Holiday time can have so many pressures and financial triggers associated with it. Just after Halloween, dollar stores, malls and all the places within them start putting up their Xmas decorations before we can even say “ho ho ho.” For me, it is an obvious push for us to get our “consumer” on. It’s a time to celebrate the North American version of Christianity’s Christmas, while pretty much ignoring every other celebration that happen in December.
At the same time, we are invited to holiday parties, asked to buy gifts we can’t afford and spend our time worrying about money and saving face on giving and receiving gifts (did I get the right one? Will they like it? Is it at the same level as the gift I was given?!). While I love to celebrate, period, holiday time in North America seems to be about consumerism and our (financial and social) ability to do it. It’s also about spending time with family members, whether we want to or not.
So I wrote a list of things (I love) to do. This is a list of things I will be doing all month to take care of myself in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, when I feel obligated to spend more money than I really have and spend time doing things I’d just rather not do! I invite you to create your own list of ways to take care of yourself during the holiday season (and of course for the winter months to come!).
Things to do to Take Care of Ourselves During the Holidays
AKA ♫ These are a few of my favourite things ♫
1. Create your own Celebration-By-Choice - Often this time of year means that we have to spend time with family, whether we like it or not. A celebration of your own creation can be great when everyone pitches in and shares the responsibilities of gathering food and drink. It can also be a great time to celebrate all the holiday-time religions and traditions your friends and you have, and discuss how you feel about them. And you can also make agreements on how to get gifts (or not) for each other.
2. Create a plan – When you are faced with your family asking about your vegetarianism or who you are dating, have something ready to say back to them. It may feel better than thinking of something on the spot.
4. Watching bad TV – Sometimes bad TV is a great way to just decompress.
5. Eating ice cream – At this time of year, rich, fatty foods seems to be everywhere and the temptation is great. At the same time, we might shame ourselves or our family might shame us about eating. We have to balance out what feels good for us in terms of eating these delicious treats and how we will feel the next day. But indulging is important, and shaming ourselves for overeating at holiday times just doesn’t make us feel good. Guilt about overeating can be a waste of energy and a waste of a good dessert.
6. Shopping at non-commercial spaces like Xmas craft sales and flea markets – I’m heading to the Native Canadian Centre for the Cedar Baskets flea market and the Luane Jewels Catwalk this weekend!
7. Making art – Making gifts can have two benefits: the act of making something is super relaxing and it can be much cheaper! This year, I am making protest noise makers for friends when we go to marches and rallies. I used old vitamin bottles, dry kidney beans and dollar store glitter and stickers!
8. Writing – I love writing in cards for friends. Holiday time can be a great opportunity to reflect on a year of friendship with the ones you love.
9. Cooking and baking – Although it can be more expensive (at times!) than just buying a cake, the act of cooking and baking can be so relaxing and fun!
10. Enjoying some eye candy – Whenever I need a pick-me-up, I just Google pics of Taylor Lautner or Rihanna and the world melts away…
11. Doing laundry - I know, weird, right? But I love seeing an empty basket and all the clothes stuffed into drawers to the point of wrinkling! But moreover, the house will be a mess during holiday time and, for me, keeping it tidy helps keep my mind less cluttered.
12. Going to bookstores and sex shops – While the Toronto Women’s Bookstore is closed after 40 years this November, I loved just sitting in the space, reading graphic novels and smelling the books. And sex shops like Come As You Are and Good For Her are community oriented, sex-positive spaces for all to get info about good sex (and cheap to moderately priced stocking stuffers!). And they are like not-for-profit spaces so you won’t be pressured to spend there!
13. Shopping online - Note: you will need a credit card for this one! But I have been shopping online for graphic novels and art and the price ranges plus shipping can be reasonable. And it helps to save time!
14. Hanging out with kids – Hanging out with kids can be so fun! You know that rule; if you buy a kid a toy, they will just play with the box? It’s true! Make a fort!
15. Staying up late and sleeping in late (and getting up with nothing to do) – This is the best, but might be a challenge with other folks in the house or the pressure to perform even while on Xmas vacation. Make a plan so you can get some alone time while on the holiday train.
16. Building toys for kids out of crap you find around the house - I have built Dream Warrior swords to combat bad dreams, fishing rods and of course, forts!
17. Telling jokes and laughing! – Get your laugh on this season!
18. Making family gatherings into slumber parties – If you haven’t seen those cousins in a while, show them a good time in your room by stealing cookies from the kitchen and watching your favourite movies.
19. Trying something new – It’s a great way to reduce your fears and have something interesting to say at all those holiday parties you feel like you have to go to (or because your parents are making you!)
20. Play in the snow – all you need is a good winter jacket, maybe a garbage bag and pillow, maybe a sled from the dollar store. All you need to make a snow angel is your willingness to get on the ground!
21. Play with animals more – Studies show that folks with pets have a better ability to take on stress, so spend some time with animals this season.
22. Exercise – I started running recently, but indoors, I go to my local pool once a week for aquafit classes. In City of Toronto community centres, different activities can range from $1-$11.
This month’s blog was motivated by:
a) the fact that people like reading lists
b) we all will have a moment or two where we feel overwhelmed with work obligations, familial obligations and very soon, financial obligations to others because of the Christian baby Jesus holiday, and
c) most of us are being run down by obligations, maybe even stuff we usually love, that have turned into another thing on our lists of Things To Do.
I am making a commitment to do these things all month, because I am really beginning to feel the pressure of more obligations than joy, more work than play, and more drama and trauma than healing and love. Write your own list of things to do to take care of yourself this December, so that through this awkward season, we can replenish our souls, hearts, minds and bodies with self-love and calm, and maybe transform the many obligations into something that feels just plain good.
Hanukkah begins in the evening of Saturday, December 8, 2012, and ends in the evening of Sunday, December 16, 2012. Kwanzaa is on Wednesday December 26th, 2012.