Elf is one of my favorite Christmas movies because it reminds us not to take the holidays too seriously. And this year, I’ve decided to let go of an unrealistic vision of the holiday season and make “singing out loud” my holiday mantra. My holiday meals aren’t as fancy as when I grew up, my house isn’t perfectly adorned with white Christmas lights, and I haven’t mastered the art of coordinating my gift wrap, pristine Pinterest bows, and homemade gift tags. Instead, I’ll embrace my own way of spreading good cheer. I have to say, I’m so on board with this new, low-stress approach to the holidays!
One simple example of my new take on holiday cheer? My oldest daughter proactively decorated the tank of her Betta fish (Swim Shady) with felt Christmas tree decals. It’s not the most refined holiday décor, but it makes her happy—and I’m fairly certain she’s shared at least one Snapchat photo of Swim Shady’s abode! Whatever the season brings, I’m on a mission this year to wake up humming Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la and loudly voice my wishes for a Merry Christmas.
Be Mindful of Our Mouths
The self-help classic Your Word is Your Wand, by Florence Scovel Shinn, explains the power of our words to speak things into existence. Our holiday wishes are more likely to come true if we simply share them out loud. Applying joyful, calm-filled words to this year’s holiday happenings might be the best way to cope with holiday stress. If we text our friends, “I’m so overwhelmed” or some other anxiety-riddled message, we’ll feel that burden more intensely. But if we make an effort to affirm our daily desires in the mirror, compliment others during the day, and share gratitude with loved ones before bed, our cup of holiday happiness is more likely to overflow with joy. It’s all about being mindful of our mouths.
This week, I made time to have coffee with two amazing female colleagues. While our conversation began with some venting about toxic relationships we were ridding ourselves of (and we did bring up some proverbial holiday woes), we quickly shifted our conversation to something much more affirming. One of the ladies, Iris (who happens to be a grief therapist), suggested that we each share a recent work “win.” We took turns sharing something we were proud of accomplishing during this busy holiday season; this shift in conversation felt like an amazing gift to each other. “Why are we so hard on ourselves?!?” we asked, laughing in unison and vowing to start our next gathering with more wins.
I’ll admit that it’s hard to walk around being Pollyanna 24/7. Still, it’s important to pay attention to how stressed our bodies feel when we’re discussing doom and gloom versus sharing uplifting conversations that nourish our souls. During the holidays, it’s especially rewarding to carve out time with those people that leave us feeling jazzed and energized.
Kick the Adrenaline Habit
As moms, we sometimes fall back into the “to do list” adrenaline-junky trap instead of spending time on more meaningful endeavors. For example, we wake up and forget our new affirmation of slowing down only to find ourselves filled with compulsive urges to check things off “the never-ending list” sitting on the counter. Science tells us that we do get a temporary boost in our brain from completing tasks as our adrenal glands pump out norepinephrine—but only to a certain point. Too long of a list leads to increased cortisol, exhaustion, and maxed out credit cards in January—beware of the trap!
A great way to kick the adrenaline habit is to replace the need for quantity with quality. Last week I decided to skip baking a homemade snack for my son’s entire class and instead bought apples and caramel from the grocery store to save time. Thanks to the extra space in my schedule, my son and I were able to spend time together volunteering with our church—an excellent reminder that spreading good cheer far outweighs spreading oneself too thin.
Give to Others (without Giving In)
We don’t have to tire ourselves out to give. Throughout the holiday season, pause and ask yourself what you need, and how you can give to others without giving in. Are there low-cost activities you can do like enjoying hot chocolate by the fire with your spouse, or going sledding with your kids, that would be more fulfilling than overspending and regretting it later? Speak honestly with loved ones and friends. A friend of mine recently shared that she would prefer going out for a holiday coffee versus exchanging gifts and I felt relieved by her suggestion.
Remember that things change from one year to the next, so what worked for you (and your family) last year may not work the same this year. Ask yourself, listen, and speak openly about what your needs are—both with yourself and with others. For me, that means knowing that the Christmas classic “O Holy Night” will bring up feelings of loss over my father, who used to hum the song cheerfully throughout the holidays. So instead of giving in and listening despite it being so painful, I change the station and enjoy some Lil Wayne Christmas tunes. I save “O Holy Night” for when I have time to sit alone and tear up while embracing the onslaught of memories. This time of year is about giving ourselves permission to have our own voice, even while we’re taking care of others.
Give Ourselves Permission to Sing Out Loud
The holidays isn’t just about showering others with gifts and love. It’s also a time to gift ourselves something special—and give ourselves permission to enjoy the season fully. One of my dear friends, another working mother of four kids, confessed, “Today I’m going to give myself permission to spend $45 on a horseback riding lesson, for myself!” I could tell that she felt strange making that declaration.
Let’s retrain our self-sacrificing tendencies and work to confidently seek out self-care, sing about our praises, spread good cheer, and let our authentic voices ring loud into the new year. Happy Holidays!