December 13, 2014

If you think you’re spiritually enlightened, go home for the holidays.

I laugh out loud whenever I see this quote.

Family has a way of pushing our buttons. Whether gatherings are small and intimate, or huge with all the extended family members and cousins … family celebrations can lend themselves to trigger interesting situations and reactions.

It seems that we often put a lot of pressure on ourselves during holiday times too. Here are some ways to keep your cool during the holidays:


Only do what’s essential.

Don’t overextend yourself. Instead of getting really stressed out over buying or making last minute gifts, baking or cooking a million things or sending out holiday cards … only do what’s essential and enjoyable.

Let go of obligations.

Free yourself! Celebrate how you want to celebrate. Only celebrate those traditions that mean the most to you. Remember what’s truly important to you and let go of the rest.

Slow down. 

Take it down a notch. Go slower. Be more mindful. Breathe. Make a commitment not to rush.

Take care of yourself.

Plan time for self-care over the holidays. Give yourself the gift of recharge time, introspection time, a hot bath, a sweat in the sauna, a visit to the spa, reading a book under the covers, watching a movie, etc. – YOU time.


Consider spending time instead of buying gifts.

If the whole gift buying thing gets you overwhelmed each year, get your family to agree to a different system. I love the way my house celebrates because we have a very open way of dealing with gifts. There are zero expectations. Whoever has time, money or inclination that year gets gifts for others. They can be individual gifts, something for the whole family, an outing or nothing at all. We know we all love each other and though gifts are sweet, it has nothing to do with the love that we feel for each other, so we can be very flexible about it.

Switch up the gift-giving tradition. 

I met someone on the airplane from Burlington, VT to NYC who said that each person in her family bought ONE gift and put it on the table. Then they played a game: each person got to choose one gift and open it. Any of the people who chose afterwards could either pick a mystery something from the middle of the table or steal a prior person’s gift that they liked. She said oftentimes people would bring funny gifts as jokes too. I can imagine a lot of laughter and fun at that table.

I’ve heard other families agreeing to donate money to their favorite organizations instead of buy gifts. Or donate their time together to feeding hungry folks or giving gifts to families that don’t have resources for gifts.

Make wrapping gifts fun, or don’t wrap at all. 

If you love giving gifts, but wrapping them is overwhelming, don’t wrap them! Throw them in a bag, a piece of cloth (Japanese-style wrapping with cloth is so exquisite), or make wrapping fun by using tissue paper and found foliage.

As a family, agree to do something else during the holidays.

Some families chuck the whole dinner and gifts tradition and do something else. Some families go ice skating, skiing or to the movies. Some play board games and cards all night. Some take a vacation to a beach closer to the equator.

Dream up a new ceremony. 

Create a new ritual or ceremony or use favorite traditions to make the holidays sacred in the way that suites you best.


Minimize white sugar consumption.

White sugar shuts down the immune system for six hours and it can make us cranky. If you likebaking sweet treats during the holidays, find recipes that use maple syrup, honey or coconut sugar. If you can’t resist eating some of your favorite cookies or sweets that contain white sugar – enjoy them thoroughly – then drink lots of water, hot herbals teas and take some elderberry syrup to boost your immune system.

Move your butt. 

After big dinners, try to get everyone active, doing something – like sledding if you live in a snowy area or going for a walk after dinner. Or crank up the music and start a dance party.


Take a break. 

If you get tired or if family gets on your nerves, take a break. Go for a walk, step outside for some fresh air, offer to run an errand for last-minute needed ingredients or head to the bathroom to take a five-minute alone time break.

The time you do spend, be there. 

If spending time with family stresses you out, then shorten the amount of time you spend with them, but make it count. Be 100% present while you’re there. Show up and ask questions and listen. Being an active listener and being fully present for a short time is better than then being physically there but mentally checked out or irritable.

Shift the focus. 

If you have the type of family that tends to criticize you or your lifestyle, keep the conversation focused on them. Ask them questions, be genuinely interested and keep them talking while you listen.

If something really bugs you, observe it until it dissolves.

Remember the quote above … that holidays are like spiritual practice. Being around family shows you your hot buttons and … isn’t that interesting? Note all your reactions as ‘interesting’ without judging the situation or yourself. Observe where the irritation is in your body, how it feels. Generate compassion for yourself. Here you are, trying to have a happy holiday and you’re getting bent out of shape … be gentle with yourself, find that soft spot in your heart, give yourself a dose of compassion. When you start to cool down a little . smile to yourself at the craziness of life.

Avoid certain topics. 

Just don’t engage in heated topics like politics, old {negative] stories or something that will end up in arguments. Just don’t go there. Change the subject.

Don’t wish for others to change or be different than they are. 

Sometimes we find ourselves wishing <insert family member’s name> would change …

Why couldn’t they just be more … something. Instead of wishing for them to change, just fully embrace them as they are. Fully accept them as they are and love them for their quirks.


Put flower elixirs into everyone’s drinks.

Put joy & love-inducing flower essences into holiday punch, tea, wine, beer, water, whatever! Put five drops of Joy Juice Flower Essence Elixir or Infinite Love Flower Essence Elixirin a single drink or a whole dropperful into a group beverage.

Mist the dining or celebration space with love or joy.

If you want to enhance the atmosphere, mist the room before guests arrive. Better yet, mist them upon arrival. Watch any awkwardness or stress dissolve, as they break out into a smile and feel at ease.

Inner Peace for inner peace.

If you find that holiday dinners or celebrations are especially stressful, start using an Inner Peace flower essence formula now. Use it five times daily – after a few days you’ll find that nothing can stress you out or move you from your center.

What do you do during the holidays to fill them with ease, love and joy? What are your favorite traditions? What’s essential for you and what you let go of over the years?

Love & flower petals,

katie hess flower alchemist