By Katy Cable-The Weekly Runt
A 3 Min. Read
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! -Or is it? For some it’s magical but this is also the season when suicides and domestic violence skyrocket and everyone seems spread WAY too thin. This time of year, far too many people feel depressed and sad instead of loving and thankful. And this happens during the best of times. Now that we’re trying to recover from a pandemic, in some ways, it’s much worse. If you’re feeling down in the dumps, these tips should help brighten your spirits and allow you to enjoy the holidays.
As a “recovering” co-dependent, I used to feel obligated to do everything and then guilty that I didn’t do enough. I dreaded the holidays because I had enormous expectations for myself. It was up to “ME” (not Santa Claus) to make everyone’s holiday magical. I always ended up angry, exhausted and sick. Now I actually enjoy the holidays because I’ve learned how to do things entirely differently. Here’s a few tips that have turned things around for me.
1. SELF CARE is the name of the game. Most people (especially parents) don’t do anything for themselves until everyone else is OK. They put themselves last on the list. I’m giving you permission to put yourself FIRST! Nobody’s going to give you what you need or set your boundaries. In order to feel happy and joyful you simply must “put your oxygen mask on first!” Shut down and rest if you’re stressed out or getting sick. Eat well. Get some fresh air and connect with those special people in your life that lift you up. Spoil your dog with an extra walk and watch how great you feel. Make a list of 5 things you’re going to do EACH day for self care! Do fun little things that recharge and rejuvenate you.
I enjoy taking my Pug Olive on a walk through the beautifully decorated canals near my home. It always puts me in good spirits and a place of gratitude. No canals or picturesque walking spots where you live? …How about taking a holiday drive through a festively decorated neighborhood. Grab your dog, jump in the car, fire up the heated seats, treat yourself to a latte (and a PUPpuccino for your pet) blast “All I want for Christmas is you,” belt out your best Mariah Carey impersonation, and feel that holiday magic!
2. BE STILL AND BREATHE! If you’re like me you’re addicted to going, going, going! Sitting still and doing nothing is extremely uncomfortable. AND, all the more reason I need to do it. Sit your overworked bootie down for a few minutes and breathe. Go online and do a 5–10 minute guided meditation, or just sit quiet and do your best to think calm, happy, beautiful, thoughts. When your “to-do” list or negative thoughts crop in, immediately shut them off by thinking of something peaceful. I can hear it now, “That might be fine for you but it’s so hectic right now I don’t have a minute to breathe!”…Well, make 10 and watch what happens. I now enjoy doing a 15 minute meditation first thing in the morning with my little Pug Olive. It’s so calming and helps set the tone for our day. I also have enjoyed sitting in a bubble bath with candles and meditating in the warm, soothing, water. Listening to the water fill the tub is also very relaxing. This practice has also calmed Olive’s anxiety and strengthened our bond. Check out the FREE meditation app: Insight Timer which I use. Find some soothing meditations to try. And don’t forget to include your pets. Your stress is contagious. It weakens their immune system and accelerates aging. While your serenity keeps pets calm and balanced.
☯️Sometimes it’s just impossible to stop my busy mind. When this happens, I do active meditation by swimming some laps and focusing on the cold, blue water and my breathing. Another helpful thing is taking a gratitude walk and thinking about all the things I’m thankful for using every letter of the alphabet. Try this when you can’t fall asleep or you’re obsessing about something! (-Bonus points for getting 5 things for each letter!) Usually I’m out like a light before I get to the letter “X” but if not, that takes some serious thinking!
3. JUST SAY “NO!” While Covid killed many of last year’s holiday festivities, this year everyone is more than making up for it! Even my 93 year old mother has a slew of parties and other invitations pouring in. Do yourself a favor and say “NO!” Last year, the pandemic may have given you a hall pass for attending your niece’s painstaking production of The Nutcracker or holiday choral show, this year you’re just going to have to put on your big-kid pants and decline lower priority events. And even things opening back up, Zoom is still wildly popular snd adds another layer of options. I personally would rather have a root canal (with laughing gas) than spend one more second of my free time on ZOOM! If you feel the same way, -JUST SAY NO! Everyone’s busy and either they’ll understand or they’ll get over it. Doing things you have zero interest in will only build up stress and resentments.
Now, in the true spirit of the holidays, there are some things that you should do. For instance, if your relative just had a new baby or you can’t see the elderly grandparents in person this year, some extra video chats or Zoom calls are important. But, there will certainly be many, MANY, other invitations you can pass on that aren’t a big deal.
4.“YES PLEASE!” That’s right! Now that you’ve cleared your calendar, go crazy with things that sound warm, fuzzy and FUN! Things that make your holidays MERRY! Start planning, inviting, organizing and doing a few of those! Love those holiday cookies, -host or attend a cookie swap. Is a favorite tradition hitting holiday sales at the mall or outlets until your feet bleed with blisters? …Jump online or slip on some kicks and get those deals! Why not visit small retailers and pick up some unique treasures while avoiding the holiday crowds. Again, be honest about what is truly fun and not an obligation. Lift your mood being creative and trying a few new things as well as modifying some of your holiday favorites.
🎁One of my favorite things to do is have my friends over a day or two AFTER Christmas. Everyone comes in sweats or PJ’s with a “RE-GIFT.” Each friend brings left-over holiday goodies and we drink lattes (or champagne) while catching up on everyone’s celebrations. Sometimes we make vision boards by cutting inspiring photos and headlines out of magazines representing our goals and dreams for the new year.
5. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH DOGS! (Or cats, puppies, kittens, etc!) Seriously! Petting a dog actually makes the neurotransmitters in your brain go crazy. Oxytocin (a stress reducing hormone) is released and cortisone (a nasty stress hormone) is reduced. Walking a dog does the same thing PLUS you get some exercise. It forces you outside in the fresh air getting your heart pumping and your blood flowing. Dogs are filled with love. Any attention drives them bonkers. Hug a few dogs, talk to them, pet them, love on them and watch how you feel. Why not see if a rescue or shelter will let you foster one for the holidays.
’Tis is the season do something kind! Buy someone a coffee! Tip ridiculously! Donate to needy kids. Be someone’s secret Santa. Low on funds…hold the door for someone. Let the other driver take that prime parking spot. Offer to take someone’s “selfie” or just smile and give a genuine compliment. Doing kind things for others doesn’t have to cost a cent! It will make you feel wonderful! And you’ll be doing a kind deed during the holidays!
🐾BONUS: One of my favorite traditions is participating in Justin Rudd’s Operation Santa Paws. Right after Thanksgiving, collection bins are put out all around the community. The weekend before Christmas all the items collected are taken to a variety of shelters and given to all the animals. It’s such fun to see the joy on the faces of all the needy pets. It’s a magical day!
Wishing you a peaceful, healthy, STRESS-FREE and happy holiday season.