Reducing Stress and Increasing Enjoyment of the Upcoming Holiday Season

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As we approach the holiday season, The Decency Group would like to provide you with a gift that will help you manage stress and enjoy yourself more over the holidays. Three of us, Mike Brady, Tisha Palmer, and Gale Thompson - have collaborated on this reflection to provide you with tips on relationships as well as personal and financial health just in time to welcome the holidays.


How to shift from stressful to meaningful time with family and friends

Holidays are meant to be joyous opportunities to get together with family and friends to connect and appreciate each other and our many blessings. There's so much positive glow to appreciate although sometimes we can get distracted or overwhelmed so emerge needing a holiday from the holidays. Here are some ways we can do the internal work to get clear about what's important to us and develop strategies for increasing the likelihood of experiencing meaning and following through on positive intention.

1.      Decide what is most important to you about the upcoming holidays.
What are the 1-3 things you seek to emerge from the holidays with beyond or in addition to the aspects that everyone enjoys? Examples: I'd like to spend some really quality time with my niece and find out what's going on in her life. Or, I'd like to take the opportunity of Thanksgiving dinner to foster a spirit of appreciation for the many blessings each of us experiences but often takes for granted. Once you have your short list, it will help you focus.

2.      What actions/intentions can you set for each of these that will increase the likelihood of their happening for you?
Be very specific about what the action will be: timing, participation, how you will help to make it happen, who you wish to collaborate with to make it happen etc. Examples: I'm going to email my niece today and suggest we go holiday shopping together and go out to tea afterwards to catch up. Or, I'm going to open the conversation about blessings right before dessert on Thanksgiving and suggest we go around the table and each say something we're grateful for that happened this past year.

3.      Now that you're clear on what's important, look at the other side what's energy draining that you can seek to reduce?
Again, be clear and specific with some action steps you can take. Maybe buying gifts for the 20 people on your list is no longer fun and is just draining. Might you propose a secret Santa or grab bag approach to gift giving this year? Maybe hosting the Thanksgiving dinner used to be a source of pride and now it just feels overwhelming. Might you ask each guest to bring their favorite dish so that everyone has a sense of ownership?

4.      What are ways you can support yourself during the approach and duration of the holiday season?
Again, try to be actionable and specific. For example, maybe you need a break from the relatives, so you'll commit to taking a walk each day to get away and clear your head. Maybe you want to be less reactive with a challenging relative (e.g. cousin Ralph's political views always send you into orbit). So, you commit to setting a positive intention prior to seeing Ralph and remember all the things you like about him. Maybe you also commit to taking a breath when he starts talking politics or have a topic to change the conversation to, or ask your spouse to jump in and remind you of something you two need to do together. Or, maybe in order to take care of yourself this holiday season, you need to make sure that you manage your budget, your food intake, or the amount of sleep you get during the holidays.

5.     Finally, identify for yourself all the things you have to be grateful for.
Gratitude is a wonderful practice in general and has proven to lift the spirits and help shift the focus to what's working well in your life. So often we have a laser focus on all the things that aren't working the way we'd like them to. Maybe you could make a list today of all the things you have to be grateful for, tape it up somewhere, and then add something new and special each day between here and December 31<sup>st</sup>. That way you'll tangibly see all the good things there are to celebrate during the holidays and beyond.


Set Yourself Up for Healthy Holiday Success
Tisha Palmer, Nutrition and Health Coach

The holiday season is fast approaching. For many of us the holidays bring good cheer and celebration; but for some, it also brings over-eating, imbalance and weight gain. By implementing these simple tips and strategies you can reach the New Year feeling lighter!

1.      Don't Skip Meals or Skimp on Sleep:
You stayed up late and skipped breakfast. No big deal, right? That's actually a bigger problem than you think! Loss of sleep stimulates your appetite and increases cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods. Then, because you haven't eaten for 10 or more hours, your body goes into survival mode and holds on to fat for dear life! Then, when it's you versus the box of Dunkin Donuts your colleague brought to the office? Not a fair fight. Get to bed on time and eat regularly to keep your blood sugar and insulin levels balanced. Try combining a lean protein with a whole carbohydrate and a little healthy fat at every meal to assure that you feel full longer (one of my favorite mini meals is spaghetti squash topped with tomato marinara, oregano, and a dash of olive oil).

2.     Slow Down and Seek Out the Real Sweetness in Your Life:
Feeling frantic and eating mindlessly? Put down the brownie, take some deep breaths and ask yourself: What kind of sweetness do I really want right now? There could be a sweetness void in your life that needs filling from something other than food. Can you call a friend? Hug your kid? Walk the dog in the snow while enjoying the neighborhood lights? If you're feeling low at a social event, challenge yourself to converse with someone new instead of making a trip to the dessert table.

