5 secrets to a Happy Holiday

Christmas Holiday dining room photo of Nutcracker and decorations

Out and Healthy

When I was a kid, I loved December. We got to play in the snow. We got presents. We had off from school! When I started working in schools and in churches, I began to dread the holidays. It was a lot of extra work all piled up at once. And then I had to go shopping. It was too much stress to handle. Contrary to the song, it wasn’t the most wonderful time of the year. When I started doing yoga, I learned some ways to manage the stress. It was still a challenge to get to the New Year without it taking a toll on my health, my family, and my relationships. I am sharing five secrets for how you can make it to January in good physical, mental, and social health.

Get Involved

Family holiday gatherings and holiday parties have always stressed me. By the time I got to them, I was already tired, or it was a Saturday night and I had to get up very early the next day. One of the most stressful things about them was the sitting around chatting, especially after we had already eaten, or sitting around in a living room with hours of small talk. My solution? Get involved. Host the event. If that’s out of the question, call the host ahead of time and volunteer to help, or to make something for the event. If the event is a dinner, help to prepare food, or help to decorate, or clean up the dishes from the table, or wash the dishes. It sure beats sitting around!

Gift Yourself 

If buying friends and family gifts is an absolute must, then plan your shopping early in the year. You might consider gifting yourself, perhaps as the only gift, or in addition to a wrapped present. You could make gift certificates that offer to recipient something like a ride to the airport, a grocery shopping trip, a dinner you cook for them, mowing their lawn, taking and picking up their dry cleaning, and anything else that you are good at that they would enjoy. I once gave my friend, Gregg, several such gift certificates and forgot about them. About a year or two later I was at his house for a party or a holiday dinner, and I see him disappear upstairs for a while amidst the lively chatter of the guests. He finally comes down and slips me a piece of paper. On it was my certificate offering to play his piano at a party for a sing along. Wasn’t I surprised when he ushered me to the piano? I ended up playing about 30 songs as everyone belted out Broadway tunes. It was a blast.

Take an Anti-Holiday 

For many years, I worked as a musician in churches. Christmas was the busiest time, keeping me involved for many hours on Christmas Eve, then with little sleep, going back and working much of the next day. By the time I got to enjoy the holiday with family, I was almost falling asleep. What I started doing was taking and anti-holiday. I would take the train into the city on December 26th and bum around. I might shop, or take a yoga class, or get a massage, or work out in a gym in the city. It did a lot to undo the stress of the previous weeks. For a while I belonged to a Jewish Community Center to swim in their pool. One Easter Sunday, after a very busy week of intensely religious services, I was on my way home and got the idea to swim at the JCC! Of course, it was open, since their holiday closings didn’t coincide with my work calendar. It was a nice, peaceful way to unwind.

Take a Restorative Pose Nap

There is a tradition called Restorative Yoga that involves placing your body in a passive stretch for ten to twenty minutes, often using props and blankets. You can lie on the floor, maybe on a blanket, with a block or pillow under your head. Experiment with different poses until you find one that is comfortable and restful. You could place a block or a rolled-up blanket under your lower back or under your knees. The trick is to find a pose that is restful. Set an alarm on your phone if you think you might fall asleep. Then relax!

Forget Resolutions 

We all know New Years Resolutions usually don’t last into February. So, skip the resolutions. Explore. Take the number three. Agree with yourself to try a diet for three days. You could pick any diet that interests you. Only do it for three days. You could go vegan for three days. You could try three different classes at the gym. You could check out three yoga studios, or three massage therapists. And after three, you’re done!
Enjoy this time of year for all that it can be. Stress can be avoided. It can even be a most wonderful time of the year!

Steven Russell is the owner of Becoming Sound LLC: Yoga, Massage Therapy, Music.