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More Joy, Less Stress


I’m overjoyed to be introducing you to my very dear friend Deb Kern.

When Mike first met Deb he said, “I would move to Austin to live near her.” That’s how special and magnetic Deb is. We love her so much that we asked her to officiate our wedding.

She’s helped me navigate through some of the toughest moments of my life, and I’m really thrilled she’s sharing some of her wisdom with you!

This week Deb is offering up some incredibly useful advice on how to navigate the holiday season while avoiding obligation. That would, indeed, be a holiday miracle!

Enjoy this woman who I love so dearly!

I am the queen of rituals. I have morning rituals and evening rituals. Dance class rituals and mealtime rituals. I suggest rituals for my clients. I create rituals for my kid (and he sometimes uses them). So you can imagine that I love holiday rituals. Unless, of course, they are mindless or stressful.

There’s a story I remember hearing as a kid that illustrates what I’m talking about:

One day a newly married husband watched as his wife prepared a ham for their first Thanksgiving dinner.

At one point he asked, “Sweetheart, why did you cut off both ends of the ham?”

“Because my mother always cut off the ends of the ham before baking it,” she said.

“But why?”

“I don’t know – let’s ask her when she comes over for dinner.”

So when the mother arrived the new bride asked, “When you prepared the ham every Thanksgiving, you always cut off both ends – why did you do that?”

“I learned that step by watching my mother prepare the ham,” said the mother.

“But why?”

“I don’t know – let’s ask your grandmother when she arrives for dinner.”

Finally, Grandmother arrived for dinner and had barely entered the house when both mother and daughter asked, “When you prepared the ham for baking, you always cut off both ends – why did you do that?”

“Well,” Grandmother said, “the pan was too small.”


Just like the young woman in the story, If we aren’t mindful, rituals that once brought joy can now create stress. {TWEET IT}



How do you know which holiday rituals to keep and which ones to let go?

Here’s the 4 step process I’ve created for myself over the years:




Take Action

When you’re feeling stressed about some aspect of the holidays:  STOP


Why am I doing this or buying this?

Is it necessary?

Does it bring me peace and joy?

Does it serve a high and holy purpose?

Will it cause financial or energy problems down the road?



Sometimes the answer is obvious the moment I take the time to ask myself the questions. But sometimes I get caught in a spin of conflicting thoughts. In those cases I listen to my body rather than my mental thoughts.

Here’s how I listen to my body: first I get clear on the issue I’m pondering.  Then I do some gentle stretching. As I stretch I pay attention to images, sensations and random thoughts. All of these are ways my body gives me clues.

For example: last year I really wanted to drive 5 hours each way to be with my parents for Thanksgiving, but my son had to be at swim practice the Wednesday before and the Friday after. It just didn’t make sense to drive 10 hours and only be there one day. But I felt conflicted. So I lay on the floor, took a few deep breaths to empty my mind and did a gentle hamstring stretch. As I was stretching I saw an image of myself enjoying a leisurely walk around the lake. Simultaneously I reached a point in the stretch where the insertion of my hamstring began to burn. It was the same kind of burning I experience when I sit too long.

That was enough for me to realize that my body really wanted to stay home for Thanksgiving, take a leisurely walk and NOT sit for 10 hours in the car.


Once you’ve asked and listened, you can then make plans that match your true desires. In the example of last Thanksgiving, after a long early morning walk, my son and I joined some neighbors and volunteered to prepare meals that were delivered to homeless people and people who could not get out of their homes.

It was a beautiful way to spend the day and it felt like a true Thanksgiving.

The Center for a New American Dream has a beautiful guidebook that helps you with everything from budgeting, how to talk to your family and simple homemade gift ideas to low-waste wrapping and decorating ideas.

Click here to go to my website download the “Simplify the Holidays” Guidebook.

Wishing you all peace and abundance this holiday season and hoping you will take the time to stop, ask and listen so that you may fully embrace the rituals which are truly meaningful to you.




Over to You:

What rituals can you let go of this holiday season?  Post a comment below and share your ideas!  Kate and I would love to hear from you.

Dr. Deborah Kern is visionary teacher and guide whose groundbreaking research showed that mind/body integrated forms of exercise reduce anxiety more effectively than conventional ones. Dr. Kern offers private intuitive guidance sessions, PranaShakti Dance classes and is the creator of adventure, yoga and dance retreats.


  • Thanks for these great tips! The holidays can cause such stress, however I do find that if I keep things simple and plan smaller gatherings, that works best for me. The idea of listening to your body makes so much sense. Great suggestions here!

  • What a delicious combination of women! Thank you Kate for hosting this excellent post.
    For me, the holidays bear so much stuff, expectations surface about expectations that I did not even know I had. So, in the past few years I have allowed myself more quiet time to write and rest and read. I light more candles and make even the simplest meals special. I have discovered that making ritual of even the simplest activities takes the weight off the bigger moments. This is something that really helps with tiny kids, BTW. There is so much dark this season and I don’t turn away from it. I get outside as much as I can, walks at night especially, make this time more special and not quite so hectic. xoS

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