10 Secrets to a Joyous Season

Dr. Georgia Witkin offers 10 ways to survive the season with your mind and body intact.

By Georgia Witkin, Ph.D.

Don't be surprised or feel guilty if your holiday is stressful — and don't entertain the fantasy that everyone else's season is picture-perfect. Some moments will be memorable, some will not, and some you'll want to forget, but remember: We're all in this together!

If you can learn to take the holidays one moment at a time, you'll survive and thrive. To help you, here are ten holiday mantras to repeat to yourself and to practice throughout the season. 

1. I will put myself on my list of loved ones.
If you take care of yourself even half as well as you parent and grandparent everyone else, you'll be way ahead when the holidays are over. Watch your sleep, nutrition, and exercise — and make sure you're having fun, too.

2. I will practice saying no sometimes.
It's okay to deny your grandchildren what they demand once in a while. The kids will appreciate the extra TV time, special snacks, and new toys more if you give them a little less often. And you'll get to see that they love you even when you're not a pushover.

3. I will play with my grandchildren, not just supervise.
Your grandchildren will never remember all the laundry you did for them — but they'll never forget the time you all went down the slide together. So don't just supervise, participate.

4. I will not keep my grandchildren entertained every minute.
Downtime is an opportunity for imagination, and children need that more than they need yet another activity. Don't feel guilty if you take them along to run errands, or if you let them entertain themselves with some holiday coloring sheets, or simply leave them alone for a while to read or relax.

5. I will underschedule myself (and I'll still have too much to do).
We tend to forget to budget our time and energy during the holidays and instead loan ourselves to our extended families as cheap labor. Try to pace yourself for the long season. And when an emergency or another essential task arises, cross something off your "To do" list before you add the new item.

6. I will break the guilt habit and stop should-ing myself.
Replacing thoughts of this is who I should be with thoughts of this is who I am will help you get through the holidays with less stress and more fun. You don't expect your grandchildren to be perfect — why should you have to be?

7. I will expect the best.
Make positive prophesies for the holidays. They could be self-fulfilling. Besides, anxious worrying never helps — it just adds stress even before anything negative happens.

8. I will be my own best friend.
Be on your own side. Listen to yourself. Pat yourself on the back when you do well. Forgive yourself when you don't. You teach this to your kids and grandkids — now apply it to yourself.

9. I won't wait for permission to take care of myself.
You don't have to make yourself so exhausted with holiday preparations that your children and grandchildren have to beg you to rest. That sets a bad example. Show them that you value yourself and your time by putting your feet up or taking time off for a movie. And if you can't give yourself permission, then I do!

10. I will treat my family the way I treat my friends.
You know who your friends are and you know what they're like. You don't expect them to change overnight and you probably don't take everything they say or do personally. You ask them questions, listen to their answers, and give them the benefit of the doubt. If you can do the same with your family, you'll be a great role model for your grandchildren.

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