Holiday Happiness

It’s December, and that means it’s holiday time! We’re all wrapping up the end of the year and looking forward to gathering with family and friends and hopefully getting some quality downtime to enjoy all the season has to offer. Before things get too crazy, we wanted to take a moment to share some great holiday resources we came across that will help you end the year on a happy and healthy note.

 

Beating Holiday Fatigue

 

You’re probably right in the middle of scrambling to get everything ready for the holidays. Gift shopping, decorating, getting your home ready for celebrations with family and friends, planning meals and activities for your kids to keep them busy while they’re on break from school, all while going to work and wrapping up the end of 2012 is a lot for even the most skilled multitasker to juggle. All the events of December can cause busy parents to feel extreme fatigue, which can not only lead to irritability and being completely emotionally overwhelmed, but can also compromise the immune system and bring on physical illness.

 

Earlier this year, I read an article in Good Housekeeping that served up some tips for staying energized and happy, not only when navigating high-stress times like the holidays, but year round. Apparently, over a third of people accidentally fall asleep during the day, according to the Center for Disease Control, because their energy levels are constantly being compromised. A lot of this is due to a lack of good sleep, or seven, to eight deep sleep hours per night. But as Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D. and co-director of the Institute for Behavioral Sciences and the Law says, energy levels are depleted more often by emotional stress than they are by lack of sleep and other physical issues.

 

There are some quick fixes for low energy if you’re desperate, like a 20-minute nap, exercise, sunlight (get out of that office for a few minutes!) and even gum; experts say the act of chewing stimulates blood flow to the brain. (Who knew?!) A mere three minutes per day of meditation – real meditation that has you shutting out the world and visualizing peaceful thoughts that give you positive energy – can also work wonders.

 

But the best solutions to on-going fatigue are long term. Here are a few of the long-term habits the article recommends for staying alert and balanced.

 

  1. “Shake it up, wake it up.” A routine can be comforting, but when you do the same thing every single day, your brain will eventually shut off and become dull and uninspired. Why? As this piece points out, “The brain is wired to ignore the familiar and seek out the novel.” And novelty brings pleasure, which sparks your brain’s production of dopamine, the “feel good” chemical in your brain. This chemical is why your brain lights up when you eat your favorite food or engage in your favorite activity. But experts say that dopamine is also responsible for motivation and what sharpens your mind. So, if you spice up your routine every once in a while, even just by taking a new route to work, downloading new music onto your iPod or changing up the photos on your desk, you’ll get a boost that can totally change your outlook.
  2. “Find your passion.” Even just rediscovering an old passion can change your mood. If you don’t love what you’re doing, whether for work or as a hobby, you’re probably not going to enjoy yourself very much. The economy is such these days that even if you’re not completely fulfilled by what you do for a living, you may not have the luxury of changing direction. But you could think up a new project that interests you and is personally meaningful and propose it to your supervisor. If you can’t change up your job, you can find something new in other areas of your life. If you can find the time, spend a little time each week painting, writing or going to a lecture on a subject that interests you. Even just the act of making time for something you love will help get you through the other tasks of your day more efficiently and energetically. You’ll have a greater sense of purpose if you know you have to leave work exactly at 5 p.m. or push through house cleaning on the weekends. If you’re not sure what is going to get you excited, take a look at the bottom of your to-do list at what you always hope you’ll get to after chores like the laundry and pantry cleaning are done.
  3. “Hang with the fun crowd.” Excitement is contagious. People who exude energy will pass it onto everyone around them. Finding friends who are enthusiastic and love life (and limiting your exposure to whiny, angry, needy and grumpy people!) and spending more time with them could help you rediscover your own joy. Of course, it’s not realistic to think you can avoid every single negative person. You will sometimes just have to cope. Judith Orloff, M.D., assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA says you need to set boundaries with the people who suck your energy. Simple body language can communicate you’re not interested in their drama:  “When the resident drama queen approaches, signal that you’re not interested by turning slightly away. Don’t ask how she’s feeling or what’s new.” A great quote I personally live by that relates to this is, “I love myself enough to surround myself with those who are good for me and detach myself from those who are not.”

 

And, even as you are running through all your holiday tasks, taking a break is super important (even if it feels like it’s “impossible”). Just take some deep breaths. It doesn’t have to be perfect! We all need to make time for recovery and relaxation in order to be at our best! Make sure to check out some of the other highlights of “The Secret to Beating Fatigue” (http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/wellness/how-to-fight-fatigue) to get some more ideas for keeping your spirits high!

 

De-Clutter … and Give Back!

 

Are you clearing out your clutter to prepare for the New Year? I found a set of resources last spring in Family Circle for those that want to turn organizing into a family project and also an opportunity to give to those in need this season. Here are a few great organizations that can benefit from your extra home goods:

 

The National Furniture Bank Association (furniturebanks.org):  There are 90 locations in the U.S. and Canada, and they help struggling families get items like beds, dressers, etc. to furnish their homes. Check out the site before you plan to give to see which items they need most.

 

Soles4Souls (soles4souls.org):  This foundation has given away almost 17 million shoes since forming in 2005 to those that don’t have any and take new and gently used shoes – even single shoes! So you don’t have to throw away that shoe when your kid loses one in a pair at school or when you’re out and about!

 

iLoveSchools (iloveschools.com):  This organization matches preschool through high school teachers with classroom resources like notebooks, binders, art supplies and backpacks. Teachers just register on the website for items they most need, so check the site before you give.

 

Curb Holiday Spending

 

November – January can be a pricey time, with gifts, end-of-year parties, trips to visit family and tons of other extra expenses. Here are a couple ways to cut costs during the month of December while still having a great time with your kids!

 

Mommy Poppins (www.mommypoppins.com):  I return to this site a lot when I’m looking for really creative ideas about how to get as much as possible out of the wonderful city of New York without breaking the bank. And with a lot of NYC’s big holiday celebrations coming up in the coming weeks, now’s a fabulous time to check it out! Whether you’re celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas or just the winter season, the site will help you find loads of free and family-friendly events around the city.

 

Nick Jr. (www.nickjr.com). There are a lot of inexpensive craft ideas on the Nick Jr. website, a channel your preschool kids are probably watching. Right now they’re featuring instructions for how you and your family can make fun items like Dora the Explorer Christmas ornaments, themed gingerbread houses, paper dreidels, Hanukkah cut-outs and other holiday crafts based on the characters your kids love.

 

The PBS Kids Shop (http://shop.pbskids.org):  The PBS Kids shop offers some really fun, affordable and educational gifts for your kids, plus gives you an opportunity to support high-quality public broadcasting. The shop offers daily deals and discounts on toys and games as well as party ideas and a lot more.

 

I hope some of the things above will give you some support and spark your imagination as you go through this special but crazy month! Please enjoy our song “You Are Loved.” We hope you celebrate all the love within your family and circle of friends this season and that you have the happiest of holidays! xo — Amelia