While the holidays are a fabulous time to be grateful and merry, they also stir up a lot of emotions, memories and even fears. What a shock. From about mid-November to early January we often engage in a flurry of parties, extra demands and financial stretching. If you’re like me, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. You might find yourself sleeping less, drinking more, abandoning your self-care practices and beating yourself up for slacking off. This increased stress and change in routine can often lead to depression and exhaustion. Hey, it happens.
No need to white knuckle it or freak out over your lack of control. Rather than burying your head in a box of tinsel or a flash of vodka, let’s chew on a few tips that will help you stay sane and healthy while celebrating with family, friends and colleagues. The best gift you can give yourself and others is your ability to stay present. It’s a cinch to get lost inside the wrapping, cooking, traveling and shopping, but I challenge me/you to check in with ourselves. You and I are really resourceful. I know we can find ways to sneak in self-care and peace of mind. And if we do, guess what will happen? We’ll feel truly festive and joyful, and we won’t need a vacation from the vacation!
So, how do you keep it together this holiday season?
- Be yourself. My mom knows how to set a stunning table. I swear, she’s gifted. Me? Not so much. For years, my holiday table gave me stress. I’m the self-appointed foodie after all. Aren’t I supposed to be fabulous at all things kitchen and entertaining? Um, no. I’m an awesome Kris and that’s enough. I don’t have the best china or cloth napkins. I have a few nice dishes and a lot of hand-me-downs that I eclectically jazz up by pairing odd couples together. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart or Julia Childs. You just have to be you. Glorious, wonderful, awesome YOU. Do your best with what you have. Folks want your company more than your decorating skills. YOU are the celebration.
- Plan ahead and delegate. Listen up, Supergirl: Rip off that annoying cape! It catches on things and trips you up. Make shopping lists well in advance. My idea of a holiday nightmare is waiting ‘til the last minute to decide what to cook. Some dishes take more time than others, some may need to marinate overnight. Remember, the kitchen is fun and healing, meditative and wise — especially when you create space and time for mindful pot stirring. If you need help, speak up, powerhouse! You’ve got saucy vocal cords, USE THEM. Ask everyone to pitch in, and sprinkle the to-dos throughout the weeks leading up to your big holiday celebrations. Heck, you can even ask your friends and family to each bring a dish, so you don’t have to cook the entire meal. That way, you can soak in the greatness/great-full-ness of the day, experiencing the moments in real time, rather than later, while looking through your iPhone photos.
- Put your heart into it. If you really want to feel the holiday spirit, put your love cap on and infuse thoughtfulness into the food on your table and the gifts given to your loved ones. You don’t need to spend a lot or cook a fancy, Food Network worthy dish. When you infuse your efforts with love and compassion, you raise the energy and vibration of the meal or the offering. Folks will feel the love. Even if they can’t articulate it, they will feel it. Amen.
- Practice gratitude and kindness, to yourself and others. I’m not ashamed to admit that I need extra hugs, thank-yous, smiles and understanding during the coming wintry months. If I need it, so do you and those around you. A little extra kindness will go a long way. It’s like soul currency. Take a moment to scribble with me. What are three things you are grateful for this year? Write them. Read them. Pause. Feel them. Sound good? Don’t skip this exercise, Skippy! It will help your immune system and your mood. Now for the next bit. Identify three ways you can be kinder to yourself and to others this holiday season (and into the new year). I’ll go first:
Self-kindness: 1) Look in the mirror and say “I love you, Kris” more often and with feeling. I learned this exercise from Louise Hay! Wise gal! Whenever I do this work, my face and body totally relax. It’s like giving myself a hug from the inside out. 2) Speak from my gut more, instead of saying “yes” just because I think I “should.” 3) Take more baths. Add 2 cups epsom salt, ½ cup raw apple cider, ¼ cup baking soda and a few dashes of lavender to warm water. Soak. Ahhh …
Kindness towards others: 1) Sponsor an animal this holiday season and/or go veg! Saving a life is the ultimate kindness. See more deets below. 2) Snail mail rocks. Send loving cards to family and friends for no reason. 3) Spend time instead of money. At the end of our days all we have are memories. Time well spent with family and friends means more than knick knacks and trinkets. A cup of tea or a movie together will do. It doesn’t have to be lavish or stressful. Make the time meaningful.
- Let go. Try your best to do some or all of things I’ve mentioned above and then just give in to the moment. Is your holiday dinner a disaster? Whip up a salad or order Chinese take-out and have a picnic in your living room. Is your sister-in-law driving you up the wall? Forgive her, release the negative self-talk and find something to focus on that brings you joy–an impromptu game of Twister or Taboo always does the trick for me. How about a sweet cup of non-dairy nog, a cozy blanket and twinkling lights? Surrender to the moment. It really does feel good.
And how do you keep it together amongst the shopping mall mayhem and ease the growing worry over what to buy for whom?
Remember, it’s the thought that counts. And as I said earlier, YOU are the gift. If I had time to spend with you, I’d be happy as a clam, thanking Santa daily. But if you’re looking to spend some moolah on your peeps, read on. Many great products come across my desk throughout the year. Here’s a list of a few treasured gifts I’ve given to loved ones at the holidays, plus one I saved up for and gifted myself to improve my health (hellooo sauna!). Whether you have a lot or a little to spend, check out these clever, health and happiness-filled ideas.
