"As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same." - Donald Westlake
I don’t know about where you live, but here in the city the holidays are already in full swing.
Shop windows are decorated, lights are blazing, the mistletoe has been hung (or is that just in my apartment?), and holiday party invites are out.
Despite the cold winds, this is one of my favorite times of the year. It can also be one of the most hectic and stressful times of the year.
While our days get shorter, we tend to try to cram more into them under the pressure of our Holiday "shoulds". There’s something about the lure of holiday joy and the scent of Christmas cookies that can send even the most balanced of us into a frenzied holiday tail-spin.
I’ve spent more than one holiday sobbing out of stress, exhaustion, overwhelm, and disappointment. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this.
This holiday season, I’m going for less stress and more calm and fun.
Want to join me?
I made this Holiday Survival Guide for you:
1. Decide not to do it all.
I know this doesn’t sound like the fun I promised, but "less is more" applies to the holidays as well.
It can be so tempting to say yes to every invite, secret Santa, gift exchange, toy drive, baking get-together, and homemade-gift-making party that sleds its way into your inbox. I know, I too get FOMO. But, saying yes to everything is the shortest path to holiday burnout. I hereby give you permission to say no.
A few tips:
- Decide ahead of time which holiday parties and events are important to you and allow yourself to say a grateful and gracious no to the rest. That co-worker’s sister's party you declined just opened up a night for ice-skating or making out under the mistletoe.
- Never picked up a needle and thread? Now is not the time to channel your inner Martha Stewart and commit to homemade gifts for all of your in-laws' kids and pets.
- This holiday season think about subtracting from your todo list instead of adding to it.
- How can you make it easy? What would actually be fun? Say yes to those items and tasks.
2. Schedule self-care.
I know you’ve heard this one before, but are you actually doing it?
Love or hate the term “self-care”, it’s an important key to stress reduction and tends to float up the chimney this time of year. I like to schedule “me” breaks throughout the week like I would any other meeting or appointment. This ensures I don’t skimp on taking care of myself. This might sound a little selfish, but when we don’t take care of ourselves first, we end up with nothing left to give others. As my oh-so-wise mom always say, “Oxygen masks on first.”
Do it now: Schedule a few 20-minute or half-hour “me” breaks.
A few “me” break ideas: A solo bath, a leisurely walk (do not multitask and shop for others here), time with your favorite non-educational read (i.e. guilty pleasure book), look through that stack of forgotten magazines, give yourself a mani-pedi or treat yourself to one, a hot chocolate or tea break, a call with an old friend…get creative and indulgent here!
Exercise doesn't just benefit our beach bods, it makes our brains healthier, too. A little sweat-sesh can do wonders for our mood, stress levels, overall emotional health, and even our creativity.
I’d be lying if I said squeezing in my run was a breeze over the holidays. Between the late-night parties and more to do, it’s easy to let exercise take a back seat. Exercise is one of the best ways to ensure we get through the season with a sense of calm and a smile on our face.
I sound like I have a clipboard in my hand at all times, but I like to schedule a few workouts in to make sure I make time for them. Yes, exercise counts as self-care, so you can get a twofer here.
A few tips for sweating it out over the holidays:
- Make a workout date with a friend and sign up for a class you’ve been dying to try. This is a gift you’ll both benefit from. Exercise + Friendship = Happiness.
- Don’t be afraid to do a mini-workout. Toss the all-or-nothing thinking this holiday season and go with a few shorter workouts. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish in 15-20 minutes, and those minutes will add up quickly.
Oh, yeah...sleep. Man, sleep gets the short end of the stick this time of year and tends to be one of the first things that takes a hit. Yes, this too is technically self-care, but it deserves its own bullet point. I know many of us think we can’t afford to add in more time for sleep, but the truth is, we can’t afford not to.
Lack of sleep affects our mood, health, looks, weight, attention, concentration, memory, and reasoning and problem solving skills. If you still aren't convinced - lack of sleep also affects our sex lives. (Read more here)
A few get-more-zzz’s tips:
- Start an evening ritual to help you wind down. Read a few tips here and here.
- Set an alarm to remind you to unplug and get ready for bed.
- As tempting as it is to try to catch up on the weekends (I’m guilty of this), aim to keep your sleep schedule consistent on both the weekdays and weekends.
5. Buy yourself a gift.
Yes, this is the season for giving and being grateful for what we have, sharing, and caring - all of it is beautiful and why I love this season. But, when we give, give, give, there's a tendency to feel depleted and resentful.
Who hasn’t gotten everyone else the perfect gift only to be filled with a sense of disappointment when we don’t get the same in return?
I know, this is not what the holiday spirit is all about...for anyone who is less than perfect and self-actualized, this is my tip to keep the inner-Scrooge at bay: Buy yourself a thoughtful gift. Get some bonus points and have it wrapped beautifully and wait to open it with the rest of your holiday gifts. Either way, this will open you up to wanting to give more to others, because your cup will be full.
While the holidays are a beautiful time for togetherness, giving, and helping others it has to start within. When we forget to take care of ourselves and pile too much on our holiday plate, we leave ourselves ragged and empty and can't give from a genuine and full space.
Wishing you a calm and fun holiday!