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Emilie Davidson Hoyt Headshot

Making the Most of the "Most Wonderful" Time of the Year

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When my children were babies, people used to tell me that 5 p.m. was the witching hour. That from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. your babies would reliably be fussy until bedtime. It was this and not the end of the work day that was the true origin of what we now call happy hour, because after two hours of infant screaming, happiness could best come from alcohol (for the parents -- not the babies -- though if you're a whiskey-on-the-gums fan, I'm not going to judge). This phenomenon in our house was a real one, especially for our second child, who had colic and never seemed to stop screaming. Luckily, my babies grew into children and the witching hour became a thing of past -- or did it?

Because it seems to me that Halloween every year begins a new witching hour -- or witching season -- for mothers everywhere. That is, the mothers just want to cry. Each year, starting with the Halloween costumes, through perfecting and hosting the ultimate Thanksgiving meal, then coordinating holiday card photo shoots, Christmas tree crafts and school event schedules that require a Cirque du Soleil level of orchestrating, I go just about bat s&*t crazy (pun intended). It's a seemingly endless stream of school and social commitments for my kids, while I panic under a self-imposed pressure to make it so precious and memory-filled. My own needs unfortunately, take a backseat. Sure, the holiday season is about giving to others, but that doesn't mean we should neglect ourselves for a full quarter of the year.

This year, despite having a busier schedule than ever, I'm trying to be more conscious of this craziness, and do what I can to take better care of myself. So I'm not falling asleep exhausted in the kids' beds with makeup still on. So I'm not subsisting solely on seasonal sugar highs, or missing an important appointment because I was distracted writing it down. Like the advice in airplane manuals to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others -- if I don't care for myself, I won't be of much help to anyone else. I'm making a resolution -- now, not in January -- to be bit more mindful, so that I can fully enjoy all these wonderful memories I'm trying so hard to create. Here's what's on my anti-witch agenda:

Massage. I may not make it for a massage this season, but the power of touch has been shown to offer a number of benefits, including reduced stress. So I've started a ritual with my daughter where we give each other regular hand massages and manicures. She's only 9, so I may not get the most "polished" look, but my skin gets pampered with moisturizing lotion, and seeing her little hand in mind, for no matter how long, relaxes me immensely.

Spa scents. I've long turned to aromatherapy and the healing properties of pure essential oils, and just recently picked up this great tip for creating a spa-like experience in the bathroom: When washing bath towels, I add 10 drops of essential oil to a paper towel, and toss the paper towel in the dryer. Instead of a dryer sheet's synthetic fragrance, the essential oils impart aromatherapy benefits -- perfect for being enveloped after a steamy shower. Lavender oil has calming and soothing effects when inhaled (my kids love this before bedtime), and peppermint oil is great to help awaken and clarify in the morning.

Neck/shoulder soother. This is another tip that the kids can take part in, and you'll all reap the benefits. Fill a tube sock with dry rice so that it is about two thirds to three quarters full. Add 15 to 20 drops of your favorite essential oil. (If you don't have any essential oil you can add vanilla or almond extract from your pantry.) Carefully sew the sock shut to avoid finding rice all over your house for the next six months. Microwave and apply as needed to help relieve neck and shoulder tension.

Meditation. There's an old quote that goes something like, "Everyone should meditate for 20 minutes a day, unless you're too busy, then meditate for an hour." The premise being that the busier you are, the more you can benefit. I'll admit, I hardly ever find 20 minutes to meditate, but I am making a more conscious effort to take even five or 10 minutes when I can. Because I know I get distracted so easily at home, I've started taking this time in my car, parked in the dark recess of the office parking garage. I set my phone alarm for a few minutes, and just sit, eyes closed, trying to clear my mind. Even if I can't immediately claim any long-term benefits, it's a great way of mentally separating my crazy morning getting the kids off to school with starting the workday on a calm and professional note.

I can't be the only one frazzled by this busy season. I'd love to hear what tips you use to stay sane and find a balance between blissed out and broomstick. And as we get ready to say thanks next week at the dinner table, I'd like to express my sincere gratitude here and now to all of you for reading. Thank you.

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