The holidays –couched by some as “the most wonderful time of the year” -can, in fact, not be so wonderful if you’re totally stressed about travelling and getting gifts or cards to loved ones across the states, or around the world. As such, @livemore believes that the more information you have, the better you can prepare yourself for the holiday “onslaught.” Below, we give you some facts, figures and important dates that should help you frame your plans for the holidays in a more prepared manner. That said – happy holidays from the @livemore fam!
The number of peeps travelling during this period of time – Turkey Day to the New Year – is the most of any time of year. The concentration of travel varies significantly, with Thanksgiving week being the most clustered, and the weeks between Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year, a bit more spread out. As an associated article points out – PLAN AHEAD – CHECK OFTEN – ADJUST AS NEEDED.
So, who is taking a road/air/train trip this coming holiday season? The numbers from last year (when gas prices were slightly higher than mid-October prices) bear witness to what to expect. Here we go – use these numbers and information to better plan your travel and holiday plans.
46.3 million Americans expect to take a trip during Thanksgiving Holiday;
89 percent of travelers (41.3 million) will travel by automobile;
3.55 million Americans taking to the skies during Thanksgiving Holiday;
The average distance traveled during the 2014 Thanksgiving Holiday was 549 miles roundtrip – and Americans will spend an average of $573 during the holiday weekend;
Travelers allocated approximately 31 percent of their budgets to fuel transportation. In 2014 that would equate to about $178, so take that into consideration when making transportation choices for the Thanksgiving Holiday.
Today’s (October 15, 2015) national average price of gas is $2.29; last year at this time it was $2.85 per gallon.
The Rest of the Holidays (Turkey Day to New Yearís Day)
This time of year is hectic, to say the least, but travel plans and preparations for the holidays can be planned and anticipated. Here are a few facts and tips to help you be better prepared.
In 2014 AAA projected that 98.6 million people planned to journey 50 miles or more from home, a 4 percent increase over 2013. With the economy stable and gas prices presumably lower, this figure will probably be the same, or higher for 2015.
Most of the travelers, 89.5 million, travelled by car, while 5.7 million went by air, AAA says, based on its annual holiday survey. The rest (3.4 million) went by train. Approximate breakout – 90.7% by car; 5.75% by air; 3.4% by train.
Americans spent an estimated $83 billion on holiday travel in 2014, according to a 2014 survey from Hotwire. $66 billion of this spending came from Christmas alone, and holiday-travel spending as a whole was estimated to be up $11 billion from 2013. Expect similar or higher figures for 2015
Every year, the US Postal Service (USPS) plays an integral role in making everyone’s lives more enjoyable during the holiday season. Last year the USPS made a concerted effort to get the word out that “This is our season!” USPS provided a lot of useful information on how many packages they move, and dates for which you should be prepared to ship your cards and gifts. Here is the breakdown and schedule for 2015.
Busiest Mailing/ Delivery Days
Busiest mailing day for cards, letters and packages: Tuesday, December 15
Busiest delivery day for cards and letters: Thursday, December 17
Busiest delivery day for packages: Friday, December 18
Mail-By Dates for Domestic Mail
December 15, Standard Post
December 20, First-Class Mail
December 20, Priority Mail
December 23, Priority Mail Express
USPS Facts & Figures from 2014
The Postal Service is projecting 15.5 billion cards, letters and packages will be delivered from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. The increase from last year is due to the increase in advertising mail and package volume;
12.7 billion cards, letters and packages will be delivered between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. (Holiday volume between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve for 2013 was 14.7 billion pieces; 2012 was 15.2 billion pieces; and 2011 was 16.5 billion pieces.)
On average, the Postal Service processes 523 million pieces of mail every day. During the holiday season, that volume increases to 553 million pieces of mail daily. The increase from last year is due to the increase in advertising mail and package volume (545 million in 2013; 560 million in 2012).
The Postal Service expects to process about 640 million pieces of mail on December 15. The increase from last year is due to the increase in advertising mail and package volume (607 million in 2013; 658 million in 2012).
The Postal Service is projecting 470 million packages will be delivered this holiday season, a 12% increase over last year’s volume of 420 million. (2013 was 420 million packages; a 12% increase over 2012 volume of 383 million.)
