I wanted to write a holiday “survival”-esque blog post based on the mental health check-in I did with my virtual wellness community. I saw a dramatic response that most people are struggling this time of year and not necessarily feeling merry and bright. So I took to the internet to see what others have done. Every article that I read for inspiration and research said how to “survive” the holidays. I understand that it is supposed to be a joyous time but also is a difficult time for a lot of people. But is that really the standard we want to set for ourselves? Merely surviving?
There is often a battle happening inside of me. The darkness vs. the light. Usually the LIGHT wins. I’m not sure exactly what has programmed me to be this way but I know that my life and my holiday season is about much more than just surviving. Sometimes, some days, some seasons, that is really all you can do. I completely understand that especially looking back to the days in my past I was full of grief and heartbreak. But I think to stay fixed in a mentality that surviving is what you are consistently doing is a serious disservice to yourself, others and our world as a whole.
I do want to give you some tips and reminders to take care of yourself just a little bit more this holiday season. If that means survival for your circumstance then that is what you can call it. But as I was watching another episode of Red Table Talk (if you haven’t watched head to Facebook right now and get on it) with Kid Cudi on mental health and a few things stuck out to me. Jada Pinkett Smith shared that sometimes all you can do is lean on something that “keeps your head above water.” I totally agree. But you can’t live there. You can’t stay there. She also said in the episode, “testimony is so much more powerful than advice.” I agree. So here is my testimony.
Joking. Kinda. Here’s more of what helps me thrive…
If you aren’t familiar with my story, I have lived abroad for the last five years with only a few short stints back in America in between moving to different countries. This is path I chose, what I felt called to do by my gut and intuition and sometimes because of pesky visas. Holidays are a bit of a pain point while living abroad. Although they are still exciting and I make the absolute best of them, it is hard to leave the comfort of family, traditions and familiarity and be totally open-minded but here were my best tips about coping with the holidays abroad.
But now let’s forget cope, survive, get through and focus on thriving for a minute. What would it look like for you to thrive throughout the holidays? Again testimonies are better than advice so here is what works for me.
1. Protecting my energy
You can’t do it all. Despite the feeling of wanting and needing to. You can’t see every single friend and family member before or during the holidays. You need energy for the things that matter most. Write a list of your top 3 priorities this holiday season and put your energy into those things. Mine are my health, my loved ones and adding value to my current clients/following.
2. Gratitude for small things
A cup of hot chocolate, cozy socks and Christmas music. Receiving a card you weren’t expecting. The ability to celebrate with family or friends this year. Every little things deserves gratitude and the more grateful you are for the small stuff the more satisfied you are with your overall holiday experience. Gratitude makes my heart explode and makes me feel like a little kid again.
3. New traditions & celebrations
Don’t be afraid to break the mold! If you have moved to a new place, you’re living abroad or maybe you just have different people in your life this year, make new traditions. Suggest a plan and follow through with it! They don’t have to cost lots of money. Get creative and if you can’t I’m sure pinterest can help! My boyfriend and I decided to each by a new “special” ornament each year and write the date on the back so when we are old and wrinkly we will have a tree full of memories!
4. Sticking to my healthy routine
Healthy holidays!? Are you crazy? I know it’s instinct to dive face first into the mulled wine, mashed potatoes and Christmas cookies(or mince pies if you’re British) but for me my healthy routine is what keeps me sane! It keeps me craving healthy food when I’m exercising normally and reminds me to have veggies, water, and a few of the sweets too! In years past, I have completely gone crazy for weeks around the holidays and I started the new year feeling awful. The last couple I have found a balance that is much more satisfying.
5. Following my heart
Your heart usually knows the way. Do you really need that or are you falling into consumerism? Are you thinking of ways to be thoughtful vs flashy? Does anyone really care how fancy your bows are on all 37 presents? Follow your heart. If it feels good do it, if it doesn’t…well don’t!
6. Being gentle with my decisions- tender discipline
You can’t say no all the time, that’s not healthy. You also can’t say yes all the time! That’s not healthy. You can have some treats at the office but dessert and drinks every night from Thanksgiving- New Years will leave you feeling sluggish, bloated and unhappy. Make choices that feel right in the moment but also have some discipline. Ask yourself, “How will this treat make me feel afterwards?” Two cookies! Sure! 17 cookies.. Might not be your best bet! Use TENDER discipline and intuition to guide those choices and listen to your hunger cues.
7. Staying hydrated
Water, water, water. It is so easy to get caught up in wine, eggnog, festive cocktails, hot chocolate, fancy coffee and realize you didn’t even drink a glass of water yet and it’s 3pm. I have my water bottle plastered to my hand at all times so that I know I am drinking a lot. If I leave it in the car for a day or two I realize how much less I drink! Get a big, reuseable, environmentally friendly water bottle and drink half your body weight in ounces every single day! It helps with those holiday hangovers too if you drink one alcoholic drink then one water! Stop, drop & chug right now!
8. Presence not presents
My favorite lesson I’ve learned about the holidays. This is something I love about living in England because I feel the culture is much more centered around the fun games, nice meal and family time that come with the holiday rather the actual presents. America unfortunately has a lot of materialistic values that becomes more and more obvious the longer I am away. My boyfriend’s family does a Secret Santa instead of everyone buying for everyone! That way everyone gets a nice gift but it doesn’t break the bank.
We also have adopted a fun “white elephant” style game that my Danish roommates in Australia taught us with inexpensive gag style gifts. Quality time is the best present of all. So focus on your presence not the presents. Stay off your phone. Chat to your older relatives and get them to tell you old family stories. Relish in traditions and if you don’t have many or don’t have a tight family, grab people you do love and make it happen
9. Treats not cheats
Nothing about the holidays should feel like you are “cheating” on your diet. It’s absolutely normal and necessary to have some treats in a healthy, balanced lifestyle. The more you describe, talk and think about them as TREATS and not CHEATS the better you will feel about your choices. There should be absolutely zero guilt associated with any of your food choices. That takes all the fun out of it for me. Treat yo’ self in a way that feels for YOU and your body. Not your 250 pound uncle. If you want more veggies on your plate and he wants 17 roast potatoes, no skin off your back. Do what feels good for you and enjoy it.
10. Self care & alone time
Just because there are tons of parties, family members visiting, and social events does not mean you need to attend everything or be the last to leave. If you are tired, go home early. If you are stressed, go meditate in the bathroom. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a short walk around the neighborhood. Volunteer to pick up something that your mom forget at the shop. Just admit you need a little space and step outside for five minutes. However it fits into your plans, schedule time for you because when this much is happening, you need that alone time even more.
This is what works for me. This is what makes me feel merry and bright. I hope even one of these tips you can relate to or just be reminded of! Remember, just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean your feelings aren’t valid or they shouldn’t be there. Take care of you, fill up that cup so you can give your full self to others and just relax and enjoy these special memories. Happy Holidays! P.s. Don’t forget, everything is better when you do it with some ensusiasm.