Tips for surviving and even thriving this holiday

Plan an evening of pampering with holiday-style pedicures, sit down as a family to watch a Christmas movie, read a holiday classic to your children or sing your favorite carols.

by Nathalie Ekobo — 

You have probably experienced holiday stress. You know what it looks like. Think back to last year. What did you and your family enjoy most? The least? Remember how you felt the day after Thanksgiving, December 26th or January 2nd? How would you like to feel after the holidays this year?

You wanted to serve the perfect meal but did not have time to make your special sauce. You wanted to create an awe-inspiring table, offset by a unique, homemade centerpiece, but your creativity shut down. You wanted everything to be perfect — it was not. Are you still blaming yourself? If you want a more peaceful holiday season, do not spend one more minute in that state. Take a deep breath and exhale with a big sigh of relief.

The rush of holiday travel, entertaining, shopping, buying, baking … all of it can create havoc. When thoughts of gifts, cookies, greeting cards, place settings and diminishing time flood your mind, they will steal your enjoyment and cause you to wonder how you will survive yet another holiday season.

Is that really how you want to spend your holiday? If not, here are some things you can do:

1. Remove the “shoulds” of the season — It is easy to fall into the trap of over-scheduling. Holidays are often filled with society’s shoulds. Remember that just because TV and radio commercials, or even past traditions, say something should be done a certain way doesn’t make that way best for everyone. Be selective, or the “supposed to do’s” will control your holiday season.

2. Have realistic expectations and prioritize — Remember what is really important, and be realistic about your time, energy and other resources. Quality time with family is never determined by the cards, tree, table settings or decorations. To help prioritize, ask yourself, “If I had half as much time, how would I want to spend it?”

3. Identify your stresses — Take a minute and list what is most stressful for you about the holidays. Include everyday stresses, as well. Look over the list and eliminate what you can. Do the bills need to be paid? Would you feel better if the holiday meal were planned? As you face the causes of stress on your list, the stress will melt away.

4. No regrets — Allow the holidays to be the positive, healthy celebration they are meant to be. Avoid choices that will result in debt, diets or embarrassments. Spending beyond your means or eating past healthy boundaries may be aimed at filling an unmet need. If the holidays are a difficult time of year, or you find yourself making choices you wind up regretting, seek guidance. Avoid falling into regrets through an unrealized attempt to compensate.

5. Take care of yourself — Healthy habits such as eating well or exercising are often abandoned when we are overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the season, leaving us tired and worn out. It is especially true during the holidays that you cannot give what you do not have. This year, make healthy, energy-generating habits a priority. Exercise to eliminate stress and increase stamina, limit your sugar intake and eat healthy, whole foods.

6. Sleep tight — Most of us are already suffering from sleep deprivation, and the holidays often take more out of us than we realize. After a full day of holiday activities, the body and mind require sleep to recover and rejuvenate. The more the body is denied this opportunity to fully recover, the more the immune system becomes suppressed and the likelihood of illness increases. Get enough sleep so you don’t get sick.

7. Remove your ego — Our egos often get in the way during the holidays. We may unconsciously fall into competition with a friend or family member, or take advantage of the payoffs of martyrdom. No true or lasting pleasure is attained this way. More often, our ego is responsible for stealing the peace and contentment we might enjoy. Ask yourself why you are really working so hard for the holidays. What are you trying to prove?

8. Eliminate perfectionism — Do you want perfectionism or peace? In order to have peace through the holiday season, embrace your imperfection. The drive to be perfect or have everything be perfect adds tension and steals joy. Accept that life will happen despite well-laid plans, and enjoy going with the flow. This is a much more enjoyable way to spend the holidays.

9. Streamline to save time — Time is a precious commodity. Brainstorm ways to save time. Shop throughout the year, use catalogues or shop online. Hire a personal shopper or someone to run errands. Spend less time in front of the TV and choose uplifting programming. Limit how often you watch the news, as it often brings lots of negativity which can zap your energy.

10. Ask for help — Delegating is an excellent way to save time and engage everyone. By involving family and friends in decorating, making gifts or preparing meals, they can enjoy the time together and share a sense of pride in the outcome. Asking for help will give you more time to enjoy your holiday.

11. Relax — Think of activities that allow you to put your feet up and relax. Plan an evening of pampering with holiday-style pedicures, sit down as a family to watch a Christmas movie, read a holiday classic to your children or sing your favorite carols. Integrate relaxation into your holiday by starting new traditions that are less stressful yet full of meaning.

12. Change your thinking to positive — Redefine what the holidays are all about for you. Is this a religious holiday, a time for family, a celebration? Release the concerns, worries and expectations, and get back to the real meaning. If presents are a focus, use the opportunity to share a lesson in the value of giving. Cultivate a sense of the true spirit of the season.

Embrace these changes and do more than survive — make your holiday experience magnificent. Some of these tips may seem difficult, even unrealistic, but with the proper support they are very possible. Happy holidays to you and yours.


Nathalie Ekobo, M.S., M.A., L.M.T., is a certified Spiritual Response Therapy (SRT) teacher and consultant, success coach, speaker and founder of Be Magnifique™. 602-881-3040, or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 6, December 2007/January 2008.

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