Conscious, Healthy Holidays: My Tips for a Satisfying, Stress-Free Holiday Season

November 19, 2015

Every year in autumn, it seems like we are in a high speed chase to the end of the year. From Halloween on, we are hurtling towards the holidays. “How fast can we get there?” seems to be the question so many people are asking. We’re in a race to get through the end of the year and whoever can get there fastest and with the least amount of bodily trauma, wins.

This is odd since the holidays can be stressful for many people and it might be in our better interest to slow down and ease ourselves into the end of the year.

This is what nature is doing, anyway.

Once daylight savings time ends, the descent into winter and darkness becomes even more real. The air is cooler and drier. The sun goes down sooner, so we have less time with natural light. The trees lose their leaves, bringing a starkness to the skyline.

If we really read and listen to these signs, here’s what nature is tying to tell us:

Hunker down.

Bundle up.

Enjoy the daylight while you can, but learn to create your own warmth.

Move more slowly.

Get quieter.

Go inside.

Pay attention.

Rest. Restore. Renew.

Instead, the messages we’re bombarded are full of expectation.

We’re expected to make a big deal of the holiday season. We’re supposed to willingly travel, no matter how far, no matter how long, no matter how stressful, to spend time with family and to be happy we’re doing it.

We’re expected to hustle more and sleep less. We’re supposed to be willing to work overtime to get things done in time for the holidays or before the end of the year. It’s as though the holidays are an obvious deadline and we’re meant to acknowledge, as well as honor that deadline, even if it costs us our sanity.

We’re expected to give and give and give, both financially and energetically, until we’re completely spent.

We’re expected to outdo ourselves. This year must be better and bigger than last year.

We’re expected to want to lose weight. No matter how we actually feel about our bodies, we’re supposed to want to change our shape and morph into a better version of ourselves.

We’re expected to be happy. ‘Tis the season, right? We’re expected to be full of cheer and good tidings, regardless of how we actually feel. Put on a happy face. “Fake it ’til you make it” is another way of creating “holiday spirit.”

Instead of going into the darkness of the season, we go into the madness and the sparkle and the rush and the busyness. I do love me some sparkle. But I already have busyness and stress. I don’t need more. What I need is grounding, nourishing, and calming to really make the end of the year sweet, satisfying, and enjoyable.

A few years ago, I took a big step out of the holiday madness. We don’t celebrate Christmas, which takes a huge stressor out but the appeal of trying to squeeze in all the things I want to accomplish this year is still strong.

Lately, I’m more interested in listening to nature than ignoring her.

Here are my top tips for enjoying the end of the year instead of giving in to the madness:

*Listen to the light: It’s getting darker earlier. Use that as a signal to let yourself “get darker earlier, too.” Maybe head to bed a little earlier. Read a book instead of watching TV at night. Curl up with a warm mug of something and journal or draw or cuddle.

*Unschedule yourself: This year, I intentionally cut back on my November/December schedule. I’m still a little busier than I’d like to be, but I’ve scheduled myself in such a way that I am not working both days of any weekend. I’m not taking on extra classes. I’m not adding anything in.

*Befriend your “no”: Learn to set conscious and clear limits. Be ok with turning people down. Explain why. Expect a little pushback but stand your ground, gently but firmly.

*Make more time for you: This can be so many things. Add in daily oil massage. That’s what I started doing on November 1st, as soon as the time changed. I feel more grounded, calm, protected and nourished. Maybe add in meditation. Or reading a chapter in a book every night. Or knitting.  Or playing your favorite game. Add in something that makes you feel sublimely well cared for. ‘Tis the season for self-care.

*Plan the holidays as you want to have them: Sit down and think about what you’d like this season to look and feel like. What do you do? How do you spend the holidays you celebrate? Do you see anyone at all? Do you make it extravagant? Do you keep it simple? What is your ideal holiday season? Then plan accordingly. If this is your first year trying this, you might not get everything you want but it sets the standard for every year following.

*Create meaningful connections: Choose who you spend time with. Make time for those who you need to see. Know that you don’t have to squeeze all of your hanging out with people you love into the holidays. Make plans to see the people you love all the time, when it makes the most sense for your life.

*Keep it simple: Don’t feel the need to go overboard. Simple is so sweet. And during the end of the year, especially so. Make simple meals. Make simple plans. Trying to do it all will only stress you out.

*Go into the darkness: That sound so ominous, but really it’s simply to acknowledge the season. It’s quieter, cooler, more fragile, even. Be ok with that. Ignoring it will only throw your system out of whack. Eat warming, grounding foods. Drink warmer liquids, even water should be warm to keep your body healthy and stable. Bundle up when you go outside, because you should still go outside, but protect your body. Meditate more. Go into the cave of your own heart. Even if you’re just sitting with your eyes closed, my own personal favorite definition of meditation.

*Get Cozy: There is a concept in Denmark called “hygge”, which I am obsessed with. Basically, hygge is loosely translated as “cozy” but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Hygge refers to the feeling of gathering together under the covers of an enormous bed drinking hot chocolate on a snowy day. Or something like that. I’m so into the idea of hygge. Create your own coziness. Generate your own warmth. You can do this in so many ways with many different people or simply by yourself. But look up “hygge” to find some suggestions.

I believe this time of year is one of the most beautiful. There is a momentum to winter, but we don’t have to get sucked in and spun around with no control. We can enjoy this season if we allow ourselves to choose how we want to spend it and the attitude we want to take towards it.

Have a conscious holiday season. One that feels cozy and comfortable and stress-free because you choose it.

So grab that mug of hot chocolate or turmeric milk. Find your warmest blankets. Surround yourself with the things you love. Get cozy. ‘Tis the season.

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