The holidays can be such a wonderful time of the year — when you are 5 years old and still have the hope of Santa Claus coming to deliver your presents for being such a well-behaved tiny human. As adults, the magic and meaning of the holidays often slip away as we become more privy to the fact that Santa isn’t real and that most of us are not really that well-behaved. It also doesn’t help that this is the season where it’s basically bedtime at 6:30PM and we never see the sun anymore, but I’ll save that for another post.

I’ll be the first to admit, there was a solid 3 year time period where I absolutely LOATHED the holidays. I had morphed into the Jim Carrey version of the Grinch (complete with penciling in my 4:00PM “Loathing in Self Pity” session). I dreaded the awkward conversations over the dinner table, the not-so-sly remarks made by my Grandmother about my weight; you know, the usual holiday antics. When I realized that this was becoming an issue, I shifted my thought process to focus more on gratitude, vocalizing the things that I appreciate in my loved ones, increasing self-care, and engaging in positive self-talk. I noticed that once my negative thought process shifted, the more my feelings around the holidays shifted in a positive direction as well. These are simple strategies to work into your routine that can help reduce your overall stress level, which in turn makes the not-so-fun holiday interactions easier to deal with.

Begin Incorporating Gratitude into Your Daily Routine

I know it feels overwhelming to think of adding ANOTHER thing to your to-do list. But trust me on this, writing down or taking the time to think about 3 things that you are grateful for each day can have you finding gratitude all throughout your life; even during stressful moments. It can be whatever you are thankful for in that moment, however big or small. There are several resources on gratitude Journals, meditations and practices out there; do some light internet research and try what you think would benefit you the most.

Tell Your Loved Ones How Much You Appreciate Them

It can be all too easy to become bitter towards family members over negative comments or interactions over the years. Like when you’re sitting at the table for Thanksgiving dinner and your Uncle begins talking about how feminism is ruining this country. When you fixate on those things that you don’t necessarily like or agree with, it’s hard to remember what you actually like about that person. Rather than focusing on the differences, change the subject and bring up a memory that you are fond of with that person. If you are at a loss for memories, try to share something that you appreciate about their personality or sense of humor. If you are still at a loss, you should probably move your seat and tell another family member what you appreciate about them.

Practice Self Care More Regularly

I cannot stress the importance of self-care. I hear so many people talk about “not having the time” to take for themselves. We must get this notion out of our minds that we do not have time for ourselves. We absolutely cannot take care of other people, our jobs, or responsibilities when we are not taking care of US. Try to create a list of things that help you unwind. Whether it’s using a skin care mask, taking a bubble bath, listening to your favorite music as loud as possible, taking ten minutes in the morning to listen to guided meditation; build the things that bring you peace into your daily schedule, no excuses.

Engage in Positive Self Talk

In conversation with relatives that you may have not seen since the most recent holiday, the questions asked of you could potentially trigger feelings of self-consciousness. “When are you getting married? When are you planning on having children? When will you graduate College? Are you planning on buying a home soon?” While these may just be genuine inquiries into our lives and what’s going on, it comes off as we aren’t “meeting social deadlines” and this can be a big stressor. Social media can be a big trigger for this as well; we can’t help but to compare ourselves to what we see on our News Feeds. When you feel this happening, remind yourself that you are exactly where you need to be. Try to focus on the positive things that you have accomplished, things that YOU are proud of. Challenge those negative thoughts with positive ones. If this is a struggle to do in your thoughts, it could be beneficial to write down the negative and counteract it with a positive. Overtime, this will actually make positive thoughts more automatic.

In your journey of healing, don’t lose sight of the true meaning of the season. Surround yourself with the people you love. The people that lift your spirit and bring light into your life; but never forget that you are the light. Namaste.