It is upon us. The time of year many of us most love.

Joyous and festive, this time of year is filled with social engagements, family get-togethers and a raft of obligations.  There is the bustle of shopping, the weekends of baking, decorating and crafting, and the evenings of friend-togethers and office parties. There are the overstuffed but delightful school christmas concerts, the chilly and jaw-dropping parades, the never-available parking spots, the crush in the food market line up and the ding-a-linging of Salvation Army kettles.

We all know that as much as we might just love this time of year, it can be an incredibly stressful time as well. Ever feel like pulling your hair out while you run helter skelter through your home muttering and spitting?

Feeling anxious and overwhelmed? There are things you can do to keep the joy and kick the stress to the kerb.

1. Feeling pulled in all directions? Family, friends, work, school, and community all expecting you to not only show up, but bring along a pot luck item, a donation, a baked item as well?  That is one heck of a lot of expectation pulling on you.

This is not about “me” time, this is about healthy balance.

Make sure you’re getting plenty of sleepEat well and don’t forgo your exercise routine.  Find time for a long, hot bath, a soothing pedicure, a relaxing massage.  Attend a yoga class, take a brisk, exhilarating walk or curl up with a great book. Make sure you do the things which best sustain you.

2. Reduce/minimize your financial output.  We all love to give gifts, and most of us love to receive them.  If your list for gift-giving is long, this can add up to quite a financial strain.

Homemade gifts are truly lovely and tremendously appreciated.  They require love, attention and time and show the benefactor that you care enough to take that time. Dips, breads, personalized scrapbooks, and digitalized 8mm films can be breath-takingly touching.  Perhaps some of the folks on your list would appreciate not receiving anything except a visit, a shared cup of tea, a hug , or a long-distance greeting (if I’m on your list, this is me).

3. Every event you’re invited to does not require your presence.  Wallet, waistline, family time and peace of mind can all fall victim to our over-participation. Pick your favourite events to attend and send your regrets to the many which fall off the fave-scale. When you aren’t socially over-committed, you’ll be more relaxed and will enjoy events so much more.  Surely you’ll be missed, but that too can be a gift!

4. Minimize the amount of sweets and alcohol you consume.  Chocolates, desserts, and wine abound at this time of year. Choose to bring healthier alternatives to events such as veggies and festively coloured dips, crudites, and raw foods. When grazing the event, choose items low in processing and refined sugars.  Enjoy wine spritzers or citrus waters. You’ll appreciate and feel proud of leaving without the bloat.

5. When you feel ready to lock yourself into the corner of a dark closet and scream, some breathing might be an effective antidote.  Wherever you are, close your eyes. Lengthen and deepen your breath. With each exhale, release your shoulders down from your ears. Alternate nostril breathing will soothe and calms your nerves:

  • With your right thumb, close your right nostril
  • Exhale and inhale through your left nostril
  • Close the left nostril
  • Exhale and inhale through your right nostril. This completes one cycle.
  • Continue for 20 cycles, finishing by exhaling through the left nostril.

Make this the year you take on the holidays with a laid back approach.  Set your own expectations and live by them, instead of those of everyone around you. Stride through the holidays with your sleep, exercise and sanity still intact and slide into the new year with grace.

Everything you can do can be done better from a place of relaxation. ~Stephen C. Paul