Relax and Be Joyful for the Holidays

“Oh, sure,” I can hear you say, “how am I supposed to relax when holidays mean having five times as much to do as usual? I mean, just living my everyday life is busy enough! Now on top of everything else I have to shop for and cook several huge holiday feasts, clean up after them, decorate, buy gifts, wrap gifts, and send holiday cards. If I relax, I’m likely to collapse in a corner and not come out till after New Year’s.” Which might sound sort of appealing, actually.

But the holidays are meant to be sources of joy, right? So what do we do to rediscover the joy?

Here are some of my suggestions—with an invitation to share yours, too.

Really, all of these ideas are variations on a theme. You’ll see.

1. Go to Roots of Your Holiday Traditions. When I remember to bask in the candlelight, to see that light reflected in the faces of those I love, to spend time singing carols with my community of creative mavericks, and to be grateful for the return of new light and hope and joy in the darkest time of year, then my heart settles. Reach deep into your own heart for the images, symbols and activities that give the holiday meaning to you.

2. Say No. For many years, I persisted in trotting out activities that my son had really outgrown, all in the name of tradition. (In that case, he was the one who said “No” in his way, by refusing to participate!) And I did so many time-consuming things (sending holiday cards, for example) that I truly didn’t want to do. And somehow the roots of the whole holiday season started getting lost in the muck and mire of my own exhaustion. You may truly enjoy sending holiday cards, so in your case, go for it! But I finally gave it up, and that gave me more time to take walks in the snow with my family or to sing a carol or two beside the tree. And I’m not much of a partygoer, so saying no to the fifth one this week means saying yes to more time connecting with the quiet.

3. Accept Yourself and Your Limitations. When I really looked at my reasons for doing so darned much every holiday, it all boiled down to this: I was afraid. Afraid of not being a good enough mother, or hostess or person. Afraid of not pleasing people, or being liked. Aging has given me many gifts, not the least of which is making peace with who I am. I figure that people will either like me for that or they won’t like me at all, but knocking myself out trying to please everybody is not likely to help anybody much. My work schedule is insanely busy these days—and mine isn’t the only one. Just yesterday, a friend and I agreed that the best gift we could give each other this year is to say, “No gifts!” for each other. If you have a big family, you might consider doing a “children only” gift-giving, or do what my mother’s numerous relatives do: put names in a hat and have everybody pick one. Gone are the days when I had time to labor for hours over handmade presents for everybody on my list. I actually love making gifts and wrapping them, so I will try to fold some of that in, but I have to accept reality, and my life is just not as spacious as it once was.

4. Simplify. A friend told me she would be spending a relaxed Thanksgiving with her loved one cooking all day, because that’s what they enjoy doing together, and then eating leftovers the rest of the week. But the meal itself, she said, would be simple, just things they both love to eat. What if we took this as our watchwords for the holidays? Make it simple by only doing what you love. I remember my mother slaving away for hours making elaborate holiday meals that were consumed in 15 minutes. Then, utterly exhausted, she would seethe with resentment. Resentment is poison, and I could feel it all through my childhood. What was the point? If it feeds you, do it. If it exhausts you, don’t. Which reminds me: I want to give my mom the gift of a massage or a spa day this year, to replenish. She deserves it after all those holidays.

5. Buy Less. It occurred to me several years ago that it wasn’t up to me to keep the machinery of the retail business moving along at a brisk clip. Most of the folks I know have enough “stuff,” and are busier trying to get rid of it than wanting to add to it. Plus, times are tight, and some of us loathe shopping malls. So, we’re opting for gifts of an experience (tickets to a concert, or a trip to an art museum together, or a full-on astrological chart and reading). And if we do buy gifts, we try to support local artisans and shop-owners, rather than big chains or corporations.

6. Reach Out. One thing many of us like to do is sit down with our families and decide which good cause we want to donate to this year. We have so many choices. Some of us adopt a wild animal through Defenders of Wildlife. Others sponsor a hungry child. Others put in a few hours cooking at a homeless shelter, or dropping off clothing donations to a battered women’s center. It can give us a lot of joy to know we’re making a difference, and the more joy we feel, the more our very hearts and souls relax.

