoid over-spending as it has a negative impact on your entire year. If you have time and the interest bake some special cookies, or brownies with red and green sprinkles for gatherings and friends. Show love without making your credit card smoke.

Xmas food plate

Have a gathering, order pizza and munch chips and dips. It’s the company not the feast that’s important.

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Tough Communication Lessons

First thing in the morning, consciously deciding to try to be the most patient, enthusiastic mom/dad/friend/spouse/brother/sister/daughter etc. that you can be is a great idea. It gives me a little more understanding of my kid’s tired and grumpy outlook. With focused intention you have a little barrier against their young, unconscious attacks because you are more mindful and realize “They are only kids.” “He is only 13!” etc.

A deliberate intention to have an active conversation with your kids is a great one – any time of the year. Sometimes we have to start with a question in our voice and offer a short open-ended question and wait a long time to see if there’s an answer: “Hey buddy, what’s happening with so and so?” or “Is it possible to stop biting your sister and come and give me a hug?”

kids in Xmas Pajamas

Whenever there’s a quiet moment, whether it’s in the car or during dinner, spend a few moments talking to your kids about their interests. Sure kids are egocentric it’s part of their developement, but they are also struggling to create a secure place in this stress bucket of a world. They need to feel that someone sees them and cares.

 

 

Mom and kid at Christmas

I’m also learning to validate my loved ones’ feelings. When I listen to what they are describing. I say “Gosh, you sound stressed, frustrated, angry, agitated etc” and stop right there. You know from this blog that I like to problem solve, but if I always do that for peeps, then I’m not allowing them to release their feelings and flush them down the toilet. I’ve been trying to hurry them past this uncomfortable stage, in order to make them feel better quicker. In doing so, I’ve realized, with help, that I’m not allowing them to experience difficult emotions fully. We all know feelings are temporary no matter how painful and this is a good lesson to learn. Some weeks suck and my loved ones need to be able to cope when this happens. Then when they’re ready and ask for my advice then we can problem solve together so that they own it.

De-stressing Techniques

During a conversation if my kid suddenly becomes frustrated with my endless snooping and gets a bit grumpy

yelling kid

(really who can blame them) I use these silly techniques which my son calls “childish” go figure. We’ve covered some of them before but they are skills that need to be practiced with repetition:

  1. Place an imaginary force field at my front, sides and back to fend off their attack. Make this transformation in a Super Heroic-like way by using whooshing sounds and dramatic hand gestures. The child soon gets the idea that I feel that I need protection from them in a fun nonaggressive way, and that it’s their responsibility to work out the best way to calm themselves down.

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  1. Shake off the negativity like a duck in water, shaking my head, shoulders and torso maybe up to five times, and making the sound “Burr” or “Ah” seems to help.
  2. If I want to be even noisier, which I tend to like, find a quiet spot alone and say “Bla bla bla” loudly to yourself and the tension lifts.
  3. If my family drives me a little nutty, I force myself to take a time out and breathe with long extended breaths. I breathe in for 5 counts, hold my breath for 5 (if I can) then exhale for 7 or whatever I can manage – it often changes. This soothes my mind and sympathetic nervous system. Choose a count that works with your body.

Gifts

Encourage the kids to get involved in wrapping presents in a kind of nonnegotiable, calm, decisive way. They can go crazy curling the bows and knotting the string and who cares if it isn’t perfect you all had fun creating them together.

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As I am an expat when family send money as a gift, I buy my children suitable presents. It’s just more fun for the kids. Now that they’re teens they want the money of course!

 

Avoid buying gifts you think your kids will love. I have done this too many times. I tried to persuade my daughter that she would love a fabulous baking set that I decided was the perfect gift. In truth, she only bakes to consume the delicious product in as short a time as possible. She has never once looked or touched the baking set since that fateful Christmas.

Watch what your child does in a quiet moment. If it’s reading, than get yourself to the library and get a list of the best books for your child’s age from the librarian – they are experts especially in the White Plains Trove section of our public library. Amazon sell perfectly great used copies.

 

If they sketch, buy them a pencil art set, or pastel pencils or if you’re more daring a water color set. If they keep a journal or a diary buy them a magical one. These are all basic ideas, but strangely over the years these gifts have persisted and I know why, so why break something that already works?

Self-Care

We only have a finite amount of physical and emotional energy every day.

So I scatter self-loving moments throughout these hectic days to honor my efforts and replenish my energy.

  • Listen to soothing music, perhaps seasonal if you can stomach it. Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby can’t be beaten. I found a beautiful singer called Eva Cassidy, whose voice is so haunting and her best of album is full of amazing favorites everyone will recognize and love.
  • Just try two minutes worth of meditation/slow dancing with yourself or yoga. Go to U tube and type in 5 minute yoga. A little sequence will come up. Meditation and yoga activates parts of your brain to overcome stress more easily. I can’t recommend Insight Timer ap. highly enough for its guided meditations.
  • Take a leisurely family walk in nature, perhaps in the nearest woods or wind swept beach to work off lethargy and feel a connection to the heavens, the trees and as I stumble over a rock I sense the stability of Mother earth beneath my feet.
  • I admit that several times I intend to stuff myself with healthy, tasty morsels and then slob out in front of a delightful family movie like Ice Age, Harry Potter, James and the Giant Peach, Swiss Family Robinson, Time Bandits, Back to the Future, Star Wars, The Red Balloon, Galinha Pintadinha 2, Home Alone, The Princess Bride, ET, Hugo, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, Up, Toy Story, Ratatouille, How to Train your Dragon, Paddington Bear, Moana, Finding Nemo.

