The holiday season is here. Time for cheer! Time for sharing with family and friends! Time to pull out your most “forgiving” clothes as food is every where you go. It’s time for the  . . . are you ready?

Eating too much, crazy sleep patterns, little of no exercise, and worrying about family, COVID-19, changing weather, and family can be stressful to say the least. Add to the general stress of the holidays the management of diabetes or heart disease and sometimes you find blood glucose levels not where they should be. Blood pressure becomes more challenging to deal with. You really need to relax – but history may prove that isn’t going to happen.

There are probably fewer times of the year when there is such a mix of emotions as between Thanksgiving through New Years. You love your family; you want to love the holidays; but sometimes it all seems to be a bit much. While Elvis sings, “Blue Christmas” in the background, you find yourself becoming more and more depressed. What can you do? Consider the following tips as you go forward.

Gifts: Every Christmas I have visions of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad in Jingle All the Way (1996) desperately searching for a high trending toy, Turbo-Man action figure, for their respective sons. Many of us have been there. I still remember my level of desperation helping my mother while she searched for a Cabbage Patch Kid. Did the child think it was the greatest gift ever? Yes. . . for about it for 10 – 15 minutes . . . then it was own to more gifts. Lesson learned: I focus more on the joy of giving to others little things or gifts from “me” (vs something I picked up in the store) and save some gifts for birthdays and/or other holidays (Valentine’s Day). The recipients seem to appreciate the gift more when the days aren’t as hectic.

Food: I grew up in a house where grandmothers, aunts, and mom would spend a week or more preparing food for one day out of the year. We would then eat that food until New Years. While turkey, dressing, ham, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, macaroni and cheese (for the little guys), green salad, congealed salads, yeast rolls, pecan pie, cakes, and any number of miscellaneous add-ons were a sign the “holidaze” had begun, like that Cabbage Patch kid, the effort wasn’t appreciated as you kept seeing versions of leftovers in the days after. Yes, a small army of people would descend on my grandmother’s house and eat like it was the final meal of the month, if not the year — but there were ALWAYS leftovers. Over time many traditions died with the people who supported them. Today our meal still centers around a primary entrée (most everyone in my family are carnivores), I try to plan a variety of heart healthy options with a controlled variety of carbohydrate options (See “Surviving the Holidaze: you are what you eat” appearing later this month).

Do less. We love our family 365 days out of the year. This year we will be celebrating the holidays during the time of COVID-19. Rather than bemoan the inability to celebrate like we have in the past, consider something new. Internet technology does provide us Zoom and FaceTime options. Additionally, we really can connect with people at other times of the year — not just during the holidays. Casual visitations at less hectic times of the year are usually more relaxed and allow pleasant alternatives, cook outs, picnics, etc.

Shop less. My mom bought presents for her five kids and their grandchildren – there were eight grandchildren. Shopping for that many people had a way of taking the fun out of gift giving. Over time we were able to convince the older members of our family that they really didn’t need to give so much. Older kids passed on Christmas and/or Hanukkah gifts and helped older parents find the grandchildren gifts within a budget. If the older parents wanted to give gifts to their older children, hey, there were birthdays spread throughout the year. NOTE: this was also an easier time to connect with different parts of the family outside the holiday season.

Set your priorities and remember what matters. Baking, shopping, greeting cards, visiting and more can be overwhelming. Where are your priorities? What’s the most important? Pick fewer activities. Dont be afraid to take shortcuts. Do the ones you enjoy.

A holiday is meant to be enjoyed . . . not something you dread. Think about what stresses you the most and make a plan to de-escalate that stress with another idea. While COVID-19 is not a welcomed guest, it does provide an opportunity to reconsider celebrations and experiment with new ideas.

With a little planning, you can make your holidays more fun than dazed, confused and tired. Do it for your health. Make it a gift to yourself.

I do hope you and yours find peace in the days ahead and may the joy of the season always be yours.