How to Make the Holidays Lighter

This year is a fun year for us in terms of the holidays. My older son is just figuring out who Santa is, he's very excited about eating "Chrischris" cookies (which is solely thanks to an episode of Caillou he's watched about 47 times already, but I don't mind because I can tell he's still trying to process the whole chimney-presents-North Pole thing) and we got our first Elf on the Shelf. In addition, it's Baby's First Christmas, and we're trying to figure out how to make Christmas for Little Pumpkin #2, who literally doesn't need anything, just as special as I remember it for big brother.

As for mom and dad, we have to field our way through various cocktail parties, potluck dinners, Christmas programs and breakfast meetings. So you know me; I'm already trying to figure out how I can lighten up our diet over the holidays in order to counteract all of the sweets and special events AND how to streamline our schedules to stay grounded during an otherwise hectic time.

This is what I've come up with, and I hope it strikes a chord. Here are 5 ways to lighten your load this year in terms of both physical and spiritual food:

  1. In everything you cook and bake this holiday season, swap in healthier versions of your recipes and/or healthier versions of common ingredients like natural liquid sweeteners (maple syrup/honey) and flour (white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour). Try websites like Cooking Light for healthy meal, dessert and appetizer ideas, and stick with it — you can start new traditions this year that will keep you and your family healthier moving forward every year.
  2. Make the time — don't "find" it; make room in your schedule — to meditate and/or pray in order to lighten your mental load during the holidays. Mahatma Gandhi once said, "I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one." Even if it's just 5 minutes, though — before you rise, or on the train to work, even a walking meditation as you warm up or cool down after a workout — the short time you calm your nerves will positively influence the rest of your day and make you feel less stressed, lighter and calmer.
  3. Just Say No. If you want something sweet after dinner but detest pumpkin pie, don't accept just to be polite. If you have too many things on your social calendar this season, say no to the next invite that comes in or cancel an RSVP you've already made to a party you don't even care about. There's this weird dichotomy in the world today about politely declining to an event to give yourself some "me" time versus the other philosophy of "say yes more often than you say no." Only you know what's right for you. Do what you want, not what you think you should do according to social norms and standards.
  4. Stop something. Completely. Something radical. Like, say, comparing yourself to others, or eating sugar, or drinking coffee (I dare you!). Kind of going back to point 2, even though it sounds like adding something to the pile, now is actually a good time to let go of a habit, whether physical or emotional, that no longer serves you. Let the weight be lifted. Release the block, stop caring, stop fixating. Your mind will be lighter, and if it's a bad eating habit, like noshing on sweets for breakfast or ending every day with ice cream, you really can come out of the holiday season physically lighter, too.
  5. Don't be so hard on yourself. Your house doesn't have to look like the inventor of Pinterest came over and designed you a fantastical glittery wonderland. Martha Stewart will never know if you bring store-bought sweets to the cookie swap. Ease up on the pressure you and others create that says You Have To Be Perfect And Do Everything While Looking Great And Smiling Too. Inevitably, you'll forget a gift, say something you wish you didn't or indulge in one holiday treat too many. Just take a moment, check in with your mind and body, and know that It's okay. Approach all things this holiday season with love, peace and forgiveness and none of that sticky backstory stuff will weigh you down.

Last but not least, I am going to add something to your to-do list. If you can spare even just 5 minutes during your day today, over the weekend or even on Christmas morning, reach out to someone who you know is having a hard time this year. Send an email to that mom you know who's struggling; tell a friend you're praying for them; make that phone call you've been putting off even if you only have time to say Hi, I was thinking about you, I really can't talk but I miss you/think we should get together for coffee on the 3rd/want your kids to meet my kids. Even the most outgoing, extroverted, "happy" people get weighed down with too much, too soon, too fast this time of year. Lighten the load for them and your heart, I guarantee it, will feel a bit lighter too.

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