6 Ways to Relieve Stress During the Holidays

There’s so much to love about the holidays. Fluffy snowflakes floating all around you, colorful lights on buildings nearby, music in the air.

And then there are a few things you might not love so much, like the stress that comes with the season.

But if you take a moment to step back, you can definitely enjoy all the wonders of the holiday season without as much stress. You just have to be mindful of your own needs and listen to your body and your mind when they tell you to just stop.

Here are a few ways you can relieve stress during the holidays … most of which you might not mind so much.

Get enough sleep

Sleep deprivation can affect you in more ways than you know, including contributing to physical pain, poor concentration, general irritability, and possibly even that notorious holiday weight gain. During the holiday season when we all have so much to do, it may be tempting to skimp on sleep, but it’s important to get those 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night to help you tackle the day.

It will most certainly make a difference in how you feel and how those around you feel.

Here are some ways to ensure that you do get a good night’s sleep:

  • Maintain the same sleep schedule.
  • Darken the bedroom before going to sleep.
  • Ensure you have ideal blankets and pillows based on your preference, as well as wear clothing that is optimal for your sleep comfort.
  • Use aromatherapy devices such as diffusers to add a calming, soothing atmosphere in the room.
  • Shut off your devices at least one hour before going to sleep, and set it to sleep mode to avoid being awakened by the sound of text messages, emails, and social media notifications. Don’t allow yourself to check your phone endlessly, shop for gifts, or play those games as you’re trying to fall asleep.

Laugh loudly and love freely

Allow yourself to be happy.

The operative word there is “allow.” Really think about that. … So many people these days stop themselves from smiling or laughing, but why?

Laugh loudly, express affection toward your loved ones, and show kindness to strangers.

One way to put this stress relief tip in action is to spend an evening watching your favorite holiday comedy with your loved ones. Shut down your devices, cuddle up with your family, and make an effort to laugh at the funny scenes in the movie.

Seriously. Concentrate on laughing. Don’t just watch. Allow yourself to laugh out loud when something is funny. Laughter is a stress reliever and can be contagious, so don’t hold back.

Do what you can right now … and leave it at that

An important way to relieve stress is to live in the moment. This moment is all you have, after all, so don’t worry about what you need to do tomorrow, the day after that, or in 2022. All you can do is what you’re doing right now.

Having that mindset can help you complete one task after another rather than feeling overwhelmed by thinking about them all at the same time — or, worse, trying to do them all at the same time. You know very well that when that happens, nothing gets done, which can make your stress level even higher.

Meditate, exercise, or practice mindfulness techniques

Take at least 15 minutes per day to meditate, exercise, or practice mindfulness techniques. Practice yoga, silently meditate, listen to calming music, or sit quietly and listen to the sounds around you. A simple walk around the block will do as well. If you prefer something more active, do your daily aerobics, lift weights, or play sports if you wish.

When done properly and safely, virtually any exercise or wellness technique will work wonders for your body, mind, and spirit and help to melt away the stress of the day.

Maintain a healthy diet

You may be tempted to choose unhealthy foods as you’re trying to finish all your errands or socialize with friends, but try to eat healthy when you can. When you eat better, you feel better. That can reduce physical stress on your body, and that in turn will inevitably improve your mood and mental state.

You don’t have to do everything

You know yourself. You can probably think of many ways to cut down on the things you don’t really need to do.

  • Kindly decline that party invitation from a friend of a friend on Facebook who you never met.
  • If you need to bring food to a party, go ahead and buy it from the store rather than making it from scratch. Some party guests actually prefer store-bought to homemade. Alternatively, buy most of the ingredients and make the main elements of the dish from scratch, just to make sure your dish still feels authentic.
  • Are you having a party in your own home? Consider making it more casual, so you can minimize the time you spend cooking, prepping your home, or washing dishes afterward.
  • Buy gifts online rather than driving from store to store, and take advantage of grocery delivery apps. (That might be safer during this COVID era anyway.)

Remember to ask for help if you feel overwhelmed. Consider asking for that help from the children in your life. They might love to wrap those gifts, decorate those cookies, or even help you prepare for a party.

However you celebrate the season, we hope it’s as joyful, peaceful, safe, and stress-free as can be.

Happy Holidays!

9 Must-Do’s & Creative Ideas for a Festive ‘Friendsgiving 2021’

Move over Thanksgiving. There’s a new feast in town. Friendsgiving has given November a new meaning in recent years, and it’s making the holiday even better.

Really, why have one Turkey Day feast when you can have two or more throughout the month. After all, the more, the merrier. (You have enough merriment to last through both November and December, right?)

Friendsgiving offers one major bonus over its much older counterpart: less stress. Although you can make it even more extravagant than Thanksgiving if you wish, Friendsgiving can be an easygoing, pretention-free way to celebrate the holiday with friends who may have other commitments on Thanksgiving Day itself.

To truly make your Friendsgiving especially festive and memorable this year, make it all about the fun and casual vibe while making each guest feel truly welcome and valued. Your event may even be the hit of the season and become an annual tradition in your home!

Here are some ways to make your Friendsgiving 2021 outstanding.

  1. Formally invite guests to your casual party.

    Go beyond the basic email or text message and send formal, print invitations. The invitations will add a more official tone to the event while setting the stage of the theme. Follow up with phone calls and texts to make sure people received the invitations and to see whether or not they are planning to attend.

  2. Create a themed hashtag.

    Ask your guests to use the hashtag when they post images of the event on their social media accounts. If all goes well, you might end up using that same hashtag for years, essentially creating a “social media journal” of your Friendsgiving traditions.

