Special Holiday Edition: Top 10 Tips for Navigating the Holidays with Ease and Grace

Here are some of my favourite tips and tools for dealing with the wonderful and potentially-stressful holiday season with as little stress and conflict as possible.

  1. What is your normal Stress ‘set-point’?

Before we even get going into the holiday season – full of seeing people we haven’t seen in a while, the stress of last minute shopping, finding the perfect gift, food prep, catching up, connecting with people, doing the life review of the past year, sometimes being faced with answering awkward questions like, “hey… why are you still single”, or, “when are you getting married?” or “when are you having a baby?” Or any other wine-induced religious or political arguments discussions…

Let’s do a quick stress check to see where you are now. I like coming back to this test every so often (once a year at least) to see how I am doing with general life stress. You can take the quick test here for free.

This is about self-knowledge. When we know where our general healthy set point is for any area of our life (health, stress, emotional satisfaction, happiness, etc.) we can tell what is ‘abnormal’ for us. Each person has a different and unique tolerance for stress and change. Do you know what yours is?

We all need healthy amounts of stress and stimulation every day otherwise we wouldn’t get anything done. Question is, do you know when you’ve had enough? And do you notice when your personal scales start tipping towards the “overwhelmed” end of the stress spectrum? Of course, we are not out to demonize stress here, as I’ve just said, stress can be healthy, especially if you have a positive attitude or perspective about coping with stress, as the brilliant Kelly McGonigal explains in her must-see TED talk. Once you know how you’re faring on the stress scale, you can take the appropriate preventative actions to increase your resilience as needed (e.g. declutter, eat healthier, exercise more, engage in more meaningful social connections, go on holiday, take regular breaks, be intentional about refuelling your energy, etc.).  You are the boss of you, so only you can know what’s right for you.

  1. Stay Hydrated (with H2O)

I know this may seem pretty obvious, but it is surprisingly easy to dehydrate during winter and especially during the holiday season when the drinks are flowing. Winter time, especially in the northern hemisphere, the heating is usually on, which dries the air. The holidays are prime time to enjoy a few extra alcoholic, caffeinated or sugary beverages in social settings, and without consciously swapping these out or alternating with some water, it can be easy to dehydrate. According to the Mayo Clinic, our bodies are made up of approximately 75% of water. Water is vital to regulate brain, nervous system and body functions. They say that not drinking enough water can cause brain fog, anger, lack of focus, depression, memory problems, brain fatigue, headaches, and sleep issues among other problems. So if you notice during the holiday season you feel cranky, out of sorts, or you have low energy, go ahead and wet your whistle with water.

 Get 8 hours of sleep.

Sounds basic right? How many hours of shut-eye do you get consistently? We know that getting enough sleep on a regular basis helps has so many benefits, including our ability to heal physically, healthy brain function, emotional well-being, coping with stress, and even reducing carbohydrate cravings according to the Mayo Clinic. The Huffington Post has a great article full of tips for getting a good night’s rest so you can enjoy more than 40 winks during the sprint to the 2017 finish line.

  1. Stop trying to change or fix other people.

Let’s be honest… this one is hard.

The holidays are great at bringing different people from different backgrounds together into new and artificially created settings. Even if you will only be seeing your favourite aunt and her cat, you may still encounter differences of opinion at some point during the season. Realize and accept that you may have differences of opinions, especially on hot and important topics such as religion or politics, parenting, childrearing, or any other topic…

Ghandi famously said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Would you like others to respect your opinion? Start by respecting the opinions of others. Even if your opinions are worlds apart.

Would you like others to accept you for who you are, without judgement or condemnation? Accept others just the way they are.

Would you like permission to be yourself and express yourself authentically? Give others permission to do the same.

The truth is, we can’t control anybody else. Kris Carr once said, “The only time we can change someone, is when they’re in diapers.” The only control we have, is over our own responses, words, actions, thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Choose to respond instead of react to triggers. Be open to at least hearing the other side of the story. I’m not suggesting for one second that you change your opinion, or agree, simply be open to hear what people are saying, and see if you can’t at least generate some compassion or empathy for why someone else may hold their cherished opinion.

  1. Plan ahead.

Back to focusing on what we can control.

