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Banish Holiday Stress!

The holidays are almost upon us, and things seem to start getting a little crazy. For those of us who are massage therapists, we may find ourselves busier selling gift certificates than doing actual massage; at least that’s been the case at my office for many years. People get caught up in shopping, decorating, preparing for family dinners, attending office parties and community events, and seem to let their regular massage fall by the wayside. Gift certificate sales spike–and then the months of January and February are usually filled with people coming in to redeem those. We need to keep it in mind not to go crazy with spending that extra money that we still owe the work for!

I used to devote a lot more time to holiday preparations. As I’ve gotten older, I decided some things had to go, and I’ve felt better for it. I usually have friends and family in for a meal or two between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and one thing I do is invite them for breakfast instead of dinner. It’s a much easier meal to get ready for and it doesn’t involve cooking all day. I actually get to sit down and enjoy the food instead of worrying about whether or not everything is on the table. We gather with my husband’s family on Christmas Eve for lunch, and everyone brings a dish or two instead of any one of us having to cook a whole meal.

My Christmas tree has shrunk substantially. My sister-in-law gifted us with one of those Charlie Brown Christmas trees that has one ornament on it, and that works for me! Some people really enjoy putting up a holiday tree, but with no children and two rowdy dogs in our house, I decided some time ago that was one of the chores I needed to let go of. When we feel the urge, my husband and I take a nice drive through our rural county and look at the Christmas decorations in the different communities and neighborhoods. It’s one of our traditions to do that on Christmas Eve after the family gathering.

It’s also a tradition for me to make some homemade sweet and savory treats to give as gifts, and I usually just set aside a night or two or maybe a Sunday afternoon to get those ready a month or two ahead of time, and pop them in the freezer. People appreciate the homemade gifts, and it’s actually less stressful than fighting the crowd shopping. I also give away gift certificates for massage, which people love to receive.

When it comes to holiday gift-giving, we give a little present to the children in our extended families, and we skip that for the adults altogether. My family decided a long time ago that we aren’t in need of anything other than enjoying our time with each other. We might have a dirty Santa game where we give each other silly gag gifts that cost less than $10, but that’s it. None of us need anything else to catch dust around the house. We’ve also bought blankets with the money we might have spent on each other and donated them to the local homeless shelter.

Recycle gifts. You might not want to re-gift that tacky-smelling cologne your brother-in-law gave you to anyone, but you may have treasures that you don’t need anymore that someone would appreciate. A few years ago, I gathered some family heirlooms that I would have passed on to nieces and nephews when I leave the planet. I decided not to make them wait until I keel over dead to give them away to the people I wanted to have them. I wrote them a letter telling them who it had belonged to, and when that person lived and died, and what relation they were.

If you’re determined to shop anyway, go shopping on Main Street. Small business people often struggle to make a living, and the big box stores aren’t going away if you don’t participate in the Black Friday madness. Don’t overlook the little neighborhood art gallery, the locally-owned hardware store, and even the thrift store. There’s no telling what kind of treasures you might find there, and you’ll be helping someone who needs to make a sale a lot worse than the big stores at the mall.

Offer to help a friend or family member with their holiday cleaning and/or cooking in exchange for them helping you with yours. Don’t stress out over it if your house is not immaculate. Hopefully, anyone coming to visit you is doing just that–coming to visit you–not to do a home inspection or look under the sofa for dust bunnies.

Do something nice for someone…go visit the Veteran’s hospital, or a nursing home, and just stop in to talk and visit. Many of the people in such places don’t have many visitors, and they’ll be grateful for one–even one they don’t know. Not everyone has a joyful holiday season; many people are alone, and the best gift they could get is a few minutes of your time. If you live in an area where homelessness is a problem, buy a dozen pairs of socks and hand them out, or look in your closet for unused coats and sweaters and give them to those in need. It will enrich your soul and clean out your closet at the same time.

When we get caught up in a whirlwind, it’s easy to forget our own self-care, so make an effort not to let that happen. Put “take time for self” on your Christmas list and then do it! Schedule yourself for a massage. If you’ve still got children at home who need a babysitter, swap with someone. Take some downtime to do something you enjoy, whether that’s reading a book, doing crafts, going for a walk or hike, doing absolutely nothing, or whatever makes you happy. Make a ritual a couple of times a week of taking a relaxing bath with some of our wonderful Soothing Touch Bath Salts…light a few candles, put on some nice music, and sink into the tub. Take an hour for it to be all about you, and banish holiday stress. You’ll feel better for it!

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Laura Allen joined Soothing Touch as the Massage Division Director in July of 2015. She is a licensed massage therapist, a continuing education provider, the author of 5 massage therapy texts published by Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, and three other self-published books, numerous magazine articles, and has written over 300 blogs about the massage profession. Her regular Ethics column, The Heart of Bodywork, appears in Massage & Bodywork Magazine. Laura lives with her two rescue dogs, Fido and Queenie, in Rutherfordton, North Carolina.

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