 

 

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  • Use a moisturizing facemask, take a warm, aromatic bath with candles. Read that novel that’s been sitting on your bedside table for six months. Delve into just a few pages to escape in a happening that belongs only to you and your fabulous imagination.
  • Steal out for a massage party with some other long-suffering moms or dads.
  • Try an amateur massage technique by leaning your body weight gently in a rocking fashion into your clenched fists and straightened arms on top of a recipient’s hamstrings (back of thighs) – this feels awesome!
  • Or just lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and tucked in close ish to your chest and make circular motions with your hips. This really brings a sense of ease and support from Mother Earth.

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  • Take the time to go to a musical concert of some kind to fill your soul with heavenly, cleansing, human energy brought to you by voices and breath. It really is an uplifting experience.
  • Finally, a little alcoholic treat might be a fabulous idea, followed by a few yummy chocolates. Preferably red wine for our brain health and 70% cacoa dark mint chocolate to reduce the sugar.
  • Avoiding too much sugar will protect you from the energy slumps and the crazy-kid sugar highs.

Offer kindness, joy and support when possible to feel much lighter

I try to support a good cause by collecting gloves or hats for the homeless etc. during the cold months. I want to be that person who serves Christmas dinner for the homeless every year to show my kids how privileged they are. One of these years, we will go and help out at a homeless shelter.

Contact loved ones or not so loved ones and just let them know you are still alive and well. Tell them that your sending blessings. Perhaps talk to tricky peeps for a short time and disperse the chats so that you don’t drain your energy too quickly.

Be the kind person who pays a visit and shines love and light into an elderly neighbor or family member’s day. During the visit, if possible check that their house is warm, secure, clean, and safe. Perhaps enquire if they have food for the holidays and a little company. One day we will all (hopefully) be elderly, and perhaps a little lonely, sitting for long stretched-out days feeling lost and wondering if we have enough energy to tidy our garden or such like. 

Less Judgments

I’m trying every day to keep my judgments of others locked away in a box that I hide in the furthest reaches of my mind. I often ponder on why I’m so judgmental and that is something I have to find peace with. It’s not a comfortable thought process but a necessary one that takes time and honesty. Holidays gives us a time- off from soul-searching thankfully!

Health

Choose real, unprocessed foods for your special festive celebrations.

Prep the day before: Peel potatoes the night before and store in water with a slash of lemon juice. Roast the root vegetables and store them overnight in the fridge. Then brown and reheat them in a highish oven, say 400 degrees for ten minutes before the meal.

healthy xmas dinner pic

Focus on making gravy with the bird juices on the feast day and keep the bird or other roast moist by slow cooking. I sometimes brine the bird the day before to make it a little tastier, but it doesn’t make a significant difference. Try roasting your bird chest down in the pan and then turn it the right way up to crisp up the breast skin for 10 minutes with the veg at the end on a higher heat. Stabbing fresh garlic and ginger with some rosemary sprigs into any meat works wonders.

Avoid over cooking. Poultry needs to be cooked until there is no blood in the juices and red meat is more juicy with a little blood oozing out. That’s my preference, I must be a little french.

Last year we had steak, mash and beans for a holiday dinner and it was yummy. I didn’t prep for seven hours, peeling until my fingers bled and ached. I kept it simple, felt happy and relieved because in the end, we still had content, full bellies. I wasn’t frazzled and had enough energy left to serve a yummy (bought) desert and play Pictionary.

Drink plenty of water or tea to dilute the over indulgence of alcoholic beverages that may accompany these types of festive days. Kombucha tea tastes a little like apple juice and it also supports friendly gut bacteria for our immune system.

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You can pretend it’s alcoholic and I’m a little convinced it has a giggle factor

Perhaps this is a great time to buy the family a bottle of vitamin D3 drops or capsules with vitamin K as there are too many health benefits to list here. Store it in the fridge beside the acidophilus to support the immune system over the winter. Some miso soup and fermented pickles in a left-over turkey sandwich promotes gut health too.

 

 

 

 

 

joy

I realize that these ideas involve action. If we lie around, eat, drink and watch television, we loose the opportunity to live a soul-resounding life as Oprah put it so well recently. Yes it’s really hard. Yes we’ve all suffered a series of disappointments along the way, yes we question our value BUT we all deserve a multi-layered, love-filled, rich existence.

Obviously, we can’t do everything but make an intention to prioritize one or two different tweaks that you can try during the holidays and afterwards. Write your intentions in a journal. Say what you’re going to do before you sleep and when you wake up. Anything is possible. High achievers consciously choose to change their negative emotions into positive ones that will support their next goal. We can do the same!!!!

Slow and steady wins the race.

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I’m sending out blessings at the close of a tumultuous year for many. I truly hope this season is the most loving one for all the different parts of your amazing, joyous, intricate lives. We are all miracles! May the next four seasons be filled with much more happiness, hope, space and peace.

 

I feel so grateful and privileged to be able to remind you, with a thundering drum roll, that you are simply glorious.

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