Monthly Archives: November 2016

Managing Holiday Stress & Moodiness

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With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror and the 34th St. holiday lights display up and running just a block down from my studio, it definitely feels like the holiday season is upon us (despite today’s unseasonably warm temperatures).

It’s always the case that my mood plummets a bit right after Thanksgiving. I feel tired and worn down from traveling, and getting back to my regular routine after being off for a while is more of a slog than a welcome return to normality. This year it seems like I am not the only one feeling a little dragged down by the weight of the holidays. Whether it’s the shorter days, the dreary weather that greeted us this week, or just general end-of-year malaise, it seems that everyone I encounter is feeling especially worn out and a bit down in the dumps this week. It’s as if we are all experiencing a little post-holiday letdown before the rest of the season really kicks into high gear.

Every year I am struck by how stressed out everyone feels at a time that is supposed to be all merry and bright. Whether it’s the melancholy and introspection that inevitably accompany the transition to a new year, or simply the weight of expectation that the holiday season brings, it’s a time of mixed emotions, high demands, and all too often is rimmed with a sense of disappointment and sadness.

If  you tend to struggle during the holidays and can’t muster up the appropriate level of good tidings and cheer, first off don’t beat yourself up for that. You’re not alone. The holiday season is rough for a lot of people, and no matter what time of year it is, you’re not required to feel or act any particular way. It’s okay to be a grinch. I think that poor guy was misunderstood and unfairly maligned. You don’t owe anyone joy or cheeriness just because holiday songs and obnoxious commercials tell you it’s the most wonderful time of the year. But you do owe it to yourself to try to make it out of this season without too much damage to your physical, mental and emotional health. Here are a few suggestions for how to reduce your holiday stress and celebrate in a healthy, manageable way.

Avoid holiday overload.

This weekend hosts the lighted boat parade and Fells Point Christmas festival, the Mayor’s Christmas Parade, a bunch of holiday craft markets, and I’m sure a ton of other stuff that doesn’t hit my radar. It’s only the first weekend in December. Between parties, shopping, and festive gatherings of all kinds, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the holiday spirit before the season even has a chance to get cranking. It’s important to remember that with the holidays, as with all things in life, you cannot see and do everything. It’s okay to skip out on some events, or RSVP no to a few party invitations. Pick a couple of key holiday happenings that you’d like to attend, and let the rest fade into the background of tinsel and lights. If you miss something that you really wish you could have gone to, just remember that you’ll have another chance in the years to come. Christmas comes back again each year, no matter how hard Starbucks tries to kill it off with its solid red Satan cups.

Create some solo traditions.

Maybe it’s just me, but one of the hardest things about the holiday season is the forced merriment with large groups of other people. I need my alone time and feel quickly overwhelmed by too much holiday socializing. That doesn’t mean I prefer bah-humbugging it up from my couch and pretending it’s June; I just need some of my holiday happenings to be solo time that let me get into the festive spirit without the necessity of small talk.

I like to make time each week leading up to Christmas Day watching movies that feature, but don’t necessarily focus on, the holiday season. My choices are always movies (or tv episodes) I’ve seen a dozen times, so that I can do other things while watching, like fold laundry, bake, or desperately try to catch up on my end of year filing and finances for my business. It’s a simple nod to the holiday season that allows me to celebrate quietly and peacefully on my own, leaving me recharged and ready for more daunting social celebrations.

Do not listen to Christmas music until at least one week before Christmas.

Why must the radio and every shop you step into have Christmas music blaring away weeks in advance of Christmas? If you find that you are feeling really agitated and ornery, it may be because you’ve just heard Sleigh Ride for the 9 thousandth time. One thing that seems to be sorely missing during the holiday season is blissful silence. Seek out quiet spaces and try to reduce your exposure to the overstimulation of lights and carols, and bells ringing incessantly.

Intentionally do something that has nothing to do with the holidays.

