When my brother and I were growing up my mother was a social worker. She was often gathering items for a food pantry or funds for families in need and trying to find special services or an affordable apartment for someone. There was an extra push that occurred during the season gathering toys and clothes for families who had little.
My mother often invited people to our home for the holidays. Sometimes they were estranged from their partners. Sometimes they were recovering from an illness or addiction. Other times they were elderly, lonely or far from their family and friends. I grew to enjoy the randomness and joyfulness at the dinner table during holiday time. We would learn new things from new people. It would change the energy in the house, and feelings of gratitude were in the air. My mother always made more than enough food, bought extra gifts and taught us to share what we have and make people feel at home. My parents never thoughtlessly tossed clothes in the trash. They donated since someone could always use them. And, to this day, both of my parents remain philanthropic by nature.
I feel quite fortunate that the idea of giving was always a given. I have had many losses, trials and traumas as many people have, but incredible blessings as well. An occupational hazard of living and learning is accumulating some baggage. But in doing so, we get some useful tools under our belt that are particularly useful during the holiday season, and they are certainly worth sharing.
- Choose Quality Time Over the Hustle and Bustle. There is a certain amount of running around that must transpire. I get that. But the time you actually spend loving your loved ones and giving them your time and presence, will be the greatest gift for all. This means uninterrupted time, face to face, with patience and without being glued to gadgets. Put the phones on their chargers and get a human charge from being with other humans!
- Be Kind and Thoughtful. There is always someone fighting a bigger battle. There is usually someone with less money, less time or with far worse health or family problems. Not everyone has an easy time during the holidays so open your heart and think about how you can be compassionate and teach your children to be so as well.
- Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude. An attitude of gratitude can make for a much happier experience at holiday time and in life. Rather than focusing on what you don’t have, take time to appreciate the things you do have. It’s probably a lot. Reflect on the things that have created contentment as well as the characters you possess that make you proud to be you. Be thankful for family, good neighbors, friends, co-workers, crossing guards and the people that make it happen every day. Many of them are likely grateful for your love, time, kindness, patronage and acknowledgment. What comes around goes around so spread that gratitude all around. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to pass the sentiment along to your children. They are never too young to start learning about gratitude. There are wonderful children’s books on the topic and your propensity for gratitude will be the best guide.
- It’s the Thought That Counts. It’s always a wonderful lesson to teach and to remember yourself. It seems obvious. But during the holiday rush this sentiment is often the first to go by the wayside.It’s not about the price tag, how many, how much, how big or small. Don’t get run over by a reindeer or an angry shopper on Black Friday. No toy is worth the loss of your life or sanity! You can shop after the holidays, too. You don’t have to get everything in the world done before Dec. 25. Why put that pressure on yourself or anyone else?
- Giving and Helping Feels Good. It truly does your mind, body and spirit a lot of good. So why not volunteer or donate to those affected by Hurricane Harvey, Irma, Maria, the California wildfires or any other organization with which you identify? A great thing to do is to get your kids involved. Last year we boxed up toys our son was no longer using. He chose which toys he wanted to donate. We boxed them up together and my husband and I ran them over to a shelter. You are purging your home of clutter, making space for new things and teaching children to be charitable. Win-win. There has been lots of research suggesting that those who help others are some of the happiest people on the planet. So come on, get happy!
- Smile Ever notice how people often walk around scowling from November to Jan. 1? The holiday crammer-jammer can make people crazy! But you don’t have to let it. Stay positive. Do what you must to think happy, sugar plummish thoughts and smile! Sharing your love and light with the world is a gift that is so highly underrated. When you smile, you will make your loved ones feel warm, light up a room and create a feeling of joy, just like that! It’s amazing! Ever notice how the most beautiful people smile? It’s the easiest thing you can add to your beauty routine.
- Take a Family Road Trip. This is one of the easiest ways to get some distance and take a breather from the holiday mayhem. There are so many gorgeous spots in the Poconos, Hudson River Valley, Westchester and even right here in New Jersey. An evening drive with the kids to check out all the bright lights and dazzling house decorations is a really fun thing to do. People get more extravagant each year and it’s a worthwhile and inexpensive way to wow the whole family.
- Get Cooking. Cooking a healthy meal and sitting around a table talking has become a lost art. So much take-out, and take-in seems to make for quick eating and less interaction. Create a holiday menu together that everyone can enjoy preparing. Shop together. Cook the food together. You will make lasting memories and teach your children and friends about how food is love, especially when it’s healthy. You will also be promoting the idea of real time with loved ones. Clean, wholesome eating is a great way to keep it together throughout the holidays and all year long.
- Take Care of Yourself. As a health coach and someone who has navigated some tricky territory, I can unequivocally say that health comes first. During the holiday season, also known as flu season or exhaustion season, people really flame out. Do yourself and your pack a service and stay well. Drink green tea. Take your vitamins and supplements. Get an extra hour of sleep. Don’t skip meals. Do get some quick exercise in. Twenty minutes a few times a week is better then nothing! The effects of stress can be catastrophic. So keep that at bay. Five minutes of meditation, some alone time, a car ride, a blowout, a mani/pedi, a walk in the crisp air, a massage, or a chat with a close friend can do the trick. Self-care is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. Take care of you and it will be much easier to take care of others!
- Be Joyful. When you find yourself in a pepperminty, frappalatte-induced frenzy, fearing that you have forgotten one of the five billion things on your to-do list, don’t forget the joy. Breathe and keep calm. Sing songs, dance, practice forgiveness, veg out and watch a movie marathon or binge-watch a guilty pleasure (no one has to know). I have been busted watching “The Wedding Planner” more then once. This is the time to do let loose, and give your life goals and aspirations a break. Don’t be so hard on yourself or anyone else. Joy is contagious! Remember: Joy to the world and joy to you too. That’s what the holidays are about, right?
By Stacie Rose
Stacie Rose is a singer/songwriter, mother, producer, lover, blogger, integrative nutrition health coach, holistic lifestyle influencer and free spirit. She’s super passionate about making music, writing and helping others create sustainable wellness.