First let me say that I love and always have loved the season of Christmas. However, I must admit there have been Christmases where I found myself becoming more and more irritated and/or feeling so much so that I couldn’t wait until January. And often, a healthy Christmas just doesn’t happen if we don’t take care of ourselves both physically and emotionally. If you can relate, this article is for you.
Have you ever noticed when you see those well-intentioned banners “only (insert number) until Christmas” feelings of stress, anxiety and even dread enter your mind? I must confess I have experienced this more than I care to mention — and I am the one in our family who loves most the Christmas season (see first sentence).
Often, during the Christmas season, flu and colds and even depression are experienced by a tremendous amount of people making the concept of a healthy Christmas seem unattainable. In fact, many families actually expect to have some type of illness going on at Christmas. Of course, this is usually a result of unhealthy eating (too much sugar), less sleep, more stress and limited sunshine – all of which bring the immune system down. And what parent hasn’t diligently prayed that everyone in the family would stay well during the holidays? Unfortunately, many of us suffer from or exhibit symptoms of the “just right” and/or the “holiday perfection” syndrome. You might know what I mean or even have experienced this syndrome. Putting up and decorating the Christmas tree (just right), decorating the house (just right), planning a Christmas get-together (just right) as well as a Christmas dinner (just right) that resembles those beautiful and perfect pictures on Pinterest sites or in home magazines can become extremely stressful (especially for Type A personalities <cough>). I am reminded of the saying “if Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” which rings true for many families.
What a path we humans have trod in the last 200 years going from Christmas simple to what our grandparents might call Christmas ridiculous. We currently find ourselves as some of the most stressed-out, unhealthy and depressed people at a time of the year meant for just the opposite. It’s no wonder many people say the holiday season has become their most dreaded time of the year.
It’s a fact of life that stress will happen, but how we handle and process stress becomes very important to our physical and emotional health. While there is certainly “good stress”, the body may have a difficult time in telling the difference between good and bad stress. The keys to eliminating the harmful side effects of any type of stress (particularly during the holidays) can be found in planning, preparation, the setting of limits and just getting back to simplicity and the real reason for the season.
The following are suggestions only — some may not work for your family and some may actually help to solve or at least ease some holiday stress. What I believe to be most important is that we can begin the journey to find our way back to the the joy and peace the Christmas Season represents — full of inspiration, peace, warmth and good-will..
12 Suggestions for a Stress-Free Healthy Christmas
1) Focus on the act of mindful giving – not endless lists of “things”. Shopping off of a “gift list” can give even the most seasoned shopper a sense of desperation! Maybe some new traditions are needed. Start a tradition of limiting the amount of gifts per family member. Some families set a limit of three presents per child which include one clothing outfit, one toy and one book. Set a price limit and encourage gifts-from-the-heart and gifts that focus on service to other family members (this works great for siblings). Give gifts of time to your friends and even your children. A hand-designed coupon for lunch or a movie “on your dime” can mean so much to your close friends as well as your children.
2) Be in the moment. Set a particular evening to decorate the tree and the house. Make a rule that every family member must help and contribute their time. Have some healthy snacks on hand and some organic hot apple cider to sip on. Play bouncy and happy Christmas music throughout the house. If someone gets angry (untangling light strands is usually the culprit) then they must take a short break to calm down. Teach your family “how” to handle stress in a successful manner and that screaming or storming off is not acceptable or appropriate at any time of the year. Your children will thank you for this when they are older and have their own families. Once the house is decorated you will feel less stressful about everything else that needs to get done.
3) As soon as a decision is made about a gift, buy it and wrap it. Don’t wait until the last minute to try to shop and wrap twenty packages. I can say, from personal experience, that waiting until the last minute is a recipe for stress.
