Top Ten Tension Tackling Tunes to Keep You Humming Through The Holidays

Christmas card

It happens every year. We start out the season with visions of Christmases past when we were younger, things were easier, and our lives were manageable. This year we vow to re-create the magic. We’ll shop early, get organized, entertain lavishly without gaining an ounce, attend every school program and office party, and enjoy all the pleasures of the season.

This vow lasts until the reality of relentless schedules, impossible expectations, extra activities, and crowds at every corner bring this vision sharply into question. Then the question is no longer how will we celebrate but how will we survive?

The good news is we always survive. The bad news is we don’t always utilize the stress management techniques we perfected by the end of last holiday season. However, this year we have a new strategy.

It’s called tunes and tips. When you hear the tune, let it trigger the tension-tackling tip. And what better songs than Christmas carols to keep you humming through the holidays?

1. ‘Tis the Season to Be Jolly…

If you’ve lost your sense of humor, find it immediately!  Stuff happens and you need to keep your wits about you.

Create a stress relief kit that contains anything that conjures up calm for you. Suggestions include a foot massager, a packet of herbal tea, island getaway brochures, funny photos, your favorite music, or an emergency clown nose. Or find an app for your phone that helps you relax and is at your fingertips when you need it.

You are only one thought away from a different perspective.

2. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let it Go…

You don’t have to wish for that fluffy white stuff to perfect the holiday picture. But it is wise to acknowledge that there are certain things that are out of your control, like the weather. What is in your control is your reaction to events.

Letting go of your expectations of how events should unfold, how people should behave, and what should happen allows you to be present to what is actually going on.

3. Dashing Through the Snow…

Movement is essential to your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Since Santa supposedly has your new exercise equipment, now may not be an opportune time for you to start a fitness program. But you can easily incorporate movement into your day.

Having to park three miles away from any place peopled with shoppers gives you an excellent opportunity to squeeze in a little aerobic activity. Carrying your purchases back to that same location might be considered strength training.

There are a myriad of ways to work in a workout.  Get creative and have some fun sprinkling your day with activity sprints.

4. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire…

Too many of those nuts, candies, and homemade delights can tip the scales out of your favor. Notice how you eat, drink, and be merry. If you are eating Christmas cookies to handle your woes or drinking Jack Daniels to prevent Jack Frost from nipping at your nose, the combination of indulgences could wreak havoc on your health.

People tend to put on an extra pound or two over the holidays, which isn’t a big deal if it comes off in the New Year. Unfortunately, for many it becomes the new set point that inches up year after year.

To guarantee that you don’t become one of those weight bearing statistics, plan for party temptations by eating a healthy snack before you go.  Once there, fill up on food for thought instead of food from the party platter.  Pay attention to the decorations, check out the entertainment, or visit with the bearded man and his little friends.

5.  Making a List and Checking It Twice…

Don’t expect your already overloaded mind to remember any more than your way home and the names of your immediate family members. Count on lists to remind you of those things you have determined you must do. Make as many lists as necessary and review them before taking action. Prioritize, organize, scrutinize, and compromise, if necessary.

Even if your superpower is finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list and you love to mix and mingle with the masses, make sure to shop when you are well-rested and well-fed. Shopping when fatigued, famished, or  frazzled can lead to costly buyer’s remorse.

6. Deck the Halls…

Surround yourself with things that bring you joy. Designate a room, corner, or cupboard as your own. Then decorate that space as only you know how. Bring a bean bag elf to the office or hang mistletoe in the cafeteria. Your spirit needs nourishment and encouragement. Be sure to give yourself the time and a place to celebrate what is sacred to you.

Many people use this time of year to reflect on the current year and make goals, set intentions, and strategically plan for the new year.  Be sure to schedule some down time amidst all the hustle and bustle to envision, dream, think, contemplate, relax, pray, or hang out in nature.

7. I’ll Be Home for Christmas…

Many families are spread out over the country. This can present not only logistical challenges, but financial and emotional ones as well when you attempt to make it “home” for the holidays.