About 3 million customers will skip the trip to the Post Office this year and use Click-N-Ship to mail packages — 10 percent more than last year.
Beginning December 3, the National Operations Center will be staffed around the clock, seven days a week, to monitor and coordinate mail transportation nationwide.
18 Bull Run Festival of Lights
Wednesday, November 18–Sunday, January 3; Monday – Thursday: 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays – Sunday & holidays*: 5:30p.m. to 10 p.m. *(Holidays include Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve and New Years. Bull Run Regional Park
Nov. 18 through Jan. 3. The Bull Run Festival of Lights is a NoVA favorite. Hop in the car and enjoy a very merry light and music show. Be advised: Fridays are one of the festival’s busiest days, so be prepared. Still, it’s one of the best days to go, as the carnival will be open until late! Bull Run Regional Park, 7700 Bull Run Drive, Centreville; 703-359-4633; Day) nvrpa.org/park/bull_run_festival_of_lights; Prices vary.
27 Reston Holiday Parade, Tree Lighting, and Sing Along
Friday, November 27; 11:00 AM–10:00 PM; Reston Town Center
Reston Town Center launches the festive season at the 25th annual Reston Holiday Parade at 11:00 a.m. with Macy’s-style balloons, musicians, dancers, antique cars, characters, community groups, dignitaries, special guest emcees, and much more. The one-of-a-kind, one-hour, half-mile parade along Market Street also welcomes the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus in a horse-drawn carriage. Since 1991, rain or shine, the parade has been an annual tradition on the day after Thanksgiving. Celebrating “Home Sweet Home,” this year’s parade will honor the 25th anniversary of Reston Town Center, the meaning of home, and everything else that’s sweet. Before the parade begins, thousands of jingle bells will be handed out to spectators lining the route. After the parade, enjoy visits and photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus plus Mini-Train rides until 4:30 p.m. and street entertainment. The Clauses will return for the Fountain Square Tree Lighting and Sing Along at 6 p.m. Afterwards, there’ll be horse-drawn carriage rides on Market Street from 6:30 until 10 p.m. Proceeds from the photos and rides benefit local charities. The acclaimed Ice Skating Pavilion is open all day and every day from November until March. Phone: 703-579-6720
Christmas at Mount Vernon
Friday, November 27 – Wednesday, January 6; 9:00 AM–4:00 PM; George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens
Mount Vernon has decked the halls for the holiday season and invites you to celebrate this festive time of year with a special daytime program offered through January 6!
Visit George Washington’s estate and see Aladdin the camel on the grounds, in honor of the camel that Washington paid to visit Mount Vernon in 1787. Stroll through the estate during the Christmas season and see sparkling holiday decorations, featuring 12 dazzling Christmas trees, and historical chocolate-making demonstrations.
Experience Christmas how the Washington’s would have celebrated it on a tour of the Mansion. Go behind-the-scenes and tour the rarely-open third floor of the Mansion. 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy, Mount Vernon, VA 22309. Phone: 703-780-2000; Admission Fee: $17/adults; $8 child. www.mtvernon.org
4 Christmas in Middleburg
Friday, December 4 – Sunday, December 6; 11:00 AM Friday–4:00 PM Sunday; Downtown
Starting at 11 a.m. the Middleburg Hunt takes to the streets creating a spectacular sight as approximately 100 horses, riders in red coats and dozens of hounds come through the town.
The Middleburg Christmas Parade begins at 2 p.m. as spectators line the sidewalks along Washington Street (Route 50) to watch as a unique assortment of floats, troops and bands march by in a mile-long parade. In keeping with the animal friendliness of the town, the parade includes over 700 horses, llamas, alpacas and dogs. Not to be missed are the antique fire trucks, children on floats, and of course, Santa brings up the rear riding on a beautiful horse drawn coach. Through the day there are hayrides, choir performances, the Garden Club’s Christmas Flower & Greens Show and the Craft Show as well as shopping and dining in the town’s shops and restaurants, creating a day-long family festival for visitors. A Wine Crawl is the final element, allowing adults to wind down and relax while sampling wines from area vineyards, and foods in local restaurants. Phone: 540-687-8888. www.christmasinmiddleburg.org
4 Merry Old Town: Manassas Christmas Tree Lighting
Friday, December 4; 5:30 PM–8:00 PM; Manassas Museum Lawn
Make time to enjoy old-fashioned family fun at the “Merry Old Town” celebration in Old Town Manassas! The holiday fun begins at 5:30 p.m. with holiday music and at 6:00 p.m. when Santa arrives at the Manassas Depot via VRE train.
