HOLIDAZED: SOME THOUGHTS ON HOW TO DEAL

Because the holidays aren't always merry and bright... Beyond the mistletoe, classic movies, enticing treats, ornate decorations and overhaul of lofty expectations for happiness, altruism and gratitude, lies the not so jingle worthy reality that holidays can also be hectic, stressful, overindulgent, lonely and expensive. When our friends, families, partners, kids and coworkers can bombard us with unattractive small talk, uncomfortable political discussions, the overconsumption and ugliness of too much food and booze. Or when we are reminded of those who've passed or are no longer are in our lives in the way they used to be. Or the tendency to overlook or instigate the differences and separations between family members and have to face old wounds, stressful memories of the past. The reality is that a picture perfect holiday doesn't exist no matter what Instagram and the Bergdorf Goodman windows tell us. So today I'm offering a little room for us all to be real about the part of the holiday that hasn't always been so celebrated, but has always had a seat at the table. I originally wrote this post two years ago around the holidays and my intention was to write a newer version, but it seems like pretty much everything here still applies. So I tweeked a few things and added some new thoughts, but for the most part, these were the main themes I considered when thinking about the holiDAZE we can easily fall into. I write this post with a lot of honesty, empathy and of course, love. Enjoy. 

1. Mindfulness around the food and booze... but seriously, so hard. This, I believe is one of the most difficult things for me to maintain mindfulness about during the season of nonstop feasting, cheering, and nibbling on salt and sugar. If you are only planning to attend one celebration then by all means go all out and consolidate the cookie and alcohol combo hangover, but for those of us attending multiple holiday parties it's a slippery slope. And let's be real, I often find the yummy cheese plate and festive sugar rimmed cocktail as a reward for doing 20 minutes straight of small talk with a girl named Sara who hates her boss and is considering a retreat in Bali, no offense to any Sara's out there or Bali retreats, I'd love to do one at some point. It's just so tempting sometimes to calm our social anxiety with a lot of cake and wine. But at the end of the day I will often ask myself, "is it worth the lull, the bulge, the lack of energy, the headache, the hangover?" And to be clear, I try to always ask myself these questions from a place of love and acceptance of my body, and not shame and resentment for my choices. I ask myself these questions to create consciousness around the way my body feels and my part in fostering the good, rather than attempting to scare myself skinny. I try sometimes to think of all the cocktail parties as a marathon, instead of a sprint, trying to think of other ways I can manage some of the temptation by nourishing myself maybe before I go to a party with foods that make me feel good, so I'm not starving and consuming large amounts of stuff that won't feel good the next day. It's not an easy task but before alternating between nonstop fasting and feasting for several months, it might be worth some consideration. Our bodies and minds are so incredibly impacted by what we feed it but I also want to enjoy myself and embrace the traditions that come with seasons. So the awareness is not so much a restriction as it is a point of consideration and care. 



2. Family comes first, but...  The holidays are also supposed to be enjoyable, so why do others have to dictate what that looks like exactly? I know, I know, this is hard one. But I really believe that as individuals we need to stop apologizing for wanting more for ourselves, especially when it comes to our own happiness. If you don't enjoy seeing Aunt-oh how are you still single?- then don't. I understand people have commitments to see family for so many different and complex reasons, and sometimes it's just not feasible. I wonder, however, if is at all feasible to cut some of the guilt out and do what's best for yourself, your partner, or your kids in any small way (for example limiting the time with difficult family members or planning something separate and special for yourself or loved ones). Life is just too short and the holidays too special not to enjoy some or all of it the way you'd like. And if you can't avoid cousin-I'm so much better than you- than at least set some boundaries. Don't engage in the criticism or negativity, rise above what is essentially someone else's problem to the best of your ability. It's your holiday too, and if that means asking Uncle Fred to talk about something else other than politics, that's okay. 

3. Can we just say no... Like the last thought but a tad easier sometimes with friends than with family. Saying no to "omg I haven't seen you in forever, let's do brunch", saying no to more than two secret Santa parties, saying no to the entire cookie making station, just take your snap of the cute holiday party invite and Instagram that custom hot chocolate making station and get the hell out. Saying no to whatever you don't want to go to and stop feeling bad about it. It's not selfishness, it's common sense. Remember, the holidays are about being happy, right? 