I saw Christmas decorations in stores back in early October. It made me want to scream. The holiday season really does seem to get longer and longer every year. Try setting a specific date for when you wish to acknowledge the holidays and begin celebrating, so that you limit the season to a more manageable, digestible timeline. Or take a break from all the chaos by intentionally ignoring it and focus instead on maintaining activities and routines that you do all year long. Be intentional and mindful in your practice of your regular life to keep the holiday spirit from encroaching upon every part of your daily existence. There’s no rule that says you have to celebrate all month long, or that you have to celebrate at all. Be strong and continually bring your attention back to those activities that help you feel grounded and centered.

Remind yourself that this is only temporary.

The holidays can be really genuinely hard for many people. We are often reminded of people we have lost, find ourselves feeling isolated and lonely, or are forced into difficult family situations that try our patience and zap our emotional energy. Oftentimes, these hardships cannot be ignored and just need to be endured. Give yourself permission to feel sad, frustrated, annoyed. Give yourself permission to experience the season in whatever way is needed for you at this time, and know that you don’t have to make excuses for the benefit of others. “The holidays are hard for me,” is a perfectly valid statement that should require no additional explanation. You don’t have to be cheery for fear of dampening other people’s spirits. Your lack of celebration isn’t keeping anyone else from embracing the season in whatever way works best for them. Remind yourself repeatedly that before long it will be January and the holidays will be behind us. Time actually moves quite quickly, even when we’re feeling trapped and stuck in place. Hang in there, and take care yourself.

Eco-Friendly Holiday Cards

The holiday season is right around the corner (how is Thanksgiving only a week away?!), and it’s almost time for my refrigerator to be plastered with the cheery smiles and warm wishes of all of my friends’ holiday photo cards. My husband and I don’t send out holiday cards because we are a couple of lazy grinches, but I love getting them from other people.

If you are a card-sending enthusiast, you should check out Paper Culture for creating your holiday cards this year. Paper Culture is an eco-friendly company that not only uses 100% recycled paper in all of their cards and envelopes, but also plants a new tree for every order they receive! Their goal is to plant 1 million new trees, specifically in areas where reforestation is most needed.

With your purchase from Paper Culture, you also have the opportunity to dedicate a tree planting to someone you love. What a nice gift to pass along this holiday season!

When it comes to environmentally friendly and conscious living, it can be hard to know how to incorporate better practices into your daily life, and many times, we need to choose convenience over more sustainable and eco-friendly behaviors. An easy way to contribute to environmental consciousness is to choose companies that are dedicated to maintaining sustainable, eco business practices. Paper Culture is one of those companies.

You can read all about their mission and the Cards To Trees program here, and here.

 

This is not a sponsored post. More Well is in no way affiliated with Paper Culture, I just like their company and their mission.

 

What Now

I keep a pregnancy journal that I try to write in weekly. It is mostly a space for me to track what I am feeling physically and emotionally, but I also sometimes write letters directly to the baby, short notes that I may pass along to my child someday so that he/she can have a view into what I was thinking about all those months when my belly was swelling and I was slowly inching toward the biggest change of my life.

I wrote in it last night as I sat down to watch the early election returns coming in. I wrote that I hoped it would be a historic night. That I had great hope for the future, and a strong desire to bring a child into a world that, while still deeply flawed and desperately in need of more progressive thinking and action, was at least continuing its efforts to move forward, to become a more accepting and thoughtful place that worked to give all people the rights and opportunities that I have been fortunate enough to benefit from, a privilege that will pass down to my kid.

The election did not go the way I had hoped. Not even close. I felt completely stunned, and at moments panicked. I got very little sleep and feel as if I am moving through my day now in a fog, uncertain about where to focus my energy in this moment. Unable to clear my head, or pull myself out of the daze that has enveloped me since around midnight last night.

Donald Trump’s hate speech, his repeated, horrific attacks against immigrants, Muslims, women, people of color, and many more groups keep running through my head on a looped recording. I cannot separate the real and legitimate concerns raised by Americans in this election cycle from the rhetoric of hate and violence that was promoted throughout the past year.