3.      Stay Hydrated and Sip Wisely:
We often think we're hungry when we're in fact dehydrated. So, place a bottle of water on your nightstand and drink 16oz before your feet hit the ground each morning. Buy a cheerful new water bottle (BPA free plastic or glass/stainless) and make it your constant companion. Think water is boring? Treat yourself to some of what I call "Homemade FOO FOO Water." Infuse water overnight with fruits and veggies (dark cherry/lime and cucumber/mint are my two current faves). Add sliced citrus fruits for a burst of flavor anytime, and to help flush out excess sugar. Freeze berries or mint sprigs into ice cubes to add for a festive calorie-free flourish. Do you treat shopping as a sport? Then you know this typical mall danger: THIRST! Eschew heavy sugar and caffeine-laden drinks in favor of holiday herbal tea. Tip: Stock your pocketbook with some yummy flavored tea bags (My favorites are Numi's Organic and Trader Joe's Candy Cane). Starbucks will give you a cup of hot water, just remember to tip the barista!

4.        Savor the "Real Deal"
I give you permission to be a diva (a food snob) this holiday season. If you don't LOVE it, don't eat it. Scan the buffet for foods you truly treasure and skip the everyday dishes. It's not your responsibility to sample everything on the table. Make a pretty plate (no piling!), and then slowly and mindfully savor every mouthful. Don't eat the gunk‚ hold out for the genuine gem. No Chips Ahoy when your grandma's homemade chocolate chip cookies are on their way with love.

5.      Stay Prepared with Staples on Hand:
It's common to eat whatever is on hand when you feel lonely, tired, or hungry. To make this season different, plan ahead. Stock your fridge with clear containers of cut up veggies and hearty bean or lentil salads. Make a big batch of soup on Sunday that you can simply pull out and heat up whenever the need arises. Cook up some high protein quinoa, hard-boiled eggs or grilled chicken breast so you have some protein ready for whenever. Put together a "travel pack" so you have healthy options available when on-the-go. Fruit (nature's fast food), high quality nuts, raw or real food bars, and nitrate-free jerky and bottled water all travel well. 


How to Thrive Financially During the Holiday Season
Mike Brady, Financial Advisor

The holidays offer some unique opportunities for proper spending and saving. Taking the right financial steps can help reduce your stress and also position you to start the following year on solid financial footing. Remember, working with your financial advisor throughout the year on spending/savings goals is a smart way to avoid common financial mistakes. Here are some spending tips that can help keep your holiday season merry and bright:

 

·       Make a Spending Budget:
Knowing who you are buying for and how much you should realistically spend on each person will help manage the amount spent on gifts. That budget is your playbook for holiday spending. It will keep you focused during a time where confusion and impulse buying is at its height.

·      Become an Informed & Smart Shopper:
Visit consumer reports for product advice. You will be able to compare prices of products and any potential problems other buyers have experienced. When you have your gift buying list complete, search around for department stores who are discounting that particular item. It may take a little extra time to get your holiday shopping done, but your bank account will thank you.

·       Don't be "The Host That Gives Away The Most":
Hosting a holiday event can be expensive. Just like the buying exercise explained above, it is smart to prepare a budget for the event. If you are stressing over the cost of pulling this off; ask your guests to pitch in by bringing a dish. It will not only cut down on the amount you spend but will also reduce another great holiday stress point; running out of time!

·      Know the Interest Rate Associated with Your Credit Cards: 
Avoid the high interest credit cards, including store cards. If you must use credit to buy things, review the interest rate on the card and build into your plan a way to pay it off with as little interest and finance charges accruing. Keep special watch on the store cards; their interest rate in most cases is excessively high causing that gift you purchased to actually cost double!

·       Spend Their Money, Save Yours, but Be Careful:
Take advantage of 0% interest on large purchases. If you are offered the option of financing over a period of time, take it but be careful. The small print in that deal will show you a very high interest rate on the entire purchase amount if there is a remaining balance following the term. Build that monthly payment into your monthly budget and make sure to have the entire amount paid off in time.


We hope you have enjoyed this reflection offering you valuable information about reducing stress and increasing your enjoyment during the holidays. Please feel free to visit other parts of The Decency Group site and contact us if we can assist you in any way. Please take the time to Like The Decency Group Facebook page and join our email list for future tips.

Happy Holidays from the Decency Group!