The Annual Christmas Tree Lighting will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Manassas Museum. Take a free hayride around Old Town and go for a skate at the Harris Pavilion ice rink. Of course, Santa will hear the Christmas wishes of all the children at the Harris Pavilion gazebo. 9101 Prince William Street. Free admission.
4 Town of Leesburg Christmas Tree and Menorah Lighting
Friday, December 4th, 6:00 p.m.; Town Green.
Join friends and neighbors and celebrate the start of the holiday season in Leesburg at the annual Christmas Tree and Menorah Lighting Ceremony on the Town Green. The festive ceremony will feature performances from local schools and a holiday message. The crowd will be encouraged to join in on a holiday sing-a-long and view the lighting of the Christmas tree and Menorah.
4 National Christmas Tree and State Trees
Friday, December 4, Ellipse in Washington, D.C. On December 4, announcement of the National Christmas tree route, standing and lighting will be announced.
The National Christmas Tree will be lit every night through January 1. The Pathway of Peace around the National Christmas Tree is free and open to visitors 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily through January 1. The pathway loops around the National Christmas Tree and features 56 unique Christmas trees and ornament displays representing every U.S. state, territory, and the District of Columbia. Located on the Ellipse on Constitution Avenue side of the White House. Through January 1, 2016.
5 Herndon Annual Tree Lighting and Sing-Along
Saturday, December 5; 5:00 PM–6:00 PM; Town of Herndon Town Square
Start the holiday season with this annual celebration. Carols, tree lighting, and a visit from Santa. Corner of Lynn and Elden Streets, Herndon. Sponsored by the Dulles Regional Chamber. 730 Elden Street. Phone: 571-323-5301. Free admission.
5 Merry Old Town: 70th Annual Greater Manassas Christmas Parade
Saturday, December 5; 10:00 AM–4:00 PM, Historic Downtown
Join us for the 70th Annual Greater Manassas Christmas Parade on December 5, 2015. Please visit www.gmchristmasparade.org for details, including parade route.
Free parking for the parade is available in the parking garage on the corner of Prince William St. and Main St. There is also timed parking available on the street. Handicapped parking is available in the BB&T parking lot located on Center Street and the 7-11 parking lot located at the corner of Grant and Center Street. Free admission. Rain or shine.
5 Holiday Fine Arts and Crafts Show at Ida Lee Recreation
December 5th, 9:00 AM-4:00 PM and December 6th, 10:00 AM-4:00 PM.
No big-box shopping here! This show features over 90 local and regional artisans selling hand-made items including candles, stained glass, carved wood, jewelry, leather products, table linens, and much more. Find something for everyone on your shopping list and a little something to brighten your home this season. Admission and parking for this show are free.
6 Herndon Holiday Arts and Crafts Show
Sunday, December 6; 10:00am-4:00pm; Herndon Community Center.
Over 80 artisans and craftspeople will exhibit and sell their work at this annual arts and crafts show sponsored by the Town of Herndon Department of Parks and Recreation. A variety of handcrafted items and fine art will be on sale including wreaths, quilts, jewelry, Christmas ornaments, decorations, original artwork, photography, stained glass, and more. 814 Ferndale Ave., Herndon, VA. Free admission and parking. Additional parking at the Herndon Centennial Golf Course.
12 Annual Leesburg Christmas and Holiday Parade
Saturday, December 12th – 6:00PM
On the second Saturday of December, the holiday spirit will be in full swing as Leesburg hosts the annual holiday parade starting at 6 p.m. The parade will usher Santa and his friends down King Street, through Historic Leesburg. The parade will begin at Ida Lee Drive and end at Fairfax Street. Parade participation is open to the public, including businesses, civic groups, teams, organizations, and community groups.