What are your ways to relax during the holidays? Please share
your ideas.

By Cait Johnson, Assistant Producer, Care2 Healthy Living


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Ruth R.
Ruth R7 years ago

This is great!

Anne S.
Anne S10 years ago

Iam alone,no family,disabled,no friends to be with,no parties to say 'no' to,not much money,but Iam grateful that I live in a house even alone,that it got partially winterized(even tho' the price of fuel is way up),that Ihave enough food this year(I didn't 2 yrs. ago after the car accident totalled my car & the county refused me food stamps twice even when ordered to do so by the court),that Ihave some nice clothes (even after 1/3 of them got stolen when I moved by
a woman in my support group & her family),and finally that I can feel a oneness with the universe & know that in spite of it all, I will get what I need & still be able to see the beauty in life. This is for real and i am not being sarcastic.

Belinda Velasquez
Belinda Velasquez10 years ago

As the mother of seven and grandma to five, the holidays are very stressful for me. I am a single mom and disabled, my limited income doesn't meet my monthly needs. I have always been stressed out for the holidays, yet everything seems to turn out alright. Sure my family has gone without, and still does, however we remain grateful for all we have been given. We are all happy to have the love of family and all the blessings that come from family, as you know they are great. I don't need to worry, I can not change the situation, therefor I will not stress out again. Its the media that causes a lot of stress for those of us on fixed incomes, they try to make us feel guilty for NOT getting our kids the toy of the minute, they do a good job, but not good enough to make me HAVE to go out and buy something simply because they call it the greatest thing since sliced bread. We must learn to appreciate the simple things in life, those are the ones that offer us the most satisfaction in this world. To hear the song of the bird, or feel the warmth of the sun on your face, these are things you cant buy, and yet they are the most valuable by far.

Cornelia H.
Cornelia H10 years ago

I feel I would really like to comment here as you spoke from MY heart. For quite a few years now I have put the togetherness of my family at the top of ANY gathering and cook in advance/ freeze to be used when needed or prepare very simple meals that take minutes to finalise and we all have much more time together to go for walks or play games or even just sit companiably and chat/read/listen to some music. And on the note of present giving - well, birthdays are a person's very own special day and there is something only for them, especially children of course, and tickets to events or whatever have been the thing for years now but at Christmas we only choose a charity now appropriate to the receiver's feelings, my mum-in-law who is a people person and loves kids gets something to do with that, my dad-in-law who loves dogs gets to support a dog in a shelter for a year, my mum and my aunt get to support dogs in a spanish dog rescue home etc. etc. Even the older children in the family adored their respective horse/swan adoptions last year and they get up-dates with photos which is great and have been telling us and their friends abouy it so hopefully that spreads the message of giving the joy to others and receiving that joy back manyfold ourselves. Thank you for highlighting that the real happiness often lies in the simplicity of the thing itself, a happy and contented soul spreads exactly that and that is the greatest gift, any time.

Jeanne Macdonald
Jeanne M10 years ago

Save a tree - or two.

We've had an artificial tree for years, so that leaves one to flourish in a slow-growth forest.

I'm sending e-cards to everyone this year, or placing greetings on their myspace or facebook pages. (Sorry, Hallmark.)

We'll be using mostly gift bags (saved and reused) or stockings (saved and reused) instead of gift wrap.

Leama S.
Leama S10 years ago

I can extremely appreciate the "buy Less" point. it seems so much is lost in the materialism this time of year that we forget what gifts truly are.

Vivianne Mosca-Clark

Pot luck meals at the holidays,especially with large family's and friends, is a helpful way to share the work of the large meal. I have been the cook for a the large meals. It is hard to have fun when you are cooking while the rest of the people are enjoying each others company. Thanks for the tips, they make more sense.

Cher Isbell
Past Member 10 years ago

I always make it a point to relax!! the holidays are the time to celebrate the birth of Christ not trying to buy the best gifts for everyone on your list. We always donate toys and I always adopt a child during the holiday..its a program that lets you pick a child and then make sure they have a good christmas