Read This Holiday Card: How to Have Truly Happy Holidays

Dear sisters in perimenopause and menopause,

“Give, give, give.” It’s the theme song of the season, especially for you! You give so much—and I don’t just mean holiday presents. You give your time, energy, and self to so many people and projects. But I’m afraid all of your efforts don’t leave enough for YOU. You deserve so much more out of your holidays!

So here’s what I’m proposing: This season, before you give to anyone else, first give YOU the gift of self-care. You deserve to feel like your best self, especially during the holidays. Plus, you can’t expect to truly take care of others if you’re running on empty. So put happiness at the top of your own wish list, and start planning how you’re going to deliver. After all, you’re the only person out there who can give you the health and happiness you deserve.

My suggestion? First, stop being your own biggest critic. While easier said than done, you need to realize that during perimenopause and menopause, you might not have the energy you had in the past. That’s okay, and you don’t need to have as much energy as your grandchildren. Scale back on your stressors: Make your holiday dinner a potluck; use gift sacks, not wrapping paper; and dial back on the décor. I also suggest shopping online. On the web, you get to escape the crowded malls and heavy shopping bags, and you can hit every store on your schedule from the comfort of your couch. If a gift for YOU sneaks its way into your online cart, so be it!

While we’re on the subject of expectations, we need to set another thing straight: The holiday pictures you see on Pinterest, HGTV, and in Good Housekeeping just aren’t realistic. Honestly, who has time for this stuff? Problem is, most women think they should: One recent TODAY survey found that 42 percent of moms suffer from Pinterest stress, thinking they aren’t crafty enough. The antidote? PinterestFail.com, a website that chronicles Pinterest projects gone incredibly, hilariously wrong. Check it out and I promise you will feel better. You’ll also have a pretty big laugh.

Your holidays don’t have to be picture-perfect for them to be great. In all honesty, they probably shouldn’t. In my opinion, no-frills holidays are some of the best ones, while the ones displayed in the Andy Warhol-esque pictures people post to Facebook are really some of the most stressful and least fun ones around.

If, this season, you let go of the all of the pressure, you’ll be free to be the warm, wonderful woman you truly are. Only then can you truly enjoy the holidays. Meanwhile, your family won’t feel like they are walking on eggshells (or should that be glass tree ornaments?).

Still, no matter how much you trim the fat off of your holiday stressors, know that some will pop up here and there. After all, perimenopause and menopause are stressful all on their own—even without extra holiday to-dos and expectations. So find a way to unwind: Book a massage, take a bubble bath, and stop making excuses not to exercise (it’s one of the healthiest and most effective ways to reduce stress). After all, stress can trigger hot flashes, impede sleep, spur menopausal migraines, and most certainly wreck your holidays. Check out more tips for fighting menopausal stress!

Also—and I know this is a hard when sugar cookies, mashed potatoes, and holiday parties abound—stop the stress eating! While a little nibble here and there is certainly okay (super-strict diets are stressful, and we don’t like that!), fatty foods can wreck both your mind and body. According to a 2012 study in the International Journal of Obesity, trans and saturated fats can spur mood changes and depression. Meanwhile, they cause us to pack on the pounds, and I don’t have to tell you that when the buttons start popping on last year’s holiday sweaters, your stress meter rises faster than the needle on your scale. More weight and a worse mood? You can do better.

So, my generous sisters, this season, start being generous to YOU! Give YOU the gifts I know you deserve: self-care, respect, and love! Do that and I guarantee you’ll soon celebrate your best holiday ever!

Wishing you the happiest, merriest, and healthiest holiday ever!

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