I think about the tiny person growing inside of me and wonder how I would explain these events to my child. I wonder how my friends and clients are explaining this to their own kids. How do I properly apologize to and support the people whose rights and perhaps very lives are at stake in the next four years? How do we look foreign friends in the eye and explain how we let this happen? I don’t tend to be political on this blog or in my working life, but I have built a career in a field that relies on greeting all people with compassion and an open heart, and I feel deeply saddened and in shock today to witness the election of a man who serves only himself, and does so through the degradation and harassment of others. When I think about where we go from here, and how I can begin the work to counter an election outcome that I can barely wrap my head around, my thoughts move to the main force behind most of what I try to do in both my work and my personal life: lead always with kindness.

Let me not allow a cultural acceptance of fear and hatred to stifle my resolve to treat other people with a kind and calm heart. Let me offer and encourage spaces of acceptance and understanding. Let me always remember that while my struggles are valid, they are no greater than the struggles of other people around me, and I am no more deserving of support and uplift than anyone else that moves through my life in ways big and small. Let me show, through my face and my words, and my actions that I wish to serve as a source of help and healing in this life. None of us can move mountains, but we can reach out our hands and pull each other up. We each have the ability to move our world forward, to a better, fairer, more accepting place. But that can only happen if we are not fixated on being the first to the top.

Be kind to yourself and to one another today. Do it every day, and search for ways to turn that kindness into action that will make the world a better, safer place for everyone.

Four Little Words That Will Help You Stay Sane

People love to offer their opinions and advice. That’s basically what this entire blog is. My unsolicited opinions offered up as advice that you can take if it suits you. Advice can be good and useful. Other people’s opinions are often helpful, and are generally offered with an intention of kindness and support. That doesn’t keep unsolicited advice from becoming a bit tedious after a while, though. I have found that pregnancy certainly triggers an onslaught of outsider opinions and shared stories, but it’s not the only life change that is met by a wave of sometimes useful, but more often completely worthless, words of wisdom. A  career decision, a big move, college or high school graduation, wedding planning, a home or car purchase, pretty much anything having to do finances in any way: all of these trigger a need in people to share their own experiences and offer some guidance for how you should manage these events. Again, people are ultimately just trying to be helpful, but with so many conflicting opinions, and occasional anxiety-producing horror stories, it’s easy to feel completely overwhelmed by the persistent buzz of other people’s helpful chatter.

I have received an awful lot of advice and opinions since becoming pregnant. Things I should do. Things I shouldn’t do. Comments about my appearance. Probing questions about my pregnancy and birth-related decisions. Overly detailed stories about people’s own experiences without any prompting or questioning on my part. It would be very easy to feel frustrated and exhausted by this deluge of information and ideas, but I have discovered a handy little trick for responding to comments and opinions that I not only don’t find helpful, but that are even hurtful at times.

“You may be right.”

These four little words allow you to close the door on conversations that do not serve your needs. It’s a perfectly polite way to acknowledge someone’s opinion (which again, is usually offered with the best intentions), without having to engage with it in a way that would feel harmful or overwhelming to you. Allow me to offer a few examples from my own experience over the past few months.

Someone: Wow, you’re so big already. No way you make it to your due date.

Me: You may be right.

I don’t need to justify or explain my size and appearance to anyone, and I don’t need to entertain notions of early labor and any anxiety that may accompany that kind of thinking. I have acknowledged the comment without having to engage with it any further, allowing the conversation to move on to other topics if I choose to direct it that way.

Someone: I think women who go in expecting an unmedicated birth are just setting themselves up for disappointment. 

Me: You may be right.

People really want to know how you are planning to labor and the motivations behind those choices, and it seems that almost everybody, whether they’ve given birth or not, has very strong opinions on the best way to do it. These opinions are worthless and they should not be offered unless you specifically ask for someone’s advice or birth experience. I find it’s better to just acknowledge other people’s opinions on this topic and to not offer your opinion in return.

“You may be right” has become a bubble that sits between me and everyone else, and allows the advice and comments that I’m not interested in hearing to bounce off and away from me. It’s been remarkably helpful in keeping me centered and emotionally well throughout my pregnancy so far.

Next time you find yourself in a situation where you’re inundated with unsolicited opinions, or contradictory advice, try creating a You May Be Right bubble as a way to cut through the noise and focus only on the comments that help you feel stronger and supported in your own decision making.