By Ella Miller

The holidays can be a time a joy but also a time of stress. As much as there are festive moments like decorating, sing-alongs, sharing stories by a glowing fire, and more, it can also mean missing a loved one who recently passed away or feeling disappointed that relatives are not near us during the most wonderful time of the year.

I always feel rushed during this season because not only do I have my normal work schedule and Mom-tasks to tackle, I also have shopping, wrapping, mailing and making sure the season feels special and magical to every person in the household. I know there are others out there who also feel the pressure and emotions that pop up while trying to do it all while doing our best. So here are a few tips that I’d like to share that have helped me put the “happy” back into Happy Holidays. I hope they will help you find peace, too.

1. STAY FLEXIBLE I’ve adopted the phrase “perfectly imperfectly” and remind myself often that striving for the idyllic vision I have in my head will just open the door to disappointed. Instead of trying to make everything go perfectly, let’s remind ourselves that this year can be different than prior years and it’s OK. Some examples: • We can try all-new traditions and switch things up with our families if we ran out of time to plan ahead. In fact, establishing new traditions can be a refreshing change of pace. • We can email digital cards if we didn’t have time to get customized cards in the mail. • We can count on a local restaurant to cater our holiday meal versus having all the cooking fall on our shoulders. • We can place a laptop/computer monitor at the dinner table and do a video call with faraway family to bring everyone together. Or keep an old tradition alive by doing a video call so that grandparents can enjoy watching their grandchildren open their gifts.

Staying flexible, keeping an open mind and being prepared to pivot during a year when a lot of unexpected situations have been thrown at us will lower the stress that comes with everything fitting our fairytale holiday vision.

2. EMBRACE THE SIMPLE THINGS 2020 has been tough on a lot of people. From work position changes to job loss or paycheck cuts, this might not be the best year to get extravagant. Instead, consider simple, fun and meaningful activities such as: • Making salt dough ornaments (a mixture of salt, all-purpose flour and warm water that hardens when baked). This can be an affordable and fun way to decorate AND make gifts for others. Grandparents will love getting ornaments made by their beloved grandchildren and cherish them for years to come... and it won’t cost much to make. • Have “Mug & A Movie” night where you sip sweet mugs of cocoa with marshmallows while enjoying Christmas classics together. • Give sweets baskets filled with homemade cookies and fudge as a festive and appreciated gift that won’t break the bank. • With everyone social distancing, you can still share smiles by recording a video of you and roommates or family members singing a festive song together. Then email it to everyone in your social circle to bring a bit of cheer. Don’t feel pressured to be the best singer ever because people appreciate authenticity and will be happy to see your face and see you having fun! Remember: Joy attracts and spreads more joy.

3. GIVE YOURSELF THE GIFT OF KINDNESS At a time when we typically think of giving to others, let’s not forget about what WE need and want. Here are ideas on how to be good to yourself: • Give yourself the gift of a hot bubble bath to unwind and let pressures melt away. • Take a much-needed nap to break from the feeling that life is just go-go-go (it doesn’t HAVE to be that way — the choice is yours). • If you don’t do this already, treat yourself to having groceries delivered to your doorstep so that stocking up your pantry actually saves you time vs. sucking up your time. Award yourself a “free day” when it’s OK that laundry doesn’t get done or the dishes sit a while longer because clothing, cups and plates can wait! You, however, need to treat yourself kindly NOW.

I always keep this phrase top of mind: “You cannot take care of others until you take care of yourself.” Very fitting during the holiday rush!

4. DRAW HEALTHY BOUNDARIES & FIND BALANCE I was brought up with the notion that we should always do our best to help others. I still believe that giving back is a positive use of energy and I intentionally seek out ways to volunteer and assist others. However, it shouldn’t leave you feeling overwhelmed or anxious because you bit off more than you can chew. In short, if you honestly feel like uplifting others could wear you down, stop and think before you agree to doing more than you already are. Just because you CAN do something, that doesn’t mean that you should do it! When considering taking on more holiday tasks, joining in additional festive activities or asks from friends, or immersing yourself in big holiday projects, ask yourself: “Am I REALLY feeling up to the task?” You might be... but it’s also OK if you’re not. The people who know and love you will not think badly if you bow out occasionally. They will certainly understand that you cannot be involved in every single function. After all, we’re only human, not superhuman.

5. KEEP A HEALTHY OUTLOOK Sometimes what’s bringing on stress are choices that we are making when it comes to our bodies and physical upkeep. We might be overindulging in sweets, which can give us an unsavory “sugar crash” that leaves us lethargic. We might forget to stay hydrated or put aside our morning stretches or afternoon walk on the treadmill which can impact how we feel. So here are a few ideas on how you can keep your body going strong during the holidays to keep your sparkle: • Do one thing a day to stay active because physical activity stimulates the release of dopamine which helps to regulate your mood. Try juicing as a quick and delicious way to get the nutrients you need even on your busiest days. Simply add nutrient-rich veggies and fruits to your juicer and drink in the energy-boosting essential vitamins and minerals. Don’t ignore your body talking to you. Your body is a marvelous “machine” that will tell you when something is not right! For example. I feel stress in my shoulders. So instead of letting the pain worsen (which turns into me spending the next few hours lying in bed to recuperate) I apply a warm compress on my shoulders/stress area for about 20 minutes to help soothe the stress away. Staying self-aware and catching your body’s cues in a timely manner is another way to be kind to yourself. • If you feel really down, talk to someone. This can range from venting to a trusting friend or family member or seeking the help of a professional (many professional now offer digital sessions so you can get help from the comfort of home). Bottling up your feelings can lead to resentment, anger, sadness, grief and even frustration. These feelings can also take a toll on your body by impacting blood pressure, self-esteem and memory, which is why seeking support is a smart move.

In the end, maintaining a positive attitude (and even a good sense of humor), understanding nothing in life is perfect, and keeping your life in balance can be key to letting happiness, peace and shine strong during the holidays.

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