Author: Amy Kurtz
Does the holiday season, at times, leave you feeling a bit “Grinchy?” We all have expectations that our holiday season will reflect what we see in those greeting card commercials: everything is pristine with a blanket of fresh white snow; families are sitting at the holiday table enjoying an exquisite home-cooked meal; and the lights from the perfectly decorated Christmas tree glisten in the background. But as the classic holiday movie, A Christmas Story, shows us, it’s not always quiet and calm. Through a series of plot twists including flat tires, smoking furnaces, altercations with bullies, busted glasses and a battle with a lamp, we are reminded that the holiday season is really about family and love, amidst all the chaos the holidays tend to bring.
As women, we tend to strive for perfection, have a harder time saying no and are often wracked with guilt when we don’t please everyone. Often, especially during the holidays, our needs are pushed aside to nurture and care for others. And over time, that stress can manifest physically (think headaches and digestive issues) and if not managed properly, can have long-term consequences, such as depression and an increased risk of heart disease. Read on for a few suggestions to help you maintain the holiday cheer during this time of year.
Most of us attempt to show love through food and gifts. If the budget is extra tight this year or you simply don’t have time to make your famous holiday cookies, consider other ways you can show loved ones you care. Consider spending quality time together playing a board game, performing acts of service for your family members, or simply sitting down for an intimate conversation with your significant other in front of the fire. Reevaluate your focus on what you feel the holidays represent and can you share this vision with others.
There is much pressure this time of year to find the perfect present, be cheerful, and attend all holiday parties and family functions with a smile on our face. Learn to say “no” once in a while, whether it’s to buying gifts or hosting an event. Also, don’t let the business of the holidays be an excuse to take a break from engaging in healthy behaviors that typically help manage stress. Parties, travel and shopping often give way to little down time. Make some time for yourself this holiday season, and try to find something that clears your mind and restores a feeling of peace. This could be as simple as taking a 10-minute walk, reading a book, or meditating. Remember, the holidays don’t have to be perfect. Traditions and rituals can change. Find ways to celebrate together without the excess stress.
Lastly, lend a hand and practice gratitude this holiday season. Researchers have shown that being kind to others releases “feel good” hormones. 1 Additionally, kind people experience more happiness and have happier memories. 1 If you’re struggling to find happiness this season or simply not feeling like yourself, consider who could benefit from your generosity. This could be helping a friend; volunteering your time; or small, random acts of kindness, such as holding the door open for someone. Small acts can help you remember the true ‘reason for the season.’
There is a reason why Andy Williams calls this “The most wonderful time of the year.” Avoid the extra stress and find what makes the holidays magical for you. Even the Grinch realized “Maybe Christmas…doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps…means a little bit more.”
- Otake, K, Shimai S, Tanaka-Matsumi J, Otsui K, Fredrickson B. Happy people become happier through kindness: A counting kindnesses intervention. J Happiness Stud. 2006: 7(3): 361-375. doi: 10.1007/s10902-005-3650-z