If you are battling a bah-humbug outlook, consider adding these spirit-lifting ideas on to your holiday calendar. The following 11 tips are from my recent interview with Mary Ann Zimmerman, managing director for the Mindability group. In addition to being an author, licensed professional counselor (LPC), and licensed independent substance abuse counselor (LISAC), Ms. Zimmerman is an organizational and behavior health leader who knows that with determination, the holidays can leave you feeling uplifted and far less stressed.
Follow these tips to enjoy the holidays ahead:
1. Call a holiday truce. Are you wondering how to stay sane when seeing your family this year? If you are expecting conflict try one of these strategies. First, be prepared with a non-combative reply such as “I understand how you would feel that way” or “Can we discuss this at the next gathering.” Another option, practice your listening skills and then excuse yourself by offering to assist in the kitchen or spend time with other family members. Reaching out to a friend with a sympathetic ear or that has a similar situation can also be great solution.
2. Shop in advance or online. For everyone who shops all year round, last minute stress doesn’t exist. For the rest of us, getting family members to create wish lists, making the trip to the mall in November versus December, and shopping online can be great tactics that save time.
3. Enlist help. This is the perfect time of year to take others up on their offer to help. Good hosts know that having Uncle Jeff bring the stuffing and motivating the teenagers to wrap gifts is a smart way to tackle the To-do list.
4. Eat well and be well. It is true that your diet impacts your mental health. Even the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is now reinforcing the message. Building on this report, if you prepare for holiday dinners by eating healthy meals the week prior, you have a better chance of keeping your diet balanced.
5. Pay it forward. When you focus on those who have far less than you do, it’s harder to be depressed. Get started by contributing time or funds to qualified 501(c) (3) charities this holiday season. Or consider making donations of clothing or toys to one of the many local charities that can put them to good use in your own community.
6. Carve out time for yourself. Take 5 minutes to create a list of routines that restore your energy, such as reading a great book or calling a long-time friend, and write then them on your calendar. Next, and in between wrapping gifts, make sure these routines get done.
7. Embrace humor! Spend time with those who make you laugh and watch or head to the movies to see a good comedy. It’s nearly impossible to laugh and be depressed at the same time.
8. Resist a binge. Be strong and don’t binge on alcohol or food. Here is an easy dessert strategy: have one slice of pie, not three. Also remember that alcohol can intensify your emotions and leave you feeling worse when it wears off. Although some may see overindulgence as common as opening gifts, your ability to resist can have long term benefits.
9. Stay in shape. Schedule your exercise as early in the day as possible during the holidays. By doing this you can get it out of the way and stay stress-free for the balance of day. Another tip, stay hydrated by drinking the right thing: water. Studies show that your body needs hydration even when it is cooler outside.
10. Continue building friendships. While friends may be busy with their own families, it can give you time to expand your circle with new friends. A few ways to meet new people: sign up for a class you have been wanted to take, start a blog if you have a passion for writing, or join an organization that you admire and has like-minded members.
11. Eliminate cabin fever and take a hike. Whether you like hiking in the great outdoors, on the golf course, or in the local shopping mall with friends – make sure you get out and about over the holiday season. Staying socially and physically active is good for your mind, the soles of your favorite shoes and your spirit.