The holiday season is upon us, and soon we will be running around decorating, cooking, entertaining family, visiting family, and eating... a lot of eating! Although this can be an amazing time of year filled with fun and laughter, it can also bring on a lot of physical and emotional/mental stress. Since I am sure you would rather be celebrating a happy and healthy holiday with your loved ones instead of feeling sick and stressed, let's talk about ways to manage and even avoid the holiday stress!
Let us begin with the easiest type of stress to manage and avoid... physical. This is a season of yard clean-ups, major decorating, and heavy eating for most. This is on top of the daily physical stress you have of work, house keeping, family, etc. So how do we balance everything out?
When it comes to doing yard work, take it easy! There is no rush, trust me... those leaves aren't going anywhere! And speaking of not going anywhere... why do they have to go anywhere at all? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you are raking up all of those leaves? As yards became more manicured and a source of art rather than food production, people became obsessed with having a "clean" appearance. They stopped growing their own food and switched to short-cut grasses and rock gardens. The truth is, however, those leaves are supposed to stay where they fall. They are an amazing source of nutrition for the soil and the plants that grow in it, especially for that tree they fell off of! Now, I know most of you are saying there is no way you are going to sit and look at a yard covered in leaves, but here are some ideas to make less work for yourself as well as to give back to your own little piece of nature:
1. Create a compost pile... Composting is a wonderful way to reduce your carbon foot print and create less garbage over-all. Leaves, sticks, left-over natural food, and even animal waste (chickens, horses, rabbits, etc.). These piles can be turned over the course of the year to create an amazing all natural compost to be added to your gardens, sold, or even to be planted directly in!
2. Compost all over the yard... do you have a lawn mower? Good! You can easily mow right over those leaves to chop them up into little pieces. Don't put on the bag attachment, instead, let the leaves get chopped up and dropped right where they are. Over the winter those little pieces will decompose a a faster rate and you will have a healthy lawn by spring!
3. Ok, so you want them GONE... well, take it slow and make it fun! Have little kids? Give them a penny for every leaf they pick up. Have older kids, give them a dollar for every bag they fill. Don't have kids? Just do a bag a day. Again, there is no rush! They aren't going anywhere and the colors really are beautiful on your yard in the fall months.
Now if you live in a place with snow, there isn't much I can tell you except to lift from your legs and take breaks often! So many injuries occur while shoveling and snow blowing that could have been avoided with proper body mechanics! So listen to your body, don't be in a rush, and call me to schedule a warm, gentle yoga class once you can get out of your house :)
Don't you just love all of the holiday decorations this time of year? No matter what holiday you celebrate you can't help but admire all of the lights and colors on people's homes. I personally am a minimalist and love natural decorations such as wreathes, trees that are still planted but decorated outside, pine cones, etc. But some people like to go all out with the blow up displays, reindeer on the roof, and lights galore! For these people I tell you to take it slow! Choose one project a day to accomplish and do it in a safe manner! No one needs to see dad come sliding off the roof or mom falling off the ladder. Holidays are times for family, and no family wants to spend the holiday visiting you in the hospital!
Food... Lots and Lots of FOOD!
So who over eats during the holiday season? Let's see those hands (I know mine is raised)! And who can blame you? Homemade pies and cookies, turkeys and stuffing, casseroles and all other forms of snacks and goodies. It's a palate's delight! But how does that leave you feeling after? Bloated, tired, run down, maybe even sick? There are ways for you to enjoy the holiday goodies and still feel great! One way is to host the holiday parties yourself. That way you have control over what food is made and how it is made. You can still have that turkey, but bake it instead of deep frying it this year. Like mashed potatoes? Make them homemade with free-range milk and butter and add some heart healthy garlic into the recipe! Make home-made cranberry salsa, minus all the sugar! Make butternut squash french fries in an air frier and leave out all that grease! There are so many options to make the food even the tiniest bit healthier and leave you feeling better. And remember, it's OK to have leftovers! There is no need to fill yourself on the day of the holiday. Enjoy a small serving of each dish to satisfy you, then make another healthy-sized plate for the next day. This way your taste buds get to enjoy the holiday twice!
Let's now move on to a deeper topic... emotional and mental stress. This can be a very difficult time of year for some people. Between financial concerns and dealing with unsavory family members, to dealing with the recent loss of a loved one, a lot of emotions can arise.
When it comes to financial concerns I want you to take a moment and ask yourself why you are allowing this to stress you? Are you worried about not being about to buy presents for your loved ones? Not able to afford a brilliant meal? Not able to decorate your house so you can see it from the moon at night? STOP! This time of year should be no more worrisome when it comes to your finances than any other time of year. So you can't keep up with the Jones'... who cares? The holidays are meant to be a time to be grateful for all that you have, not worry about what you don't. It is a time to enjoy family and friends, not to drown them in gifts. I personally dislike the conventional practice of gift giving on holidays. I would much rather just spend time together and if a gift is given it should be something home made that shows how much you care. As for decorations, they can all be found outside for free! Maybe go out and buy a few strands of lights, but otherwise, nature provides all that you need... from pine cones, fir boughs, twigs, etc. Get creative! And as for food. Get a small turkey, a can of cranberry sauce, and some stuffing and call it a night! Don't worry about the razzle dazzle and instead focus on the memories made!
Unsavory Family Members
So we all have that one (or more) family members that we only see on holidays... and for good reason. They are a negative force in our life and unpleasant to be around. For this you have a few options depending on your situation. For those of you who have the choice, don't invite them! This is a time of happiness and positive energy, and one thing you learn that is very important in holistic health is that you need to remove the negative wherever possible, and that includes people. Now, that does not mean you need to exclude them completely from your life necessarily, but maybe just spend a more quiet holiday this year with those that truly make you happy. And DO NOT FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT! The happiness of you and your family is very important to your health and well-being!
For those of you who do not have the option of keeping negativity at bay, try to avoid whatever is negative about that person (s). If it's a specific topic of conversation, avoid it, or change the topic when it comes up. Try to keep conversations moving in a positive direction and talk with others before hand who can back you up in this endeavor.
Lost Loved Ones
Some of you may be celebrating your first holiday season without someone who was very close to you. Perhaps a parent, child, grand parent, sibling, etc. Loss is always hard to handle, and during this time of year it can be extremely difficult to find happiness in the things you once enjoyed. Every tradition, every meal reminds you of that person and the fact that they are no longer there. I invite you to feel the loss. Do not try to suppress it, because that does not honor your emotions. Instead, when feelings arise, honor them. Allow yourself to cry when you are sad, or even to yell a bit if you are mad. But also remember to smile... allow good memories to flow and remember your loved ones as they would have wanted you to. Maybe dad used to tell the same corny joke every year that you can now tell to remember him, or perhaps mom made a special dish that she taught you how to make. Find positive ways to remember your loved ones and enjoy the happiness the memories can bring you. You may also want to have a small get together in honor of your departed loved one where all who knew them can come and share happy stories and provide each other support to get through this time.
Taking Time for Yourself!
Finally, I want to talk about taking time for yourself! The holiday season is normally filled with everyone thinking about everyone else. What present would mom like this year? What am I bringing to my aunt's part? What events do the kids have that I need to get them to? It's give, give, give and eventually this will burn you out! I invite you to take some me time. Read a book by the fire, go to a spa, take a hot bubble bath. Do something that makes you happy and benefits no one but YOU! Now, for those of you out there who think you don't have time... you do! Put it on your calendar, MAKE time for it. It is so important to honor yourself and to give yourself the time you need to restore your mind, body, and soul. If you don't you can pretty much guarantee yourself to get sick during this holiday season.