4) Make sure that you and your family are eating three healthy meals each day and two healthy snacks. Include a raw salad with your meals at lunch and dinner. Keep a bowl of in-season fruit on the counter or in the fridge. Go easy on sugar, dairy and processed foods. Drink lots of purified water to keep the body hydrated and toxins flushed out. Enjoy the food of the season, but remember that balance is the key.
5) Take a walk by yourself every day. If you live where the sunshine is abundant, try to get some sun on your arms and face. If you are not able to get adequate sunlight then use full-spectrum lighting and an effective Vitamin D3 product.
6) Take the following every day: an organic multi-vitamin/mineral complex; coconut oil, probiotics and Vitamin D3. Our family uses the following products: intraMax; Latero-Flora; unrefined coconut oil; Bio D-Mulsion Forte. If possible, incorporate a green smoothie into your diet every morning.
7) Diffuse essential oils throughout your home and car. Personally, our family likes the Air Oil Aromatherapy Diffuser that does not use water nor does it heat the essential oils. A blend of 4 drops of pine; 4 drops of sweet orange and 4 drops of ginger will be up-lifting. You can also use this in your evening bath for some great stress relief. If a family member begins to show symptoms of illness, diffuse some eucalyptis oil, lemon oil, lavender oil and/or tea tree oil.
8) Make sure that all family members get at least 8-10 hours of sleep every night. A health-promoting bedtime is 10:30 p.m. every night. Your body does the most healing and repairing during sleep. Wear socks on feet in order to eliminate awakenings. Sleep in total darkness and incorporate air purification in each room. Air ionizers are best and can help with allergies molds and even illness.
9) To further the Christmas spirit, plan an informal evening for Christmas caroling in your neighborhood. Invite each family to come along with you to the next house. Have healthy hot chocolate or hot apple cider available at the last house. There are many healthy recipes on the Internet for both hot chocolate and hot apple cider.
10) Adopt a family. Purchase groceries, clothing, shoes, toys, gift certificates, a Christmas tree, telephone calling cards, etc. Also, if funds permit, offer to pay for a month or two of electricity, heating fuel, gas. etc. After the holidays, continue to gift them by leaving a bag of groceries by the front door every so often. Invite your adopted family to go with your family to church services, caroling or to a Christmas pageant. Invite a college student, who cannot afford to go home, over for Christmas Day. Invite an elderly or single person, who is alone, over for Christmas dinner. Involve your children and allow them to experience what true giving is all about.
11) Pick out several age-appropriate Christmas movies to watch as a family during the month of December. Prepare some healthy snacks, light the fireplace and get out the blankets for a cozy family-time.
12) Try to limit the amount of parties, pageants and gatherings that your family will attend in December. Stress can quickly mount when trying to participate in every activity or gathering in which you are invited. Learn to politely say “no thanks.”
Family Gatherings. Family is very important and we will not have each other forever. Family differences, clashing personalities and past wrongs should be forgiven, forgotten and or set-aside. Practice the art of listening. Talk about what’s going on in each others lives as well as successes, hopes and dreams. Try not to participate in “heavy” conversations that can become judgmental or hurtful. Give hugs freely. Smile and laugh and be warm-hearted. Enjoy Christmas day by including the whole family in the preparation of Christmas dinner. How about some board/card games or a friendly game of touch-football for the afternoon hours? Take some great pictures, but don’t be consumed by getting “the right” picture every time unless you have been hired to do so.
Finally, plan some down time Christmas evening to unwind from the festivities. Watching an old Christmas movie (depicting much simpler times) in front of the fire with your loved ones will have a calming effect. Or put on a favorite Christmas CD, sit in front of the fire with a cup of organic coffee or hot tea and discuss the events of the season and look at pictures that have been taken. This makes for sweet memories and strengthens relationships.
Implementing some of the above suggestions can help you and your family to enjoy a memorable stress-free and healthy Christmas season and hopefully turn hearts back toward a season of not only peace on earth good will toward men, but also a season of peace and happiness in our hearts, home and family.
I love the Christmas season and I hope you do, also.