You Don’t Have to Be Alone on The Holidays: Thoughts on Family, or Not.

You Don’t Have to Be Alone on The Holidays: Thoughts on Family, or Not.

It started on Thanksgiving: The question of if we really need to spend time with family on the holidays. 

I was feeling very fortunate to be spending time not only with my immediate family, but with extended family for the first time since we moved 3000 miles across the country from our family! (To follow that story check out my “Moving and Changing” blogs.  

At the same time, one of my closest friends was driving with her husband and kiddo to spend time with friends in another state.  The problem was that her kiddo was not too happy about it. He was so upset that he bemoaned having to spend time with people he doesn’t really even know instead of family.  The thing is, he does know these people. They are actually quite close family friends. But, at the heart of the matter was that he wanted to be with family.

The funny thing is, while both scenarios make complete sense to most people, to me they do not.

FLASH BACK 1992

Actually, I’m only sort-of sure it was ’92… It was definitely during my college years… A group of my friends and I got together at my house for my first “Friendsgiving.”  I don’t remember why I did not go home for Thanksgiving that year, but it was probably because I was upset with my family for some reason or another.   I do remember that a number of my friends could not go home because their families were in Northern California (we were in San Diego) and they had to work.

There are two Thanksgivings I remember with both fondness and clarity. That first “Friendsgiving” and one several years later when my then boyfriend, now husband, and I had friends over for Thanksgiving during my graduate school years.

We all cooked together AND cleaned together! That never happened at family Thanksgivings – just sayin’!  Then we played board games and laughed and laughed. Okay, well, during the college Friendsgiving we may have gone to a bar to shoot pool… But still, good times were had by all! 

On the other hand, I have so many memories of family Thanksgivings and Christmases that are full of stressful memories.  These are holidays where my mom (or step-mo)  and I did all of the cooking AND cleaning. These are holidays for which people made last minute changes about whether or not they were going to show-up. And there were so many years in which I had to do what I not-so-affectionately termed, “The Southern California World Tour,” when I would have to drive all over So Cal going to my divorced parents’ two houses, grandparents’ houses and, if I had a significant other, his family’s houses.

Now, just so that my family doesn’t freak-out when they read this, the holidays over the years were not all bad.  Many of them, especially after my kids were born, were very nice. I am very blessed and grateful for the fact that my mom and my step-mom get along and have been able to spend many, happy holidays at each others’ houses. They are both gracious women.

In the case that family holidays are not full of peace and joy, you would be well-advised to go beyond the boundaries of family and spend the holidays with others. 

BE OPEN-MINDED

The moral of my story is that sometimes being with friends is more of,  (or as much of) a blessing as being with family on the holidays. 

And sometimes, when family is far away – or maybe doesn’t even exist – friends can become your family!  My friend, the mother in the earlier story with the  unhappy kiddo, put it eloquently when she said, ”… and the nice thing is you get to CHOOSE your friends!” 

Be open-minded about who you spend your holidays with. And be open-minded about who you hold close to your heart. Friends can be as dear to you as family.

If at this point you are thinking to yourself, “I have such a hard time making friends,” check out my blogs on how to build your friend tribes.

VOLUNTEER

Another truly wonderful and fulfilling way to spend your holidays is to spend them being in service to others.

Another friend of mine did just that this past Thanksgiving. She volunteered to help serve food at a Thanksgiving party for retired nurses and their families.  She said it was one of the most personally fulfilling things she had ever done.

There are many, many opportunities to volunteer during the holidays.  Nursing homes, foster care agencies and homeless shelters are always looking for people to come serve food to, and just spend time with, people who are alone and less fortunate than many of us.  

You can find volunteer opportunities near you at volunteermatch.org

GO AHEAD AND BE ALONE?

We know from research and common wisdom that spending too much time alone can cause depression.  We also know that one of the best stress reducers is to spend time in community.  However, in the case that you have a life full of people most of the time, you may find that spending a holiday alone is just the ticket you need for rest and relaxation.  Personally, I tend to do this on Mother’s Day.  I like nothing better than to spend the day at a spa by myself or with one cherished friend.  It’s my present for being a mom the other 365 days of the year!

