How To: ENJOY the Holidays More.

Guest Contributor: Jodie Buonopane Freid

Woman holding christmas giftsDo you ever feel like the holidays are a whirlwind? Like you’re caught up in all the hustle and bustle and then, all of a sudden, they’re over? You’re like, what just happened? How did they come and go, so fast?

And, sadly, for some people, they feel like it was so much work and took so much out of them.  This happens to many of us.  We live in a fast-paced, over-indulgent, instant gratification society and it’s funny how we’ve adjusted our expectations to meet that.  Stop and think about that for a moment.

In today’s day and age, we have a couple of liberties we can use to our advantage to better manage it all:  technology and mindfulness!  If we learn to use each of these to our benefit, especially at this time of the year, then perhaps we can view our cell phones and tablets as a gift than a curse!  Give yourself a holiday gift by considering the following:

Online shopping:

  • There is no better time to utilize your phone to download a stores’ app and at the click of a few buttons you may find what you need for the holidays.  Added bonus? Depending on where you shop, you may get below market prices with free and speedy shipping.  
  • It’s an ultra-convenient way to squeeze in some shopping without the stress, without hiring a sitter to watch the kids, and avoiding the traffic and tension in the stores.  When you do your shopping, take time to enjoy it by either carving out time to shop in your calendar, distraction free or allow yourself to be immersed for the five or ten minutes you do spend in between other parts of your day.  Just don’t do it while driving, sitting in traffic, or at a red light 😊.  Do it without multi-tasking.  
  • But don’t you still want to go out in to the stores, experience the music and get in the holiday spirit? If you do, consider using a personal day off from work to go shopping early, not only early in the day, but early in the season- before the rush sets in.  That would be….right about NOW!
  • Whichever route you take, cross some items off your to-do list later that day.  It’ll bring closure to things pending on your list/mind/causing you to fret and stress with “so much to do”.
  • Apply these tips to even your grocery shopping (go when they first open or right before they close, avoid high-traffic times like mid-day weekends).  
  • This all will create room for you to enjoy the season so much more.  Life goes by fast enough, our kids grow up too fast, slow it down by being present.

Now, how do we apply being mindful to our lives at this busy time of the year?  Let me help you by breaking it down in some simple steps:

  • First, mindfulness in its’ simplest terms means being “present” (there’s a lot of present and gift talk here in my blog today!).
  • Being present means simply tuning in to only what you are doing using your five senses.  You will enhance memory, feel more relaxed and in control, and enjoy more positive than negative to the experience.  Try wrapping a few gifts while tuning in to how the wrapping paper sounds, feels, and looks as you have it in your hands.  Let distractions come and go (mindfully visualize pushing the distraction away).  Take this time and devote what you can to it.
  • It does not mean to multitask.  But, we’ve all been there, doing things that are mundane automatically.  I’ve heard people say, “how else will we get everything done in a day”?  It’s the society we live in.  But, you do have control over how you spend your time.  It’s not about not having enough time, it’s about reshuffling how you spend your time.  
  • Mindfulness takes practice.  Set your timer for a few minutes in a quiet pleasant space and think of a pleasant image or memory and just take it in.  This proactive practice serves a few purposes: 1.) it allows you to wind down and enjoy some quiet time, 2.) it allows you to feel the relaxing benefit afterwards, and 3.) it provides positive reinforcement for you to consider adding more of these moments to your life.    
  • When distractions knock on your door, and they will, then imagine sweeping them away with a broom and coming right back to the image/memory or whatever you are trying to be mindful at.  Moments of mindfulness can deliver days of decompression.  
  • Notice how you feel afterwards and what the experience was like for you.  If it was hard, it will get easier.  If it was emotional, that is ok.  The emotions may have needed to come out.  Keep practicing, don’t give up.  A little positive self-change is better than no change at all.  You deserve this.   

Stay tuned for Holidays and Emotions that rise at this time of the year.

About our Guest Contributor:


Jodie Buonopane Freid is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor living and working outside of Boston, Ma.  Jodie is in private practice specializing in women’s care and general adult mental health.  Whether in the trenches of parenthood or not, Jodie’s passion lies in supporting women to remember that they matter, too.  Self-care, mindfulness, relaxation and stress reduction, exercise and nutrition, and teaching ways to improve sleep are her areas of passion and expertise.  Jodie is also a mother, wife, and animal lover who enjoys spending time with her two boys, making art, being outdoors, and taking care of her four pets (a dog, two cats, and a Russian Tortoise).  Jodie spends her “me time” doing pure barre, growing her practice, and writing or creating something!




The Juggle is Real.

modern mom

Guest Contributor: Vanessa Merlo Lewis

We hear it all the time: “There are not enough hours in the day!”

And I totally agree—motherhood is a constant, challenging balancing act to juggle time spent on family, friends and career.

Every mother experiences some sort of guilt, especially in the beginning, about not being able to commit 100% to any facet of her life.