Harsh winter weather gives our vehicles a beating whether it’s a dead battery, a blown tire or frozen car lock. Drivers should prepare their vehicles prior to each winter season for use in ice and snow and brush up on how to drive in ice and snow.
Emergency road service calls to AAA, especially for dead batteries and lockouts, always rise sharply when temperatures plummet. Between December 2014 and March 2015, AAA Mid-Atlantic rescued over 750,000 motorists across Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Thirty-nine percent of vehicles required a tow, 29% involved a battery issue and 16% involved a tire-related issue.
Prepare your Vehicle for the Very Cold Weather.
When temperatures are predicted to fall below freezing, motorists need to make sure they have adequate levels of antifreeze, a strong battery, and de-icing solution for windows and locks. Vehicles should also have all-weather or winter radial tires with excellent tread. Battery damage is cumulative, so while a weak battery may start on one below-freezing day, it may not during a string of them.
Emergency Road Kit.
AAA Mid-Atlantic urges motorists to keep a winter weather kit in their car. Kits should include a blanket, ice scraper, flares/reflective triangles, flashlight with batteries, jumper cables, bag of abrasive material such as cat litter, shovel, cloth/paper towels, and a fully charged cell phone. Check tires, wiper blades and car batteries before hitting the road.
De-Icing A Car.
Keep an extra ice scraper in your home should your ice scraper become frozen in the vehicle overnight. De-icing fluid should also be kept indoors should your door locks become frozen. Remove snow and ice from your car before leaving home to improve visibility and to make your car lighter and more responsive.
When To Drive.
If conditions are icy, motorists should stay off the roads until road crews have treated the roads for ice, and then not until conditions are favorable for driving. Nearly one-quarter of weather related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement, resulting in more than 1,300 deaths and 116,800 people injured annually, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Do Not Use Cruise Control and Avoid Tailgating.
Normal following distances of three to four seconds for dry pavement should be increased to eight to 10 seconds when driving on icy surfaces. This extra time provides for extra braking distance should a sudden stop become necessary. Stay in the clearest lane; avoid changing lanes and driving over built-up snow. Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface.
Know When to Brake and When to Steer.
Some driving situations require abrupt action to avoid a crash or collision; in winter conditions the decision to steer or brake can have very different outcomes. When traveling over 25 MPH, AAA recommends steering over braking to avoid a collision in wintry conditions, as less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop. In slick conditions, sudden braking can lead to loss of vehicle control.
However, sometimes steering is not an option. Braking on slippery surfaces requires you to look further ahead and increased following and stopping distances. Plan stopping distances as early as possible and always look 20-30 seconds ahead of your vehicle to ensure you have time and space to stop safely. Shaded spots, bridges, overpasses and intersections are areas where ice is likely to form first and will be the most slippery. It is important to adjust your braking habits as road conditions change.
Stay in Control Through a Skid.
Even careful drivers can experience skids. When a vehicle begins to skid, it’s important to not panic. Continue to look and steer in the direction the car needs to go. Avoid slamming on the brakes as this will further upset the vehicle’s balance and make it harder to control.
Drive Distraction Free.
Drive distraction-free and in the right frame of mind. Looking away from the road for just two seconds doubles your risk of being in a crash, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Enlist your passengers to help to carry out activities that would otherwise distract you from driving safely.
By Andrew Witham
The holidays represent a time of getting together with family and friends and, more often than not, having big meals stacked with appetizers, drinks, and dessert. Tell me you don’t go into the holiday season thinking – I’m going to have to hit the gym in January! Historically, the holidays are about good comfort food and visiting with family – the beginning of cold weather and a lot of holiday time off usually means big meals and extra calories. It doesn’t have to be that way!
A few great recipe ideas demonstrate that you can eat great meals over the holidays without fearing that you will be “Jabba the Hutt” come January. Here are a few nice options for your pleasure this holiday season.
