If you’re already put off by having to purchase presents for people you don’t like very much, primp for parties, cook, clean, shop, lick envelopes or wait in line; if you are dreading having to drive all over town, buy this/do that/act cheerful/insert holiday-related chore here, it might be time to intervene on behalf of your holiday self. You’re burned out. Step out of those grumpy pants and slip into the true spirit of the season. Here’s how.
In order to give, you don’t have to gift. Instead, volunteer. Give your time. Cook a meal for someone in need. Donate to charity. Help a friend out by watching her kids for the night. Just the mere act of taking the time to really give your time to someone in need will allow you to step outside the consumer-driven vortex and see things more clearly. “We live in a world that is full of distractions” said clinical psychologist and California State University psychology professor Dr. Ramani Durvasula. “If you can turn off the cell phone and really be present for someone, that is a present in and of itself.”
Kimberly Anderson, host of the wardrobe show Kim’s Closet, has experienced this kind of shift first-hand. “In years past I focused on how many gifts I could buy and how extravagant I could wrap and present each gift,” she said. “Now, through volunteering, I can see again. By reaching to those who are in need of hope, compassion, family or companionship, I soon realized that I was looking in the mirror – and recognized that these people in need were giving more to me than I could ever give them.”
Hint: this one isn’t about consumption. Instead, the mantra to follow here is get it together. As in: get organized. Get healthy. Get in a regular routine. ‘Tisn’t the season to adopt unhealthy habits. Like too many spiked eggnogs. Or maxing out your credit cards. The holidays are a time to be extra wary of your coping mechanisms, especially if you’re feeling stressed or blue. Experts recommend that you keep to your exercise regime during the holidays, as well as other important habits, like paying your bills on time, taking medications and eating healthy. Trudy Scott, a certified nutritionist and author of The Anti-anxiety Food Solution: How the Foods You Eat Can Help You Calm Your Anxious Mind, Improve Your Mood, and End Cravings said, “make sure your vitamin D levels are optimal as this can contribute to seasonal anxiety and depression. When you do indulge in sugary foods, you become nutrient-depleted and stressful situations often seem worse.” Scott recommends sticking to a healthy breakfast including protein, eating three meals and two healthy snacks to keep blood sugar – and moods – under control.
Just the mere act of being outside, taking a walk or planning a trip can improve one’s outlook on life. Durvasula recommends taking time to become a tourist in your own city, and mix things up a bit so you don’t feel like you’re stuck in the same old rut. Try a new restaurant or check out a museum. And if you are visiting friends or relatives, do the same thing in a different town. “Make it fun and interactive,” she said. “Keep moving! Movement keeps the mind and body healthy.” Likewise, Scott added, “Moderate exercise raises serotonin levels and relieves anxiety and depression, so it’s important to be active during the winter months – join the gym or ideally do something outdoors like skiing. Exercise raises levels of endorphins.”
Plant the seeds for a new project or personal growth now, before the New Year kicks in. If the holidays make you feel out of sorts, tap into that energy and see what’s up. Are there unfulfilled goals or aspirations under the surface? Dysfunctional family patterns you want to change? Now is also a great time to address those issues and embrace change. “Don’t be afraid to try something new, whether it’s a cooking class, or building a new family tradition,” said Durvasula. “Sometimes we get so stuck in the past that we can’t embrace the wonderful aspects of personal growth and change. The holidays are a great time to shift the paradigm.”
Historically, the holiday season developed as a way for people to connect during seasonal harvest and celestial events, through celebrations of food, storytelling and talking. If you find that your own version of these celebrations are becoming toxic, reach out to those friends and family members that you really connect with or haven’t seen in awhile. A heart-to-heart with an old friend can really go a long way. “Sometimes we forget how important conversation can be to our overall health and well-being,” said Durvasula. “The spirit of the season is really about being present, and also being open to new ways of thinking. See if you can bring in people from different parts of your life to liven things up and create new connections.” For example: host a gathering where you include people from work and your neighborhood. Or get the neighbors together with your church community. Open your door for lively discussion, and you may find that your heart opens up as well.
How do you get in the spirit of the holidays?