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By Katy Cable-The Weekly Runt
A 3 Min. Read

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! -Or is it? For some it’s magical but this is also the season when suicides and domestic violence skyrocket and everyone seems spread WAY too thin. This time of year, far too many people feel depressed and sad instead of loving and thankful. And this happens during the best of times. Now that we’ve got covid wrecking havoc on our lives, it’s much worse. If you’re feeling down in the dumps, these tips should help brighten your spirits and allow you to enjoy the holidays.

As a “recovering” co-dependent, I used to feel obligated to do everything and then guilty I didn’t do enough. I dreaded the holidays because I had enormous expectations for myself. It was up to “ME” (not Santa Claus) to make everyone’s holiday magical. I always did a pretty good job ? but every year I ended up angry, exhausted and sick.

Now I actually enjoy the holidays because I’ve learned how to do things entirely differently. With covid drastically changing the seasonal landscape, this is a great year to try some new things and ditch things that don’t work anymore. Here’s a few tips that have turned things around for me.

1. SELF CARE is the name of the game. Most people (especially parents) don’t do anything for themselves until everyone else is OK. They put themselves last on the list. I’m giving you permission to put yourself FIRST! Nobody’s going to give you what you need or set your boundaries. In order to feel happy and joyful you simply must “Put Your Oxygen Mask On First!” Shut down and rest if you’re stressed or getting sick. Eat well. Get some fresh air and connect with those special people in your life that lift you up. Spoil your dog with an extra walk and watch how great you feel. Make a list of 5 things you’re going to do EACH day for self care! Fun little things that recharge and rejuvenate you.

⭐️I enjoy taking my Pug Olive on a walk through the beautifully decorated canals near my home. It always puts me in good spirits and a place of gratitude. No canals or picturesque walking spots? …How about taking a holiday drive through a festively decorated neighborhood. Grab your dog, jump in the car, fire up the heated seats, treat yourself to a latte (and Puppuccino for your pet) blast that Christmas music and enjoy!

​2. BE STILL AND BREATHE! If you’re like me you’re addicted to going, going, going! Sitting still and doing nothing is extremely uncomfortable. AND all the more reason I need to do it. Sit your butt down for a few minutes and breathe. Go online and do a 5–10 minute guided meditation or just sit quiet and do your best to think calm, happy, beautiful thoughts. When your “to-do” list or negative thoughts crop in, immediately shut them off by thinking to something peaceful. I can hear it now, “That might be fine for you but it’s so hectic right now I don’t have a minute to breathe!” …Well, make 10 and watch what happens. I now enjoy doing 15 minute meditation first thing in the morning with my little Pug Olive. It’s so calming and helps set the tone for our day. I also have enjoyed sitting in a bubble bath with candles and meditating in the warm, soothing water. Listening to the water fill the tub is also very relaxing. This practice has also calmed Olive’s anxiety and strengthened our bond. Check out some meditation apps and find some soothing sessions to try. And don’t forget to include your pets. Your stress is contagious and your serenity helps make them feel calm and balanced.

☯️ Sometimes it’s just impossible to stop my busy mind. When this happens, I swim some laps and focus on the cold, blue water and my breathing. Another helpful thing is taking a gratitude walk and thinking about all the things I’m thankful for using every letter of the alphabet. Try this when you can’t fall asleep or you’re obsessing about something! (-Bonus points for getting 5 things for each letter!) Usually I’m out like a light before I get to the letter “X” but if not, that takes some serious thinking!

3. JUST SAY “NO!” While Covid has killed many of this year’s holiday soirées, there’s still no shortage of ZOOM parties and other invitations pouring in. Do yourself a favor and say “NO!” While the pandemic may have given you a hall pass for attending your niece’s painstaking production of The Nutcracker or holiday choral show, there’s a strong chance they’ve just moved it to ZOOM! I personally would rather have a root canal (with laughing gas) than spend one more second of my free time on ZOOM! If you feel the same way, -JUST SAY NO! Everyone’s busy and either they’ll understand or they’ll get over it. Doing things you have zero interest in will only build up stress and resentments. Now, in the true spirit of the holidays, there are some things that you should do. For instance, your relative just had a new baby or you can’t see the elderly grandparents this year so some extra video chats or Zoom calls are important. But, there will certainly be many, MANY, other invitations you can pass on that aren’t a big deal.

4.“YES PLEASE!” That’s right! Now that you’ve cleared your calendar, go crazy with things that sound warm, fuzzy and FUN! Things that make your holidays MERRY! Start planning, inviting, organizing and doing a few of those! Love those holiday cookies, stock up at the store and -host or attend a Zoom cookie swap. Or bake a special new dish. Is a favorite tradition hitting holiday sales at the mall or outlets until your feet bleed with blisters…Jump online and get those deals! Or visit small retailers and find unique treasures while avoiding the holiday crowds. Again, be honest about what is truly fun and not an obligation. Lift your mood trying a few new things as well as modifying some of your holiday favorites.

​? One of my favorite things to do is have my friends over a day or two after Christmas. Everyone comes in sweats or PJ’s with a “RE-GIFT!” Each friend brings left-over holiday goodies and we drink lattes (or champagne) while catching up on everyone’s celebrations. Sometimes we make vision boards by cutting inspiring photos and headlines out of magazines with goals and dreams for the new year. This year’s party may be modified and done virtually with me sending canvas, art supplies and other goodies. Instead of simply cancelling, I’m figuring out how to safely make it work.

​5. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH DOGS! (Or cats, puppies, kittens, etc!) Seriously! Petting a dog actually makes the neurotransmitters in your brain go crazy. Oxytocin (a stress reducing hormone) is released and cortisone (a nasty stress hormone) is reduced. Plus, no need for social distancing when it comes to pets. Walking a dog is easy exercise. It forces you outside in the fresh air getting your heart pumping and your blood flowing. Dogs are filled with love. Any attention drives them bonkers. Hug a few dogs, talk to them, pet them, love on them and watch how you feel. Why not see if a rescue or shelter will let you foster one for the holidays. ?

​’Tis is the season do something kind! Buy someone a coffee! Tip ridiculously! Donate to needy kids. Be someone’s secret Santa. Low on funds…hold the door for someone, let the other driver take that prime parking spot. Offer to take someone’s “selfie” or just smile and give a genuine compliment. Doing kind things for others doesn’t have to cost a cent! It will make you feel wonderful! And you’ll be doing a kind deed during the holidays!

​? BONUS: One of my favorite traditions is participating in Justin Rudd’s Operation Santa Paws. Right after Thanksgiving, collection bins are put out all around the community. The weekend before Christmas all the items collected are taken to a variety of shelters and given to all the pets. It’s such fun to see the joy on the faces of all the needy pets. It’s a magical day! This year, a monetary donation had to suffice but it was still nice to be able to give.

​Wishing you a peaceful, healthy, STRESS-FREE and happy holiday season. Pugs and (air) ? kisses! -Katy