6 Sanity Savers for the Holidays

It’s that time of year again! All the mall decorations, cooking shows and magazine covers make it look so wonderful and easy…. Honestly, have you ever seen a Norman Rockwell Holiday in real life? No crying babies, no dog eyeing the ham, no “crazy” relatives that always know exactly how to push your buttons? Why, after years of proof to the opposite, do we still believe that this year, somehow, someway our holidays (and family) will be different?

Whatever Happened to Good Enough?

For over a quarter of a century I’ve hosted the same holiday gathering. Last year, as the holidays came to a close, I announced “No more!” You see, during those 25+ years, in-laws, out-laws and assorted others joined the crew. When the list reached 42, I knew there was something that we had to do.

So this year, I’m drastically changing course. It’s ruffling a few feathers for sure, but for sanity’s sake, I’m sticking with the following five (and a half) step strategy. Please share your strategies below in the comment section.

1. Simplify the plan
. What can be cut? We all have a few have-to’s, but step back and examine: Are they really ALL have-to’s? I’ve culled my list and simplified my plan. Surprisingly, it looks like I’ll have time to do a long-overdue want-to; for years I’ve wanted to bake sugar cookies just like I used to with my beloved Aunt Myrtle…. This is the year!

2. Ask for help. There is nothing wrong with potluck, store bought or eating out. Notice what you’re feeling and what it is you need. Overwhelmed? Acknowledge it. Disillusioned? Express it. Feelings that are “stuffed” will always explode (and can that get messy…). Avoid all that and if you need help, ask. Don’t expect others to read your mind; especially if you have set the pattern that you always can and will do it all. Assign the kids a task or two. It teaches responsibility and gives them a feeling of accomplishment. Just remember, when others do help out, especially little kids, good is good enough…which brings me to number 3.

3. Say Thank You frequently. Expressing gratitude is more than saying thank you. Years ago, a mentor shared with me the following three tips to “good gratitude”:

  • Focus on the recipient
  • Share your positive experience, benefit or transformation
  • Keep it short and to the point

As a bonus, expressing gratitude and appreciation has a wonderful, warm, calming effect on not only the recipient but the giver as well.

4. Be okay with saying “No.” I know it can be hard to convince some that “No” is a complete answer, but it can be done. Sometimes, with those we love, “no” can be difficult to say. To ease into a “no”, acknowledge the other person by name and use a softener such as:

  • I wish I could, but I can’t right now….
  • I can’t do that, is there another way we can….
  • I can’t commit to that at this time….

Saying no may find you holding your breath so…

5. Extend your exhale. During times of stress, we tend to breathe shallow and rapid, which activates our fight or flight response. Practice breathing fully and deeply, then extend your exhale. Your body relaxes during each exhale and your mind will enjoy the extra oxygen.

6. Keep moving. Maintain or start an exercise plan. It doesn’t have to be radical. Find ways to take the stairs or park just a row or two further away…. And remember, before you sit down to enjoy your family meal, make sure ALL the children, big and small, have had fresh air and exercise. Once seated, “Get the wiggles out at the table by providing a small squeeze toy,” says Janet Allison, (www.boysalive.com) author and founder of Boys Alive! We all get the “wiggles” if we would rather be doing something else….

Take action before any stressful holiday events take over your life! All you need is a few minutes to breathe deep and plan ahead of time. By consciously setting in motion a new pattern of behaviors, you can improve your sanity (and stress level) around the holidays for years to come.

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