Elaine’s Top Tips for Staying Sane During the Holidays

MOVE Wellness Studios Co-Founder Elaine Economou offers her tips for trying to stay sane during the holiday season.
When it was first suggested a few years ago that I write a wellness blog that would help with tips and strategies for the holidays I said “hell no.” If someone suggested that I “take time for myself” in my sleep-deprived, constantly overstimulated, trying-to-do-it-all state when my kids were young, I might have come unglued. Mind you I was not, and am not a perfectionist but trying to be present to all the season’s offerings and my regular role was sometimes just too much. So, the idea of staying sane during the holidays is funny.  Maybe funny in a “you’ve got to be kidding me” way with a note of hysteria underlying my voice. Or funny in a “I’ve got this” kind of way.For me, this shifts during the season, over the years and sometimes even day by day and minute by minute. What I have learned though is that staying somewhat sane during the holidays is possible and that it is about making choices.  The sooner I remember this each season the happier I am.  Over the years, I have had plenty of moments of insanity.  Usually because I was exhausted and trying to do the things I needed to do in addition to the things I wanted to do.  After 19 years of parenting, working and navigating the holidays here’s what I’ve learned:
  1. Limit social media. There is too much pressure on us for Pinterest perfect, Instagram worthy, Facebook meaningful experiences. Take a break or minimize your exposure so that you are experiencing your life genuinely and not focusing on your next post or what your friend’s tree looks like.
  2. Get sleep. This is so important. The more rest I get the better I feel overall. A sleep deficit might help you get your project done, but will deny you the opportunity to enjoy it or the days afterwards.
  3. Drink water. The more water I drink the more aware I am of my thirst.  This goes a long way to helping with energy throughout the day. (BTW – Be sure your first morning urine is the color of pale lemonade.  Any darker and you are dehydrated.)
  4. Stabilize your blood sugar.  Try to intentionally decide how many drinks or sweets you will have at an event.  If you decide beforehand to only have one glass of wine and one cookie you are more likely to stick to it. The older I get the less my body can tolerate too much of either of these. Sigh.
  5. Eat fresh food. Eat liberally of fresh vegetables and fruit and enjoy the synergy of nutrients to help your mood, your strength, your energy and your immune system. Just like water, the more you eat fresh food, the more your body wants it.
  6. Practice mindfulness. Stop right here and upload the apps Insight Timer and Headspace onto your phone or computer. As soon as you wake up in the morning do 3-10 minutes of mindfulness or meditation. The evidence suggests that mindfulness has many health benefits and from my own experience, you will not be sorry. I look forward to this every day. Let me know how this one goes.
  7. Control what you can.  No, you cannot control (insert name here) and their behavior.  You can control your reaction to it.  In her book “Braving the Wilderness,” Brene Brown encourages us to look at those who challenge us with their views or opinions as human beings by trying to see our shared humanity in others. This is a process of knowing yourself well enough to be able to be present and is not easy. But if someone is harming you or so toxic you cannot manage this – have good boundaries and get the heck out.
  8. Let go. This is similar to #6 but bears repeating. If you cannot prepare the meal/host the event/spend time in the way you want to ideally, then try to control what you can. Awhile ago when I felt hurt and excluded from the preparation of Christmas meals, I realized that I actually had NOTHING TO DO on Christmas afternoon.  Not one thing.  I never brought it up again and now I play games with my kids or nap.
  9. Get outside. For at least a few minutes every day, spend some time outside. Breathe and really enjoy the fresh air.  The longer you are outside the better, but here in Michigan where it was 25 degrees today after five inches of snow fell, a few minutes was all I could do.
  10. Practice gratitude. Gratitude rewires your brain for happiness. I’m not kidding! Listen to this two minute video and you will understand the power of this simple tool. Maybe if you practice mindfulness for two minutes in the morning you can do your gratitude reflection in the evening. Think of three things you are grateful for that day and spend a few seconds appreciating them in your mind’s eye. Write them down if you can.
  11. Mindfully move. You may not have time for your regular schedule of classes or workouts with all the events and activities going on this time of year. Don’t give up! And don’t beat yourself up. Try to move and breathe mindfully for a few minutes each day.  Consider it a vitamin for your muscles and tissues. Plan your time in the new year once you are back in your routine and if you’re local, come see us at MOVE Wellness Studios for an Introductory Private Session and let us help you plan your fitness regime. In the meantime, here are some great Stretches for Sitters that we recommend to our clients.
  12. Self-compassion. Notice your own feelings and emotions during this season.  It can be very overwhelming with feelings of loss, grief, sadness and more. Honor whatever feelings you are experiencing and do not judge them. Speak to yourself in a way that is supportive and loving.  By practicing self-compassion, you will be able to be more present to others, their suffering and meaningful connections.
I get it if you read this list and think that I have no idea how hard this is. You are right, I don’t know all the challenges that each of you face in trying to navigate this season of the year.  But I do know that what I describe above can be done in less than 20 minutes each day and it will have a hugely positive impact so that you enjoy all that you can in your life and this season.  You deserve it!
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