Determine if the benefits of being home are worth the stresses you may encounter getting there – especially if you are organizing this pilgrimage for your household. If home is where your heart is, then may the force be with you in your travels! But if traveling makes your heart weary, know you can create the feeling of home wherever you are.

By volunteering your time at a shelter, visiting a nursing home, or helping serve meals at a community center, you might help create the feeling of home or family for someone who no longer has one.

8. All I Want for Christmas Is…

What do you really want? What will having this item do for you? How will it satisfy your soul? What about those on your list? What might they really want? Can you give it to them in a more authentic or direct way? Is it possible for you to make something or do something that brings them more joy than the buying an expensive gift that busts your budget?

Gifts of listening, laughter, and sincere compliments are always appreciated but not always afforded to others.  When you really listen and don’t interrupt, daydream, or plan your response, the gift of listening is priceless.

Same for the gift of laughter.  Clipping cartoons or sharing articles, blog posts (like this one!), tweets, or funny videos lets your recipient know how much you value the times you laugh together.

When a compliment is simple, sincere, and specific to the person such as, “You really worked hard on this project and it shows in your client’s feedback,” or “That was a hilarious interpretation of The 12 Days of Christmas,” it benefits the giver as well as the receiver.

However you say to another,  “I see who you are. I get you. I’m glad you exist in my universe,”  is a gift indeed.

9. Silent Night …

I know what I’m about to write is a radical suggestion, but for your own good, I’m going to write it anyway.  Unplug from your electronic devices for one night and plug in to the gifts of the season.

From the sound of carolers outside your window to the squeals of small children on Santa’s lap to the brightly colored lights decorating the streets where you live, sense the beauty that surrounds you. See, hear, taste, touch, and smell the sensations of the season.

Sometimes all you need to do this is a silent night.  Remember, you have the right to remain silent.

10. Joy to the World…

In the end, it all comes down to attitude. Maybe you harbor an inner Scrooge who threatens to declare, “Bah humbug!” on all this festive frenzy. Keeping him in check may require reframing your beliefs about what you “should” do, “must” do, or “have to” do as a choice, something you “choose to” do.

Although you may be a creature of habit, you are also an evolving creature.  What gives you meaning and brings you joy one year may not the next. You may decide some traditions are simply not worth the energy it takes to carry them out and invent new ones to suit your lifestyle.

When life becomes a choice instead of a chore, the world looks a lot brighterand you have more energy to spread that joy around!

BONUS CUT:

As much as I’d like to end this post on a Joy to the World note,  I do want to acknowledge that the holidays can be a very difficult time for many people.  For years, I dreaded them.  Here’s a tip for those of you who have a hard time with holidays for any number of reasons.

I’ll Have a Blue Christmas Without You…

Despite the festive feel of brightly colored lights and pretty packages under the tree, the holidays can bring up intense feeling of loss, longing, not belonging, depression, and wanting something other than what you have.

You may feel guilty for not enjoying the holidays or for being here when others are not and consequently overspend, overindulge, or over-schedule yourself to escape your feelings.

However, denying your feelings causes them to come back and bite you when you least expect it. Give your feelings the time and attention they deserve. Find someone to talk to or write in a journal. You don’t have to go through this alone.  Connect with others who share your struggles.

I wish you whatever you need or desire to feel loved and appreciated this holiday season.

Please share this with anyone who could use some stress reducing strategies to get through the holidays.  And feel free to share your tried and true tips in the comments below.

 Thank you for reading.   Happy, Healthy Holidays to YOU!

Surprise Garage Sale Finds

There are two types of people in the world. Those who love garage sales and those who don’t. After an unfortunate experience from my childhood (similar to the coffee incident) that involved me hosting a “rummage sale” , as they were called back then, and netting approximately $5 for a week’s worth of work, I fell into the second category.

This past weekend my parents decided to take part in a city-wide garage sale and asked Bob and I to come help. Bob falls into the first category since he’s made out quite well at garage sales over the years. So naturally, I volunteered Bob to help. But since my parents have made more than their share of sacrifices for me, I decided to join Bob and at least be there to help move the inevitable stuff that doesn’t sell.