Many of us set the bar to be the “perfect” parent, and when we (naturally) don’t meet those unrealistic expectations of superhero time management, we feel like we’re failing everyone, including ourselves.

We know that it is crucial to have “me time” set aside, a commitment to spending time away from the kids with our girlfriends, or a romantic date night with our spouse.

I encourage you to add your own personal physical wellness to that bucket of essential “me time” to re-set, relax, reflect and rejuvenate.

Below are a few manageable “Me time” activities that you can accomplish in under 10 minutes, that are significant and just for YOU:

  • Wake up 10 minutes before your family arises and have a cup of coffee alone to set your own intentions for the day
  • Download the app HeadSpace and do a quick 10-minute meditation in your living room before your kids wake up, during nap-time or after bedtime. They even have one for moms!
  • Once a month, plan a fun girls’ night out with friends
  • Once a week, plan at least 60 minutes of (real) alone time with your significant other
  • Try this quick and easy no-equipment-needed workout that you can literally do anywhere:

    4 sets of 20 reps:
    Jumping jacks
    Push ups
    Sit ups
    Tricep dips off chair
    Jumping jacks
    Alternating backward lunges
    High knees
    Butt kicks

Happy Mama = Happy Baby!

About Our Guest Contributor


Vanessa Merlo has been a part of the Boston health and fitness industry for nine years. Her passion for the business began in college, where she graduated from Suffolk University with a BSBA in Marketing. During her junior year, she started her own weight loss journey. She made a promise to herself right then and there. She would devote her time and energy to lose weight while learning how to sustain a clean, healthy life style. By doing so she lost 80lbs and stayed committed to a healthy lifestyle.

Her journey would take time to develop.  After graduating with a business degree, she went off into the corporate world. Realizing this career was not her passion; she quit her job, followed her heart and became a personal trainer and nutrition coach.

Vanessa continues to take classes, gain certifications and educate herself on this ever-revolving industry. She is a Board Certified Holistic Health Coach through IIN, along with Kettlebells, Pre-post Natal, TRX ,  and Crossfit certifications. She knows the healthiest, most natural way to lose weight and keep it off.

While honoring her craft and sharing her knowledge with others, she lost an astounding 110lbs. That promise she made years before came to fruition. Now, her goal is simple. Help those in need to begin their health and wellness journey. Her mission: Inspire and coach others to live a healthier life through food and fitness.

Contact Information:

Thanksgiving: A Time of Gratitude


Guest Contributor: Liz Sarantopoulos, MSW, LICSW

Every year on Thanksgiving, we gather with our friends and family to share a delicious meal together. We spend countless hours searching Pinterest for the perfect apple cider sangria, or how to brine and cook a turkey. With each saved pin, we’re making a silent vow to host a celebration that’s bigger and better than years past. We put so much time and energy into making it a “perfect day”, that we forget the true meaning of Thanksgiving. We forget that it’s a time to show Gratitude towards others.

With that in mind, I want to challenge all of you reading this. As you’re planning this year’s gathering, I challenge you to be thoughtful in the ways you show gratitude to your loved ones. Small acts of kindness go a long way.

So instead of planning an elaborate meal (you can purchase one at Whole Foods), plan small ways to show your appreciation.

Need help coming up with ideas?  Try one of these:

Do Something Thoughtful

Is your sister-in-law hosting dinner? Offer to clean up the dishes when everyone is done eating. Encourage her to sit and relax with a glass of wine (or a big piece of chocolate pie) while you tackle the dirty dishes in the kitchen.

Write a Thank-You Note

Does your mother watch your children during the week? Mail her a note that shares all of the ways in which you love and appreciate her. Make sure to let her know how much your children cherish their special time with Grandma.

Personalized Appreciation

Try adding a little note to each plate setting, telling your guest how their love and friendship has impacted your family’s year.

Be Patient and Kind

Does your 5-year-old insist on helping with the holiday prep? Take the time to teach her about the family recipes.  Be patient and supportive of the big mess she makes while adding the flour for Aunt Mary’s pie crust.

Smile and Be Friendly

Is your brother bringing his new girlfriend for Thanksgiving dinner? New SOs or guests are going to be naturally timid and shy at a family gathering. Greet them with a big, warm smile and let them know they are welcomed in your home.

I hope this inspires you to incorporate a few small acts of kindness and gratitude into your holiday celebrations. Think of it as starting a new tradition for your family. Share your acts of appreciation here! We’d love to see what other ideas folks come up with to say Thank You.

About Liz Sarantopoulos

Liz Sarantopoulos is a social worker living and working outside of Boston, MA. Liz helps strengthen emotional wellness in new mom’s by helping them achieve balance in their busy and stressful everyday lives. Liz is a wife, mother, and dog lover. She enjoys going on long walks with her beagle (Charlie), taking spinning & yoga classes, and baking cupcakes.  Liz has an adventurous spirit and loves discovering new places both near and far.