While turkey represents a fairly low fat staple during the holidays, there are some even better options for main dishes if you want to broaden your horizons and not your waistline. Eggplant, and other root vegetables, offer hearty alternatives that can be prepared in many different ways and are nutritious and filling. The recipe below will add an “Italian” flavor to your table and is a great alternative to the ham, roast, or turkey staples that typically adorn holiday tables.
Zucchini Eggplant Lasagna
1 large eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 cup (8 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
1 (8-ounce) package precooked lasagna noodles
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Arrange eggplant slices in a single layer on several layers of paper towels. Sprinkle evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt; let stand 15 minutes.
3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, oregano, red pepper, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Combine basil, ricotta, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl. Spread 1/2 cup tomato mixture into the bottom of a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 4 noodles over tomato mixture; top with half of eggplant and half of zucchini. Spread ricotta mixture over vegetables; cover with 4 noodles. Spread 1 cup tomato mixture over noodles; layer with remaining eggplant and zucchini slices. Arrange remaining 4 noodles over vegetables, and spread remaining tomato mixture over noodles. Top evenly with mozzarella. Cover with foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 25 minutes or until browned. Cool for 5 minutes.
Farro ñ a wheat-based grain
(not gluten free) can serve as a great substitute to those bread heavy stuffings that are typically served during the holidays. This particular recipe includes colorful butternut squash, red onions, carrots and almonds. A true winner on any holiday dinner table.
4 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
2 cups uncooked farro
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups diced peeled butternut squash
1 cup chopped red onion
1 cup thinly sliced carrot
3/4 cup thinly sliced celery
3/4 cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Bring stock and farro to a boil in a large saucepan; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until farro is al dente. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving cooking liquid.
2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add squash, onion, carrot, and celery; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook 7 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir squash mixture into farro mixture. Stir in almonds, parsley, thyme, sage, salt, and pepper. Spoon into an 11 x 7-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve. Stir in additional reserved cooking liquid as needed just before serving.
Cauliflower-instead of Potatoes
Cauliflower offers a great substitute to potatoes and can be prepared in many different ways – including mixing half and half with potatoes to make mashers that are far less carbohydrate/calorie intensive. This particular recipe – Gratin of Cauliflower with Gruyère – bursts with nice flavor.
1 medium head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets (about 2 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons butter
1/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese, divided
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. Place cauliflower in a 2-quart broiler-safe baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray; coat cauliflower with cooking spray. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt; toss. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until almost tender. Cool 5 minutes.
3. Preheat broiler.
4. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Stir in panko. Stir in 1/4 cup cheese and chives.
5. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until almost tender, stirring frequently. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook 3 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1/4 cup cheese, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, parsley, and pepper. Pour milk mixture over cauliflower mixture; toss. Top evenly with cheese mixture. Broil 3 minutes or until golden brown and thoroughly heated.
The simplicity of this option is awesome. Fresh fruit (which is available year round now in almost every grocery store) brings color and a lightness to the end of a holiday meal. Add in some fresh yogurt, and you have a rich, healthy dessert alternative.
Fresh Fruit Yogurt Parfait
1/3 cup honey (original recipe specified 3/4 cup!)
3 cups plain yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries, peaches, cherries, etc.)
3/4 cup granola cereal
(I suggest Granola)
Slightly soften the honey in the microwave so that it is easier to stir. Cool.
In a bowl, combine the softened honey with the plain yogurt and vanilla extract.
Using parfait glasses, layer the honey mixture alternately with the fruit and granola, ending with granola on top.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
These are just a small selection of many healthy options that you can bring to the table during the holiday season. Look up some alternatives – you don’t have to end the holiday season feeling like a stuffed turkey!!
Andrew Witham is a cook who recently moved back to Northern Virginia after operating a food truck in Arizona for 15 years. He currently is employed at Bernie’s Delicatessen and Gourmet Market in the City of Fairfax.
By JiJi Russell
As the holiday season picks up momentum, many people find that stress has a tendency to creep in (or blast through the door), revealing an underbelly to the “season of joy.” Consider the landscape of copious social interactions; abundant beverages and food (much of it unhealthy); hyper-active shopping; and keeping pace with an unusually packed calendar.
