The most wonderful time of the year can also be busy and stressful. Life Coach Tal Fagin offers this version of a gift guide to help make the holiday season as joyful as possible.
Happy December! For some, this truly is the most wonderful time of the year. For others—many of whom have reached out in recent weeks—the holiday season is more bitter than sweet, more stressful than serene. Whether you absolutely love this time of year or wish you could hide away and hibernate until Spring, here are a few thoughts to help you make the season as joyful as possible.
Consider it the Coaching Corner’s version of a gift guide, a few gentle reminders and simple ideas to help make the holi- days healthy, happy and bright. Some may involve spending a little money, but others are absolutely free. In each case, you have my express permission and full encouragement to lavish these gifts on anyone you love—or entirely on your fabulous self.
The Basics – Nothing says I love you like simply paying at- tention and taking good care. That’s why you can never go wrong by starting with the basics. I am talking about sleep, nutrition and exercise—the essential building blocks for health, motivation and general well-being. Yes, I may refer to these in almost every column and coaching session. Yes, they may be the most obvious “tips” around. Still, far too many of us can be cavalier about our health. We fail to take proper care of ourselves—especially around the holidays—then won- der why we are grumpy, overweight, exhausted, stressed or even sick.
And so it bears repeating.
You need sleep. You need healthy, nutritious foods. You need exercise. Everything else in your life will be better for it.
We all stray from our routines this time of year. We eat and drink things we normally wouldn’t, often to excess. We get too-few zzz’s, then over-caffeinate just to make it through the day. We skip our workouts, too busy with end-of-year dead- lines and social obligations.
I am not here to scold, but simply to remind you—because I care—that this annual disruption to the system does not help at all when it comes to the other stressors of the season. In- stead, it creates a vicious cycle. Exhausted people make poor- er decisions throughout the day—decisions that wreak further havoc on health and wellness.
Whether it’s you or someone you love, consider the following stocking stuffers to cover the basics.
For the Sleep Deprived. Light signals our bodies to stay awake, so invest in a low tech sleep mask (I like the silky kind), or even a fancy high tech version. Noise machines come in a range of prices, or for those who just want quiet, ear plugs are as inexpensive a gift as you can find. If your hubby always gets up early to walk the dog, make him a certificate, redeemable at his pleasure, offering to swap places, or if you are the one in need of rest, indulge yourself with permission to nap when needed.
For those in Need of Nourishment. Consider taking a break from the cocktail party circuit. Stay in, cook a healthy, delicious meal for yourself or someone you love. Maybe treat yourself to a new cookbook first. If you’re feeling flush, hire a personal chef for an evening, or try a subscription to one of those healthy meal delivery services (friends recommend Green Chef). If kitchen gadgets are your thing, I love my In- stant Pot. Nothing like a low-fuss, hearty, comforting, nutritious dinner waiting at the end of a busy, blustery day.
For the Fitness Lover. Whether you consider working out to be the highlight of your day or an absolute slog, there are myriad ways to get creative and up the joy factor on this essential basic. If you tend to do the same thing again and again, say running, consider Cross-Fit, yoga or barre classes as a way to mix up the routine. Boost your motivation with a pumped up new playlist, snazzy new gear or even hire a per- sonal coach or trainer. If you prefer to get your moves on at home, consider investing in some new equipment. It could be as simple as a yoga mat or as extravagant as a Peleton. What- ever it is that will get you moving and get those endorphins flowing, I promise, you won’t regret it.
For the Nature Lover. Being outside in nature—walking by a river, contemplating birds in flight or meandering through the trees—helps us gain perspective. It can be inspir- ing and healing, energizing and soothing. It reminds us that we are part of something larger than ourselves and has been proven to improve moods. In a season where activities can feel forced or interactions shallow, taking some time to con- nect with the natural world can be a balm. We in the North- west Corner are blessed with miles of hiking trails and land preserves, stunning views, beautiful lakes, roaring rivers and all manner of outdoor possibilities. Treat yourself—or anyone you love—to some of these local treasures free of charge, or make a day outdoors part of a larger gift involving cross coun- try skis, snow shoes or just a cozy new pair of mittens.
For the Wanderluster. Prior to motherhood, my preferred method of shaking things up and lifting my mood always in- volved travel. By comparison, my more rooted existence as an Upper East Side mom could feel stifling, even depressing at times. Then I invented “Alphabet Tours.” Each week, my son and I visited a new part of the city, dictated by whichever letter we were up to. We did A – Alphabet City, B – Brooklyn Bridge, C – Chinatown, D – Dumbo and so on. In the process, I discovered that just getting a change of scenery—walking new streets, sampling new foods, visiting museums or trying whole new activities—created just as much buzz and excite- ment across town as it did half-way across the globe. Now, when clients complain of feeling bored, sapped of creativity or overly burdened by routine—or if they suffer from vaca- tion envy after too much time on Facebook— I always suggest the same. Sure, we’d all like the time and opportunity to visit distant, exotic shores, but when that just isn’t an option, find something to explore closer to home. Whether it’s a nearby city, or just another part of town, give the gift of “travel” by planning a day somewhere you’ve never been.
For the Earbud Set. Personally, I value real world experiences and in person connection above all else. Still, there are a few areas where technology has been incredibly value-added in my life, and which I love to share with others. There are the obvious, but still worth mentioning apps, such as Headspace and Calm. Why? Because developing or maintaining a medita- tion practice, is one of the best things you can do for yourself, and has proven to help with just about everything. Beyond that, there are courses on everything you can think of on sites like Udemy, Coursera and even Harvard University. There are workouts and yoga classes free on YouTube or available for purchase in the app store. There are audiobooks for long car rides, and my personal favorite—podcasts—to suit any
and every interest from politics to true-crime, from gardening to fashion to fiction. Whether you are considering a gift for yourself or someone else, take the time to think about what you really crave—spirituality, entertainment, instruction or intellectual discussion—and chances are, you can find it at the touch of a button.
For Those Worthy of Thanks. Being grateful is good for you. Establishing a gratitude practice—making it a daily habit to acknowledge the good in our lives—is one of the simplest things we can do to boost happiness and overall well being. Whether you keep a gratitude journal or simply pick a time each day to reflect on the things for which you are thankful, counting your blessings might be one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
Similarly, sending a note of thanks is one of the most mean- ingful gifts you can give another person. It will cost you nothing, but will pay dividends—for both of you. There is a lot of research out there on this, or you can just take my word for it. Sit down and write a letter to someone who has had an impact in your life. Thank them specifically for what they have done, tell them why it has meant so much to you. Ideally, deliver the letter in person and watch happiness unfold.
Thank YOU, Dear Reader, for sticking with me this far. I have big ideas for 2019, when I expect the Coaching Corner to take an all new direction. Until then, I wish you happiness and health, peace and joy and the absolute best of everything.