Finding Balance During the Holidays Plus Cookies!
Hi friends! Please fill up your cup with your favorite warm beverage, cozy up in a warm shawl, and get ready for a good read. In today’s post I’m sharing thoughts, tips and ideas for Finding Balance During the Holidays…Plus Cookies! I’m sharing some fun photos from my annual cookie exchange party for inspiration. I’m writing and sharing and pouring out straight from the heart. OvenHug can sometimes be a sounding board for me to work through current feelings and I thank you for joining me on reflections. It is also very much my true hope that you will find personal solace navigating Your way through the holidays with peace and with love.
I love this time of year but to be perfectly frank, I hate it too. The things I love include celebrating Jesus – I am a Christian, baptized as an adult. I love decorating the house for the holidays, cooking and baking, thinking of neighbors, friends and family. I love big red poinsettias, fancy bows, pretty packaging and gingerbread men! I hate even saying hate but what I hate is the frenzy. I feel it almost as soon as the calendar turns to December. I fight it hard as I practice diligence to keep my cool and my happy flowing. Even with mindfulness and effort I am affected by the stress radiating off of others. As I ask the people around me how they are doing and the response is more than likely “busy”, “frantic”, and “hurry-ing”. This rubs off. I don’t want to be any of those things. I want to feel balanced and whole, grateful and blessed, with a full heart that gives.
Today I’m sharing my tips for finding balance during the holidays…plus I’m sharing some fun pic’s from my annual cookie exchange party!
- Say no to say yes
Schools, churches, sports and extra-curricular activities all pile up celebrations, performances, and events on us. This happens at the same time that we feel like we need to get our houses decorated; gifts purchased, made, and mailed; cards figured out; menus set. If you are a parent, especially of younger kids, you can relate to the over commitments this time of year. One way Bob and I handled scheduling in December when our girls where younger was to ‘divide and conquer’ as Bob liked to call it. Of course we love our family time and supporting one another. We also respect the individual need to chill and have un-scheduled/un-programmed time. For us if that meant only one of us went to the school performance or the dance show, or the horse event, only one of us went. Photos and videos came in handy to share with the parent or grandparent who wasn’t present. When you take care of yourself first you will be able to be more present in quiet moments when it matters. Say ‘no thank you’ to the extras that in your heart cause you to feel over committed or stressed. By turning down the extras you are saying yes to your health, yes to your calm, and yes to the freedom to have more time to do what you love and what makes you smile.
- Find time to do what you love
It’s important to remember what makes you happy on a daily basis. Carve out time to continue to do that during the holidays! I can’t stress this enough!! Too many people I see are feeling stressed, hurried and harried mainly because they have fallen out of their routines of regular exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough of blissful sleep. Some days it may be to stay in your pj’s and robe the whole entire day (if you have the luxury to do that!) For me what I love most is dancing and creating. I feel so good when I’m dancing and smile the entire time. I love shaking and grooving to good music and for that one hour I get to lose myself to the beat and let my body move separating myself from to-do’s, appointments, and stress. I really feel the difference when I haven’t gotten to be with our little dance community, all of us doing what we truly enjoy. This year we only have 1 week off between Christmas and New Year and I’m going to try to shake it as much as possible between now and then! I also love creating whether it be with yarn, food, or photos. I try to keep the creative juices flowing through the holidays and plan it into my days.
- Practice yoga, stretching, breathing or meditation
I’ve found a yoga studio I like and a class that feels right, at my level, replenishing, stretching without over exerting – I’m very grateful for that. It’s a wonderful compliment to all the cardio I get from dancing and running and it calms the mind like nothing else I’ve found. If you are not into yoga you can still find solace in sitting down, closing your eyes and taking some deep breaths. Find a quiet moment. As moms that’s often first thing in the morning when no one else is yet up. Take a few breaths of quiet contemplation before your tea, coffee, emails, and demands of the day. It makes a world of difference!
- Present over perfect
This one has taken me years to achieve and I’m still not there yet. It’s easy to want everything to be just right, the tree, the decorations, the Christmas card, the food. If we hold ourselves to unachievable perfect standards, we’ll never have friends and family over, we’ll never feel truly happy, and the stress will roll straight off us and onto our kids. I want to be there for my family, to listen to what they are sharing with me if they decide to open up. I want to hear from friends and family that our home is warm and is loving. Perfect doesn’t exist, it isn’t love and it isn’t happy. We are our own biggest critics. Self love is hard but so critical. Love and treat yourself as you would treat your own child or dearest friend. Wrap your arms around yourself right now and give yourself a big squeeze!!!
- Less is more
“Less is more” is becoming my mantra. The kids will tell you as I try desperately to keep closets minimal, take something out as we bring something in, capsule closets, and shorter lists and schedules. Christmas is a wonderful time to practice this! This year I shared with the family that the gifts are going to be a bit different. One thing from each category – for our gals, being teenagers the categories include make up, clothes/shoes, and something to do (book or activity). It has been good to watch the girls pair down their wish lists keeping in mind we are not going over board this year. It’s easy to go over the top. We love our kids. We want them to be happy. We want them to have more than what we had. We live in a very affluent area.
I heard Leyla say she’s more excited about giving this year than about the presents. She shopped for the materials to make notes included in lunches packed for homeless with her teen church group and hand wrote words with inspiring messages. I’ve overheard both our girls say that their favorite part of Christmas is our annual cookie exchange party! Ava said she thinks the days that lead up to Christmas are the best. All this makes me feel good and hopeful and proud that our girls are grasping healthy traditions – developing hearts to give over empty souls wanting to get.
As a mom whenever I feel the urge to go over board with gifts or shopping I visualize Christmas morning – the girls are so content just from emptying the contents of their stockings. It could start and stop there. That is enough. It’s the warmth, the time spent together, the baking, the cookie party, and all of the family coming over for dinner Christmas Day that they will love and remember.
I will step off my soap box now. I am wondering what organizations you are supporting this season. Before I sign off I’d like to share one that falls close to my heart.
A couple years ago I was working away in my part-time customer service/marketing research job at Kurbo Health. I was happy to be out of the house a few hours a day and working next to a super smart, motivated, kind hearted team at Kurbo Health, learning as much as I could about the program. Kurbo is a start-up with it’s headquarters based in a little blue house around the corner from where we live. As I worked through my daily tasks I couldn’t help but listen in on an ex-school teacher like myself, turned health coach. This health coach spoke words of encouragement and direction with so much positive energy and made each call fun. I thought to myself, I would love to do what she’s doing!…work with families, kids and teens one-on-one to cheer them on, inspire them, and guide them on their journeys towards the best versions of themselves. Then one day she didn’t come in. The worst possible thing you can imagine to happen to a parent happened. Her baby boy was diagnosed with cancer. Through the weeks and months that ensued my role model continued to be strong and loving, singing and dancing in hospital rooms, hallways, and isolated housing. They lived a hell but through it all they felt the healing powers of music. Andrew is in heaven now.
The Levy family started a fund to bring live music to hospital bound children. They have already raised enough funds to add two music specialists to the staff at Stanford! If you are considering donating to a good cause this holiday season, I highly encourage you to please look into the Andrew Levy fund and help kids like Andrew and families like the Levys.