The holidays can be tough. This is particularly true if you are going through a season of grief or depression, are struggling with anxiety, or are recovering from an eating disorder. We have lots of articles on our site offering tips and support for getting through.
In this month’s Note from The Editor, though, I want to focus on the small things that bring me joy during the holiday season.
Because when the big stuff hurts, sometimes it’s the small stuff that helps get us from day-to-day.
So here is a list of some of the [small] things I love about the holiday season.
I encourage you to make a list of your own and try to enjoy at least one of them each day from now until the new year.
1. Holiday flavoured drinks
As someone who doesn’t drink coffee, I have become an avid tea-drinker. During the holidays, I love to have at least one relaxing cup of holiday goodness a day. Some of my favourite flavours are Pumpkin Chai, English Toffee, and anything over-the-top like “Santa’s Favourite Boots” or “The Cats Christmas Pajamas” (not real flavour names, I know, but they should be imo). I also love peppermint hot chocolate.
For the coffee drinkers out there, I encourage you to either explore the world of tea, or throw in that extra pump of hazelnut/peppermint/chestnut syrup and turn your drink into a cup of festivity.
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2. Rich, scented candles or essential oils
Scent can go a long way to set the mood and create a festive atmosphere. After flavoured tea, candles are my next favourite way to soak up the holiday season. I love candles all year round, but I especially love them in the Fall/Winter. I try to stick to one signature scent each season, which ends up bringing back memories and nostalgia if I have leftovers to burn later in the year.
Most of my favourites are very woody and natural. However, opting for something crazy like “Christmas Cake” or “Fresh Gingerbread Cookie” can bring some extra festive fun into your home!
For essential oils, I like to put mixtures in my diffuser such as cinnamon and orange or minty cocoa. (Please be mindful that some essential oils are harmful to dogs, cats, and other pets, so do your research.)
3. Cozy socks
I was recently travelling in Europe when I came across a pair of fuzzy socks that hit all the marks: soft, thick inner-lining, gorgeous purple outer-lining, and no slip stickies on the bottom. It’s not your typical souvenir, but these socks were perfect. And now anytime I wear them, I have the bonus of reminiscing about my vacation.
What are you wearing right now? If you can add fuzzy socks to your outfit, go do it right now, I’ll wait…
4. Fuzzy Blankets
Are you picking up on a theme, here? If you guessed that my favourite part of the holidays is cozying up next to a scented candle and drinking holiday tea, underneath a fuzzy, warm blanket, you guessed right!
Whether I’m having a good day or bad, this recipe does the trick to lead me into a state of relaxation, joy, or peace (or all three).
5. Decorations, decorations, decorations!
I am not a November decorator; however, once I do decorate, I go all out. My Birthday lands in the first week of December, so my only deadline for decorating is the weekend before. My #1 tip for decorating is to pack up any non-holiday themed decor so the holiday atmosphere can really take over.
My favourite decoration, by far, is my Lego Winter village, which I add to each year. The bonus of this, of course, is it also provides me with a therapeutic winter hobby. I encourage you to find something similar — whether it’s Lego or not — that you can take on as a creative project over the holidays.
6. Holiday music
It’s a bit embarrassing, but since I was about 20 years old, I’ve always kicked off the holiday season with the same song and closed it off with the same song — sort of like “musical bookends.” And since I’ve held this tradition for so long, similar to scent, the songs bring back plenty of memories of past holiday seasons.
What are these songs, you ask? Well I suppose now I owe it to you to tell you. I kick things off with “This Year” by Christina Aguilera and close them off with Destiny’s Child singing “Opera Of The Bells”. Leave me alone, I grew up in the 90s/2000s!
My newer favourites are both “She & Him” Christmas albums.
7. Holiday shows and episodes
The Grinch (original cartoon), It’s Christmas Time Again, Charlie Brown (“I SAID HOCKEY STICK!”), A Christmas Story, and The Muppets — these are all classics I look forward to each year.
I also like to tune into the holiday episodes of my favourite shows. One of my favourites is Modern Family’s “Express Christmas” episode and pretty much anything from The Office.
No matter how much work, busyness, or chaos tries to take over this holiday season, I encourage you to take time to sit down and watch all your favourite shows.
8. Reuniting with family and loved ones
My immediate family is scattered all over the world. (Literally. I’m talking Africa and Europe.) Christmas is the one time of the year that we are always together. This is made particularly special because both my brother and I have birthdays in December.
Add to that traditional family gatherings, and I am reminded what the holiday season is really about.
I get it, though, family can be tough. And we all have to learn to exist within whatever family dynamic we find ourselves in. I am not diminishing this fact. If you can, try to focus on the people you love, who you are grateful to spend time with over the holidays, and let the rest exist on the outside.
If the thought of loved ones brings no positive vibes, though, that is okay. Focus on the other things in this list (or in your own list).
9. Holiday activities and events
Particularly if you are struggling with depression (I get it; I’ve been there) getting out and going to activities is not always as easy as it seems. I also tend to be one of those people who lets anxiety or even indifference get in the way of trying something new.
Recently, however, I’ve been trying to get out and do more things, especially around the holidays. Last year I went to a light show and a Germany Christmas Market, and it was so much fun! This year I have a few holiday parties in the calendar.
Last, but not least, I LOVE Christmas/Festive lights! Each year on my birthday, it is tradition to get my free Starbucks drink, then go on a neighbourhood Christmas light walk. This is an activity I highly recommend trying and it’s something, I believe, you can enjoy with others just as much as you can on your own.
If light walks aren’t your thing, I still encourage you to take a second to notice the lights as you drive to work or around town or as you’re out shopping. They are magical, beautiful, and, for me at least, they always help boost my mood.
I hope this list of my favourite things has inspired you to see some of the positive in the holiday season! (and even to make a list of your own).
Remember: it’s okay if the holidays are hard — you’re not alone in your feelings. However, taking a few minutes each day to focus on the positive–no matter how small–and practice gratitude (and relaxation) can go a long way to helping you get through.
Wishing you all the best this holiday season,
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