  3. Post a signup sheet online for people to identify what they’re going to bring.

    This is a good way to avoid 10 variations of green bean casserole. (Does anyone actually enjoy that, by the way?) You may wish to list general categories of dishes you would like to see at your potluck and then ask people to sign up for them. That way, you avoid double-dishes while giving your guests leeway to make the dish as creative as they would like.

    For friends who prefer not to cook, don’t forget to include the “other” things that you will need, like plates, napkins, drinks, ice, olives, pickles, and so on.

  4. Oh, those drinks…

    You may wish to make it BYOB event and let everyone bring what they wish. Otherwise, you can make it a themed party by suggesting a certain beverage color or certain type of beverage. You might even choose to make it a mocktail party, which is especially ideal if children will be attending.

    Whatever you do, make sure you have something for everyone. Don’t forget to have enough everyday water, soda, and coffee available.

  5. Plan to make the main course.

    As the host, you get dibs on the star of the night. So, the turkey is on you! Whether you want to make a full turkey or the turkey breast alone, if you add your own special take on it, the main course is sure to become a fan favorite.

  6. Design beautiful place settings … or don’t. It’s your party.

    If your event is super casual or you don’t have space in your home for a full dining table, feel free to set everything out and have guests eat on the couch in front of the TV or while standing around the kitchen. Gather some bean bags, pillows, and blankets so people can even sit on the floor if they choose.

    If you are looking for a more elegant party, create place settings for each guest. Pinterest offers endless ideas for beautiful Friendsgiving place settings.

    For example, this simple touch can make your guests feel warm and welcome. Make sugar cookies by hand, and use icing to place each person’s initials on one of them. Tuck each one into a mini gift bag and seal it. Slightly decorate the bag with a Thanksgiving-themed touch, and place the cookie on the top plate to decorate each person’s place setting.

    Add Friendsgiving and Thanksgiving-themed décor throughout your home as well to enhance the festive vibe.

  7. Your guests need something else to do.

    Your company is the best! It’s doubtful anyone will need anything other than delicious food, drinks, and laughter with you and your other guests. But … you know, just in case … you should have some other fun things to do for the rest of the evening.

    Combine Friendsgiving and Game Night, for instance, or have a classic Thanksgiving movie playing in the background. (“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” anyone?) Consider a casino-themed Friendsgiving and make it a Poker Night. Remember to also have games and toys available for young children if they’re expected to attend.

  8. Consider a competition for the dish of the night.

    Just to make sure your guests add a little zing to their dishes and enjoy your Friendsgiving event even more, offer a small prize for the top chef. Create secret ballots ahead of time that people can use to vote for their favorite dish of the evening.

    Alternatively, create a contest for a particular food or drink item, such as hot chocolate, and have your guests sample each one to see which one takes the cake.

  9. Send them home happy.

    While you’re buying those bags, invest in a few larger ones that you can use as goodie bags. Fill them with various treats such as homemade cake pops and candies, and personalize each one.

    Think you’ve had enough of the food for one day? Instead of snacks, send your guests away with a mini mani/pedi kit, cooking utensils, a deck of cards and a pair of dice, or whatever else you think your guests would enjoy and that fits the theme of your party.

However you plan your Friendsgiving 2021 event, we hope it’s filled with lots of fun, love, and laughter. And just think, you get to do it all over again on Thanksgiving!

Have an amazing November!

COVID Halloween Take 2: Celebrating Safely During the Ongoing Pandemic

The wind whistles in the night. Fallen leaves make scratching sounds as they flutter along the sidewalk. The moon casts an eerie light on the world beneath it, and ghosts, scarecrows, and skeletons sway in the breeze.

Halloween is the best, isn’t it? … As long as visions of demons don’t dance in your head.

Michigan homeowners look forward to decorating their homes, trick-or-treating, and going to those haunted houses and hayrides all year long.

According to the National Retail Federation’s 2019 survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, total spending for Halloween was expected to reach $8.8 billion, with $2.7 billion of that for decorations. Among those celebrating the holiday, 49 percent planned to decorate their home or yard.

Despite COVID-related restrictions for Halloween 2020, homeowners found innovative ways to decorate their homes and celebrate with their friends and neighbors outdoors. In some ways, it was one of the most memorable Halloweens yet here in Michigan.

Did you have such a blast last year that you want the trend to continue? Are you looking for unique ideas to keep the spirit alive? Don’t forget about these inspirational innovations:

  • Outdoor Halloween Tents: Celebrate safely outside, and play Halloween music softly in the background to contribute to the aura of the night.

  • Candy Chutes: Last year, Michigan homeowners created 6-foot or more long chutes to slide treats down to trick-or-treaters. Ironically, the fun social distancing technique made trick-or-treating even more of a treat.

  • Goodie Tables: Up and down the block, homeowners set up outdoor tables with treat bags and loose candy, allowing passersby to pick up what they wanted and head on their way.

    But that’s not what happened. What did happen was even better. People stayed and mingled with each other, creating a greater sense of community.

    That’s an especially smart idea for apartment communities, so you can get out, get to know your neighbors, and maybe make a new friend or two. … Or you can kindly scare them away if you prefer. It doesn’t make a difference to us. You do you.

  • Masks with a Purpose: Kill two monsters with one stone. Remember to mask up, especially if you’re not vaccinated or plan to party indoors. Make your mask a part of your costume, and there are so many ways to do so. The teeth of a skeleton? The creepy smile of a jack-o-lantern? Funny faces? With a little imagination and inspiration, a simple COVID mask may be all you need this year.

  • Trunk-or-Treat: It’s nothing new, but trunk-or-treat took on a greater role last Halloween. Tailgating meets trick-or-treating? Yes, please!

Whether it’s in front of your building, in your apartment, at a local hayride, in a haunted house, or out of the trunk of your car, Halloween is what you make it. So make it creative, fun, and, most important of all, safe.

Happy Halloween, Everyone!