Among the leftovers were an odd assortment of gardening books, interior and home design books, sewing and fashion guides, and the ever in demand encyclopedias from the 1960s, all considered vintage now.

But the surprise find of the day was not the trip down memory lane but the trip inside the psyche of my ancestors, my paternal grandmother in particular. My father’s mother died when I was in high school, so the memories I have of her are spotty by now.

I remember she loved her family and insisted all the relatives gather around every Sunday after church for a meal or coffee and rolls. She loved to garden and had a small green house added on to her house. She was a great seamstress, which explained all the sewing books and fashion guides. She had dark thick hair, which I didn’t inherit, and equally thick fingers, which I did. She had a heart and home that would open to anyone who walked through her front door.

What I didn’t know about her, that I suppose no grandchild really wants to know, is her deep disappointments, her regrets, and the things that broke her heart. When I got a glimpse of a few of my grandmother’s books as I was loading them in the car to take to Goodwill, I quickly surmised what those things were. The titles of the books said it all from the Miracle Diet to Doctor Please Help Me to Ancient Chinese Secrets for Rapid Weight Loss.

You see my grandmother was a large woman. Obese, in fact. She seldom left her house because it was hard for her to get around. She loved to entertain and have visitors because that’s how she participated in the world.

Her immobility, size, and accompanying health concerns affected me in a very specific way. She took lots of pills and supplements and I was determined not to live like that. So I did what any teenager would do. I stopped eating.

This allowed me to gain control over all the things I had no control over. From raging hormones to attention from boys to defying my dad and asserting myself, the only thing I could control was what I put into my mouth. I was incredibly selective about what went in. Not so much about what came out. I was a teenager, after all.

At that time, anorexia was a relatively new and unknown thing. All I knew was despite feeling hungry 24/7 and feeling the need to exercise every spare moment, if I could control my body, I might be able to get a grip on my emotions.

During this time I got very sick. I remember being in our family doctor’s office and hearing him say to my mother, “You know, she has the potential to become grossly overweight.” Clearly, this was not what a doctor should say to someone suffering from anorexia, but it was the seventies. This was a male doctor who had no clue what it was like to be in a female body or the awareness that those words would stick with me for life.

If I wasn’t eating before, I was certainly not going to eat then, given my genetic potential. Fortunately, I figured it out and managed to start eating again. Maybe I fell in love, maybe I believed if I exercised enough I could eat whatever I wanted, or maybe a decade of therapy did it. In any case, this declaration shaped my early career as a fitness professional and fueled my insatiable hunger for self-growth and knowledge.

Flash forward to this past weekend. Discovering her books allowed me to see my grandmother more clearly than I had ever seen her when she was alive. Despite her jovial appearance, she suffered in ways I never knew.

No one wants to be overweight, out of shape, unhealthy, or otherwise unacceptable or unattractive by society’s standards. We make such harsh judgments and assumptions about those who are.

As I leafed through the books I realized a lot of those doctors were saying what many cutting edge doctors are saying today. People probably thought my grandmother was crazy and willing to follow any “quack” or “miracle cure” she could afford. Or maybe they thought she was lazy, lacked discipline or willpower, or couldn’t be bothered to stick to a diet. But if the books were any indication, she was desperately trying to find a way to be at home in her body and accepted by society.

And then it really hit me. Despite the assumption that I’ve lived my life in reaction to my grandmother’s, I now see it as a continuation of her journey. As I begin an 8-month coaching program with the Institute of Psychology of Eating and dive deeply into the dynamics of eating, mind/body nutrition, body image, metabolism and digestion, as well as eating disorders, I have an opportunity to not only heal myself, but also my loved ones – past, present, and future.

It’s my belief we all have issues around food, nourishment, hunger, approval, acceptance, you name it. While some of us don’t have a need to explore it, if you feel like you do and would like to know about some of the coaching groups I’ll be starting based on this information, please shoot me a quick email with the words “nourishing wisdom” in the subject line and I will send you the latest info on upcoming groups.

What about you? Have you ever discovered a profound truth about yourself when you least expected it?

Share if you dare below.