Some people find the most peace in spending time with one loved-one or just thier immediate family.  If your extended family is not available, or if they are just too stressful to be around, you may want to spend the holidays with just your nuclear family.  In the past, we have found that traveling to a relaxing destination with just our immediate family during a holiday is a very nice way to spend a holiday.

IT’S OKAY TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

Whether you decide to have a Friendsholiday OR to spend your time volunteering OR to spend the holiday relaxing alone(ish), give yourself permission to think outside the box!  We do not all have family to spend the holidays with. And some people just plain do not want to spend the holidays with family.  And that’s okay.

Of course, if you have accessible family and love spending time with them, then by all means enjoy the traditional family togetherness of the holidays! As my friend Elizabeth replied when I asked how her Christmas was, “Truly a special day. I love my family!” 

What Forgoing Christmas Cards Taught Me About Life

What Forgoing Christmas Cards Taught Me About Life

The thing about Christmas (and any holiday really) is that it’s a time to appreciate people around you and spend quality time with them. 

Picture this:  A busy mom (me) in the middle of Christmas season.  I am tired. I have dark circles under my eyes.  My six month old infant fell asleep in his car seat and I took the opportunity to enjoy silence.  That five minutes of silence felt glorious.  

Thoughts of my to-do list swirled endlessly in my mind.  I had a billion things to buy and a billion more things to do, as soon as that baby’s nap was over.  “Ugh. Christmas.  I used to love it so much,” I thought to myself. 

My inside thoughts and raw emotion was a juxtaposition against my joyful surroundings.  My car was parked on Main Street in my hometown that is crazy for Christmas.  Lights adorned every shop and restaurant.  There were lanterns and wreaths everywhere, and people were merrily skipping from store to store finding treasures for their loved ones.  I knew that I needed to approach this holiday season in a happier, healthier way that would let me feel excited and joyful again.  

As I sat in the frosty car I thought of my family and dialed my sister. I got to talk to her for a few uninterrupted minutes while baby napped.  During that conversation we talked about Christmas and all the pressures.  We commiserated about everything we bought and everything we were doing as moms of young children.  The pressure of providing Christmas magic the way our mother did for us weighed heavy on us.  We often cope with these pressures by laughing at it together.  Our parenting fails, our perceived shortfalls and the craziness of being a mom to little humans.  

At some point, my sister simply blurted out, “We are skipping Christmas cards this year- so a head’s up that I’m not sending one okay?”  For a second, I was shocked.  “What does she mean no Christmas cards?”  “Is that allowed?”  “What will mom think?” But the initial shock quickly wore away and then I was nothing but happy for her and her choice.  

“Good for you!” I said.  And I meant it.  I was so proud of her for making the choice to forgo a tradition that seemed nonsensical and outdated.  She was making more space to simplify her life, spend more time with her children, and allocate money to something more meaningful for her and her family.  She went on to explain, “Well, I am going to reach out to everyone to let them know that I am thinking of them.  I know they have all seen my family photos on Facebook anyway.”  And again, she’s right.  

The thing about Christmas (and any holiday really) is that it’s a time to appreciate people around you and spend quality time with them.  It is not the card or gift that’s important, it’s the genuine connection that is infused with thoughtfulness, warmth, and love.  That is the foundation of holidays, and what we all need to return to.  I fully believe that if you genuinely reach out to friends and family during the holiday to express love and gratitude, a card is not only unnecessary it is unwanted in comparison to that moment of synchronicity.  

Guest Blog by: Diane Webb, LMHC.  Diane is a psychotherapist in upstate New York that specializes in anxiety reduction, post-traumatic stress disorder, overcoming depression, transpersonal therapy and achieving emotional peak performance. For more information and how to work with Diane, visit: The Peace Journal  Connect via Facebook Here: The Peace Journal Facebook

5 REASONS TO CELEBRATE EVERY DAY

5 REASONS TO CELEBRATE EVERY DAY


“Celebrate who you are in your deepest heart. Love yourself and the world will love you!

~ Amy Lee Mercree

Besides your birthday or anniversary, when was the last time you celebrated yourself? And then, even on your birthday, did you really celebrate yourself? Or did you underplay it and tell everyone, “thank you, but it’s not a big deal?”

I want you to close your eyes and go back to a time in your life, perhaps your childhood, where you were really excited about your birthday or another special occasion that was centered on you!

