10 tips for a merry December

10 tips for a merry December

Are you holly jolly during December? Or a Grinch? Maybe you’re a bit of both. December, with its storm of holidays, can bring a mix of joy, stress and nostalgia.

Here are 10 tips for feeling more holiday cheer than tension, loneliness or sadness.

1. Make a plan. Make a list of holiday-related tasks and favorite activities so you feel like you have a grip on the month.

If your holiday traditions including cooking special meals or giving gifts, decide how much you can afford, and stick to your budget. Remind yourself that you cannot buy happiness, forgiveness or acceptance with gifts.

2. Get creative. Consider hand-making gifts, or offering your time and talents, like “gift coupons” for childcare, chores or errands. Trim the gift list with a family gift exchange. Or suggest to like-minded friends that you exchange recycled gifts?

3. Beware of too much of a good thing. You’ll feel better –and better about yourself-- if you don’t let the holidays unleash a free-for-all. Eat a healthy snack before holiday events. At the party, practice “mindful eating:” pay attention to the flavor, smell and textures in each bite. To keep from adding holiday pounds, consider your pre-party snack as part of your main meal.

Chew slowly. Pause between bites, and focus more on fellowship than food and drink.  

If you drink alcohol, slow down there, too, and switch to nonalcoholic beverages. Avoid heavy drinking.

4. Get enough sleep. Being well-rested is as important to physical and mental health as healthy food, physical activity and friendships.  Get good sleep.

5. Reach out. If you’re feeling lonely at the holidays, put yourself in a social, festive atmosphere. Seek out community, faith-based, school or other social events. Is there a free holiday show or concert at your neighborhood school? Check out activities at nonprofits like Friendly House,, or, if you’re age 60-plus, tap into a program for seniors, like Senior Recreation through Portland Parks & Rec.

And volunteer! Giving to others is a great way to lift your spirits and meet new friends. Hands on Greater Portland, the volunteer program of United Way of the Columbia-Willamette, is one way to tap into organizations that need help.

6. Save some time for yourself. Most people will understand if you let them know that you need to arrive late, leave early or decline an invitation. Maybe you have other responsibilities, or you’re just maxed out. Give yourself time to chill.

7. Exercise. Physical activity reduces stress and improves mood. It makes happy chemicals in your brain, along with building muscles and burning calories. So make time to exercise. Bundle up for a brisk walk with your dog, some friends or just your own positive thoughts. Dance to holiday tunes or your kids’ favorite artists--and invite the family to join you. Try some push-ups. Zero time? Climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator.

8. Know that the holidays can be sad. If someone close to you has recently died or is seriously ill, or you can’t be with people you care about most, it’s normal to feel sadness and grief.  It’s OK to cry some. Or you may want to write down what you’re feeling, or talk with a friend or professional counselor. Your primary care doctor may be able to help with that.

Life can be very hard. Do not hesitate to call (or chat) with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline if you, a friend or family member are feeling hopeless and need that support. Please call.

9. Be understanding. Try to accept relatives and friends as they are.  Set aside old problems and bad feelings until you can talk through them at a better time. Be understanding when others are stressed or anxious. Patience, calm, good humor and compassion can go a long way at any time of year.

10. Be flexible. Family traditions and rituals may change as families and situations evolve. Be grateful for the best of the past, continue your meaningful traditions, and have fun starting new ones. And, like the reborn Grinch, have a lovely heart.

Other resources:

“Quick Tips: Reducing Holiday Stress" 

“Making the most of the holiday season”

“Holiday depression and stress”

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” 


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