- Annmarie Gianni’s Skincare I searched for years to find personal care products that would make my skin clear, youthful and dewey without sacrificing my health with toxic chemicals. Drinking green juice and eating a nutrient-dense, plant-empowered diet does wonders; in fact, it’s a must. Without a healthy diet you’re wasting your money (to be frank). But beyond proper nutrition, we could all use some extra help and pampering. I’ve truly tried everything. Then, I learned about Annmarie’s 100% organic beauty support system. Beauty care products that align with my diet and lifestyle philosophy AND feel/smell/work like a dream? Hooray! If unicorns used face lotion, they’d slather their ethereal mugs in Annmarie’s powerful potions.
- Cuppow Mason Jar Sipper Like many people, I love a good mason jar. I use them for my kitchen staples (rice, beans, legumes), my twice-a-day green juice habit (the lids are perfect for sealing up my second dose of liquid sunshine), and my husband uses them for storing everything from nails to nickels. So you can imagine my absolute delight when I discovered Cuppow! I’m not very graceful on the go. Green juice sloshes everywhere. Ask my car! Now, I don’t have to sacrifice my blouse while sipping my elixir. I just pop one of these sweet sipper tops onto my cup, and voila! Health on the go-go. This nifty gadget makes a great stocking stuffer.
- Lori Portka’s Gratitude Packs Tis’ the season for thanks. And is there anything more touching, romantic and grounding than receiving a handwritten note in the mail? That’s why Lori’s Gratitude Packs are such a phenomenal gift–they’re an experience that will shift your life. I’ve been in awe of Lori’s paintings ever since her 100 Days of Gratitude project. Now we can all benefit from her inspiring art with her gorgeous gratitude postcards. Each time I pop one in the mail, I smile. And then, days later, when that special someone receives their note, they feel my postal hug. It can be a love note to your partner, a thank you to your mother-in-law or just a simple “you matter to me” message to the friend you haven’t seen in years. Whatever it is, no matter how small, these cards will light up your life and theirs.
- Sunlighten Sauna This is a big ticket item, but I thought I’d throw it in the mix in case Santa is feeling extra generous. My sauna is my chamber of chillaxing. Infrared heat (aka radiant heat) increases your body’s core temperature, which means more toxins are excreted via your sweat. I’ve found my sauna sessions to be especially helpful for improving circulation, boosting immunity during cold/flu season, reducing stress, caring for my skin, easing sore muscles and back pain, and decreasing cellulite (woot! woot!). It’s an investment that I’ve never regretted.
- Farm Sanctuary The more time I spend in my delicious plant-passionate kitchen (it’s been about ten years now), the more I completely forget what the heck was so great about eating animals. If you know someone who is dedicated to animal rights or just loves our furry and feathered pals, sponsoring an animal at a farm sanctuary is the purrrfect gift. And better yet, if you know someone who loves animals like dogs and cats but hasn’t quite made the connection that other animals have emotions and feeling too, sponsoring a farm animal might create a life-changing ah-ha moment. I heart Farm Sanctuary. They are one of many non-profit farms that give animals a peaceful, loving place to live out their days. Learn more about gift sponsorships here.
- Tools for your Crazy Sexy Kitchen Spending a year working on a cookbook certainly made me familiar with my kitchen tools. When you have the right tools, cooking is a joyful breeze because it’s so much easier! Any of these handy tools will bring a big smile to aspiring cooks and foodies alike.
- Vitamix blender
- Juicer (Breville, Omega, Hurom)
- Chef’s knifeCast iron skillet
- Big soup pot (I love Le Creuset but you can easily find cheaper options)
- Microplane zester (this tool changed my life!)
7. Scent of a Scandal I love candles. Every morning I turn on the Christmas lights above my desk and light a candle. It’s my ritual. These 100% soy wax candles smell outstanding and are also 100% naughty. Each one has a cheeky title that makes me chuckle. They’re perfect for the person on your list who has a great sense of humor and values small treasures in life. Plus, company founder Ari Solomon is a fellow plant-lover. I feel really good when I support compassionate folks running compassionate businesses. Don’t you?
8. Do it yourself! Are you a crafty chap or gal? Do you love baking or making kale chips? How about homemade ornaments or tea cozies? My team and I had a blast perusing Pinterest for some unique DIY holiday ideas. It’s not too late to roll up your sleeves and create. Your inner kid will love you and so will your friends and family.
9. Buy Handmade: If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind gift for your one-of-a-kind sweetie, Etsy offers everything from cozy hand-knitted scarves to customized jewelry and lovely letterpress art. It’s a treasure trove of talented crafts-people and artists. Feast your eyes on their work!
I hope these stress-reducing ideas and holiday gifts help fan your creative fires.
Peace & spiritual cocoa,
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Kris Carr is a New York Times best-selling author and health advocate. Her books and film include the groundbreaking Crazy Sexy Cancer series, Crazy Sexy Diet and most recently, Crazy Sexy Kitchen. Kris regularly lectures at medical schools, hospitals, wellness centers, corporations such as Whole Foods and Harvard University. As an irreverent foot soldier in the fight against disease, Kris inspires countless people to take charge of their health and happiness by adopting a plant-based diet, improving lifestyle practices and learning to live and love with passion.