If you’re anything like me, you may get fidgety or feel out of sorts if you’re not fuelled up correctly, or feeling tired. During the holidays you may be whiling away the time waiting patiently for the turkey to finish cooking, for people to arrive, etc without a protein snack in sight. In order to avoid feeling irritable, hungry and cranky, plan ahead and do some pre-get-together shopping / preparation to top up your snack basket. It’s much easier to stave off the hunger pangs and maintain your energy levels if you have a small snack close to hand. Some of my favourites include carrot batons, small blocks of cheese, Greek yoghurt tubs, potato salad, cooked asparagus wrapped in ham, or even some homemade sandwiches. This avoids any sugar highs and then the inevitable crash.

Also, pack some healthy distractions like family board games or card games, and your favourite calming background music. Some free weights will keep you occupied during long drives or movie marathons. Pre-load your mp3 player with your favourite meditation tracks, podcasts and stand up comedy sound bites. If you have the chance to get some fresh air during the chilly holiday season, pack some walking shoes, tennis rackets and your favourite winter woollies to stay active. Remember to include a roll or portable bottle of your favourite aromatherapy oils. These powerful packing energy boosters can lift any feelings of post travel fatigue and enhance your mood. Some great choices include rosemary, peppermint, and basil. For relaxation, reducing stress and tension try: frankincense, lavender, bergamot, neroli, or camomile. For more tips on how to use aromatherapy essential oils see this great mindbodygreen article.

  1. Harness the power…of a cat nap.

Never underestimate the rejuvenating power of a quick cat nap to recharge your batteries and give you a new outlook on life.  Pack your favourite neck pillow, vitamins, portable soothing lavender essential oil, socks and eye-mask and you’ll feel like your best self again. See what this innovative gym is doing to help people go pro with their napping goals.  Another benefit to feeling good in your own skin is that when you’re in a good mood, you can impact other’s moods too.

  1. Move your body.

It has been shown that exercise can be an antidepressant, with many positive health benefits. We all know what it feels like to be cooped up in an overheated house for days on end (in the wintery climes in any case) eating and drinking more than we normally would. The energy can feel stagnant and all that pent up action potential needs to go somewhere. To avoid feeling sluggish or getting involved in triggering conversations, why not pass some of the time by bundling up and going for a walk in-between feasts.  Other ways to move it, move it, include some at home workouts, or pop out the yoga mat if you prefer something more gentle and soothing. No gym required.

  1. Let go of your expectations (of the “perfect ___”)

You’ve heard of the phrase “perfect is the enemy of the good”. It can be easy to fall into the compare and despair trap in a race to keep up with the Joneses. We get swamped with images from the media of what a ‘perfect’ family holiday gathering should look like, feel like and sound like…when in reality the holidays can be a difficult time for a lot of people. There can be a lot of pressure on us in many ways – financially, relationally, physically, emotionally, and mentally. By being kind to ourselves and becoming mindful of the pressures we face, we can choose to let go of unrealistic expectations and images of what “should” be. In the Creative Insight Journey for adults, kids and teens, I teach scientifically proven tools and strategies to help you let go of judgements and expectations, and how to have a more loving, kind and compassionate relationship with yourself and others.

  1. Set your Intention.

This should really be number one on this list. Decide consciously ahead of time what it is you want to experience, and what result you want to achieve. Ask yourself if your words / actions / thoughts are going to get you the results you want to experience. If they are, go right ahead and do those things. If not, you get to choose again.


  1. Ask.

This sounds like a straightforward tip, but really check in with yourself. How easy is it for you to really truly clearly ask for exactly what you want? And then, how easy is it for you receive what you’ve asked for, accept it and enjoy it guilt free?

If you want something, instead of behaving passive aggressively or trying to get what you want in an indirect manner, just ask for what you want.

Do you want help cooking the turkey? Ask.

Want help with the dishes? Please ask.

Do you want to go out for a drive on Sunday instead of watching the 3 hour TV soap marathon? Ask.

Instead of expecting other to simply read our minds and expecting hoping and praying that they simply know or should somehow intuit what it is we want and need… find your courage and ask.

Which of these tips resonate with you most? Do you have any tips to add? What are your favourite tools for experiencing a pleasurable holiday season? Let me know in the comments below or hit reply to this email and let it rip J

Happy holidays!

Shona xx

If you’d like to find out more about how to respond instead of react… schedule your strategy call with me here now.

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