The more-of-everything norm that often characterizes this time of year can cause a hyper-stimulated state, amounting to an affront to your nervous system. Over-stimulation certainly can amplify stress.
If you jump right into the holiday season with a faster-better-more mentality, you might be setting yourself up for elevated stress levels. When our bodies perceive stress, our nervous system triggers the “fight or flight” response. This “signals a cascade of events to help us survive a life-threatening situation,” says Geo Derick Giordano, MSc, a registered medical herbalist.
Our heartrate and blood pressure rise; our blood vessels constrict; and we become hyper alert,” says Giordano, who teaches workshops and coaches individuals on dealing with stress naturally.
Ok, so maybe we’re a little amped up. Any harm in that? According to Giordano, yes, because in this state, “Our adrenal glands produce adrenaline, norepinephrine, cortisol and aldosterone, all of which allow us to respond to emergencies swiftly, to maintain homeostasis of our critical body functions, and to perform in a crisis. In small doses it is good and necessary as a survival tool and learning mechanism. In continual excess, it can be damaging, causing chronic and acute health issues ranging from heart disease to cancer.”
The decibel level of parties, musical events, and kid-related activities; the visual stimuli that we take in when we shop or attend social events; the pressure to entertain; socialize; or eat party foods — it can all add up quickly.
If you’re overwhelmed just from reading this, take heart. There is good news: A little awareness and change of habit might create more meaning and eliminate the need to clean up the mess (you!) in the wake of the holiday season. Here are some ideas to consider before saying “yes to everything.”
Give yourself permission to say no. Ask yourself if a proposed party or event will provide both strength (cohesion with your colleagues, for example) and levity. Ideally, it should be both fun and meaningful. It should build you up rather than break you down. If you think it will drain you, opt out.
Limit the to and fro. Choose to shop locally, in your own town or nearby, where you can walk outdoors from store to store. Fill in the gaps with online purchases. Forget the shopping malls. They can be highly overstimulating for the eyes, ears, nose (that perfume lady will get you!), all the while challenging you to be meek and mild as someone steals your parking space.
Ask for collaboration. If you are planning an event; helping out with your child’s event at school; hosting a meal, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If everyone brings a dish, for example, no one person gets stuck in the kitchen. If everyone hangs one snowflake, your arms won’t be as tired as if you had hung 20.
Take a time-out for you. While a “spa day” might have to wait until January, think of creating a habit of re-sets where you physically turn off external stimulation and take a few deep breaths. If you are inclined to stretch or practice a contemplative movement like yoga or tai chi, then make your practice a habit as well. As for two minutes of only breathing, though, you might be surprised by the benefits it can bestow.
While party foods tend to harbor excessive sugar, salt, and heavy ingredients like butter, which are better in smaller amounts, healthy eating during the holidays can provide a source of strength and resilience. Giordano suggests that “maintaining good blood sugar regulation by eating a breakfast with protein, good fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables goes a long way to stabilizing our stress response.” Fuel up properly before the long, busy days.
Giordano also says using adaptogenic herbs like “ginsengs, rehmannia, holy basil, schisandra, ashwaganda, and licorice root help modulate our internal stress response and strengthen our adrenal glands.” These can be found in teas; tinctures; and even edible powders or capsules.
When the party cocktails flow, and the tendency to become ever more mirthful emerges, do yourself a favor and drink a glass of water or seltzer after each alcoholic beverage. Perhaps this will slow your consumption, and also keep you better hydrated.
This holiday season, choose your activities and involvements consciously and judiciously. Set yourself up to mitigate stress and cultivate the energy and attentiveness so that you can enjoy the people and events that truly make for joyful moments.
Three More Tips for Staving off Stress
Consider giving up or reducing ìC.A.T.S.î which are known to cause fluctuations in energy and mood.
C=caffeine A=alcohol T=tobacco S=sugar
Make a goal of seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
Sleep is a necessary event for emotional health and for keeping stress hormones at bay.
Make a cut-off time for all electronic communications, and stick to it!
Bringing your attention inward helps with resiliency; while constant communication with others interrupts attention on yourself.
JiJi Russell is a corporate wellness coordinator and a yoga instructor, specializing in stress management.