4. #Holiday on a budget...Let's face it, way easier said than done and I am no expert in budgeting. We all want that understated but ultra-luxe and on trend New Year's Eve dress, the substantial donation to our favorite charity, the extra pretty gift wrap option, the $70 ugly Christmas sweater (I wish I was kidding), that gift that makes our partner go wow! And with social media it's hard to re-wear the expensive cocktail dress and not be a tad jealous about what model Range Rover kid car the Joneses got Timmy. It's the thought that counts and I'll admit that it is sometimes very difficult for me to understand fully. So in the spirit of supporting the opportunity and meaning behind giving this season, making a budget for everything involved, not just the gifts and donations, but the real cost of each event, the holiday cards, the last minute/overpriced bottle of champs, the beauty regimens, the Uber surge pricing, the outfits, the secret Santa gifts you forgot about until the night before, and all the little extra details that add up, aka the $8 ornate, but oh so convenient  wine gift bag nobody will ever use again. Of all the holiday hangovers, getting a terribly huge credit card bill the next month will never be worth it and so instead of putting it off, plan ahead and try your best to stay as close as possible to an amount you're comfortable with. 


5. Don't just do it for gram...I know, I know, I'm a TOTAL hypocrite. But I do constantly tell myself this all the time and for the most part it reminds me why I gather and plan before the gram (haha that wasn't meant to rhyme but I like it). Remember that you can Insta at anytime and often it's the photos we don't post that make us look cooler. If you're having a good time, the photo can wait, if it has to happen at all. Heather Dubrow said on her podcast that she only takes photos at the beginning of an event so she can enjoy the rest of her time without worrying about it. Clearly she isn't a blogger, but I think the principle still applies. Some of the best photos I have taken required the most work and stress. I am clearly still thinking hard about this one but I try to avoid any spontaneous photoshoots so that I can truly enjoy the night without worrying about missing the good light. 

6. Exercise, exercise, exercise... A general rule of thumb that's been particularly useful for me in this last year. If I can't make time to relieve the stress, then I don't make it. AKA if I know I'm going to be in a frenzy going to three events in one week and won't have time to recover (aka workout or relax a night or two in between) then I just don't go. Its kind of like putting gas in the car, if you are constantly on empty you won't be able to go very far! I also have listened to my body and it just does better when I get a work-out in. Even if you don't have a lot of time, doing something as simple as jumping jacks at home before getting in the shower can make a difference in how you feel. I will often move through a few yoga poses just to release some of the tension from the day before an event in the evening, since I tend to work out in the mornings and need more blood flow in the evening. Every little bit counts and remember it's about how you feel that is important here. 
7. Can we honor those who've passed... Perhaps one of the hardest parts about the holiday is being reminded of those who we have lost, who played significant roles in our celebrations in past years and remind us of how much we miss them even if the rest of the year is more bearable. As a therapist I often encourage clients to acknowledge the loss in the safest and most bearable way possible. This can vary from reading a poem or quote, playing a particular game, sharing a fond memory, eating a special food, visiting the grave or special place he or she used to love. These are not as simple as they sound and perhaps not appropriate for every situation, however, often times allowing a welcomed space, that may come with some sadness and difficult memories, feels better in the long run then avoiding the loss entirely. One of the most beautiful things about the seasons is the comfort of the old but also to opportunity of the new. It's up to us which one we choose to listen to. 

8. And maybe it's okay to be sad... As a matter of fact, maybe we can even plan for it, just a little. Like I mentioned before, as much as the holidays are fun and filled with happy memories, they are also sometimes stressful and emotionally draining. We tend know ourselves well enough to sense when we might have an extra hard time putting up with a parent who might not change, a recent breakup, or a change in life circumstance beyond our control. And when everyone is forcing cheerfulness and gratitude down your throat it can often leave us feeling extra sensitive to the things we don't have, or did and lost. It's never a bad idea to have a little plan in place for these days — maybe promising yourself no guilt in saying no to a party invitation, or treating yourself to a massage/movie/SoulCycle class, having a friend on speed dial who is comfortable with just listening or watching a re-run of Friends. We all have things that make us sad and often times the stress or pressure that comes with this season brings it up a little more for us, and for what it's worth, I'm here to tell you that is so okay. 


Tis' the season and take care, but really

-MGN

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