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Three Simple Steps to Eating Healthier During the Holidays

Three Simple Steps to Eating Healthier During the Holidays

The holidays are a great time for relaxing with family & friends and attending parties, tree decorating, and annual outings.

All of these activities typically include lots of food and drink that we don’t normally consume, which can wreak havoc on our body! 

How to Reduce Sugar

Sugar is the number one offender! But staying away from sweets at this time of year isn’t easy. We usually consume more sugar than normal, which means our bodies become more acidic than usual.

Did you know that studies show sugar is actually more addictive than cocaine? That means the more we eat, the more we want.

I could make simple recommendations like, “just say no” or “track your weight,” but I actually don’t believe in that type of guidance at the holidays or in everyday life.

When I was addicted to sugar, walking away from cookies and cake was near impossible! Over the years, I’ve found that to reduce the sugar cravings and make the holidays easier to navigate, there’s one thing we can all do: Bulk up on the healthier options at the beginning of the day so the body doesn’t crave the “bad” stuff nearly as much.

This strategy is called “crowding out.” It’s a term I learned when I trained for my health coaching certification. It means that instead of focusing on what you “can’t have,” focus on adding more nutritious foods—which will naturally “crowd out” the non-nutritious options.

Tweetable Waive off cravings for non-nutritious options by bulking up on healthy options early in the day. @staceycrew #healthyholidays

Planning Ahead

Whichever type of party or holiday activity you attend, be sure to plan ahead in terms of what you eat, especially on the day of the party.

Begin by cutting back or eliminating the carbonated drinks and drink more water .

Tweetable Pre-game for holiday parties by eating healthy and drinking lots of water to stay hydrated. @staceycrew #healthyholidays

Pre-gaming with healthier options allows you to indulge guilt-free once you’re at the party.  Pre-gaming will also help you avoid the holiday food hangover and actually reduce temptations to overindulge.

Alcohol contains a lot of sugar. So drinking a cocktail is often-times the equivalent to eating a donut. Have one cocktail, glass of wine, or beer followed by a water to rehydrate.

Party Day Strategy

Here are your three strategies for allowing yourself to enjoy the holiday season:

  1. Pre-game with healthy options — On party day, skip the breakfast donuts, eat something hearty like a hard-boiled egg and some oatmeal instead. For lunch, eat a clean salad (add some meat or beans for protein) with an olive oil-based dressing (bottled ones contain a lot of sugar – read the label) and some healthy snacks in between. Go-to healthy snacks include an apple, carrots and hummus, and strawberries. If you’ll be heading to a party directly after work or in the early evening, consider stopping for a juice or a made-from-scratch-smoothie.
  2. Cut-back on carbonated drinks especially diet ones (yes!), are loaded with chemicals that create inflammation in the body and wreak havoc on our digestive tract. One 12-ounce can of diet coke contains 39 grams of sugar. The daily recommended maximum of added sugars per day for women is 25 grams and for men it’s 37.5 grams. So, one 12-ounce can (and most people are drinking 16-oz or 32-oz drinks) of diet coke and you’re already blown your daily sugar intake. Carbonated drinks are one of the main reasons people have trouble losing weight and can’t get rid of the spare tire.
  3. Increase your water intake Again, this is a go-to health booster. Most people are walking around dehydrated and don’t even know it. Better yet, start a warm lemon water routine each morning to lubricate your body’s internal systems. You’ll be amazed at the results by incorporating this one change into your morning routine.

So, choose one of the above and you’ll be way ahead of the game. Now go and enjoy the holiday season!

To get a jumpstart on the New Year, download my FREE 3-Day Jumpstart to eliminate sugar, gain more energy, and eat clean.

 

Stacey Crew is “The Kitchen Health Coach” based in Charleston, South Carolina. She is a Certified Wellness Coach & published Author, and owner of Stacey Crew Wellness. She helps individuals achieve their health goals through a 4-prong approach of understanding the individual’s wellness needs, educating on specific topics, empowering the individual to make informed decisions, and providing accountability—all in a supportive environment. Stacey is an Amazon best-selling author of The Organized Mom: Simplify Life for You & Baby One Step at a Time and author of the soon-to-be-released Nourish You! Transform You & Your Kitchen for Healthier Eating.

Connect with Stacey @staceycrew on Facebook and Twitter and @staceycrewwellness on Instagram.

 

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