By this point, we know the signs of the coming holidays all too well. Holiday cups from your local coffee shop are released way too early. The memes about being excited for Fall are quickly followed by memes about the closeted early Christmas music listeners. Then come the decorations and the holiday plans, and before we know it, we're in full-blown holiday wonderland mode. It's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, and yet every year around November, I start to feel an underlying sense of anxiety constantly buzzing in the background of all my Christmas cheer.
I partially blame social media for the pressure to keep up with the holiday pace and consumerism for making us feel like we need to buy all the things by Black Friday in order to get our holiday shopping done on time (at discounted prices before the deals are gone forever). But I also know I'm responsible for piling on the commitments and not creating better boundaries around my December, which inevitably ends up being one of the most stressful months of the year for me. I spent some time thinking about how I might approach the season differently this year, and here are some common holiday stressors and accompanying ways to bring back your sanity and start enjoying a little more of that holiday magic this year.
There are mounting expectations from family members to spend the holidays together
Of course, part of the beauty of the holidays is getting to spend extra time with those you love. But too much of any good thing can be tough, and add in blended families and grandkids who everyone wants to see and all the places you're expected to be, and sometimes it can just be too much. Ask yourself what feels best for you and your immediate family, and commit to only what you can handle. It's hard to think of hurting people's feelings or letting others down, but isn't it better to give a full and present version of yourself to those you choose to spend your time with than a fragmented and frazzled version of yourself that you've spread too thin for too many? Set expectations with family up front and let them know your plans, and then hold strong to those boundaries you've set for yourself as the big day(s) approaches.
Your social calendar is out of control
The best advice I've given myself is to stop, listen to my body, and get more comfortable with saying "no."
Company parties, girls' wine and craft nights, progressive dinners, catching the local tree lighting: there are SO many things to attend at any given moment in December and even in November (how many Friendsgivings is too many?!). You'll burn out quickly if you decide to commit to every offer that's thrown your way. Instead, choose a few of the can't-miss events for the month you know you want to attend, and take a moment before every "Yes" RSVP to pause and ask yourself if that event is 100 percent necessary for your well-being. Try to leave at least two nights a week open and without plans so you can literally plan for nothing and use that time to rest, watch a Christmas movie, wrap some gifts, or do anything else that will fill you up.
Your body feels worn down and exhausted
It's no wonder people tend to get sick more often this time of year. Between the weather, the heavy foods, the extra sugar, the stress, and the lack of sleep, you're not exactly setting your body up for success. Take self-care seriously this time of year and schedule some extra yoga sessions or other workout classes, and do it as a favor to your well-being rather than as a punishment for those five extra croissants you had this week (it happens). Prioritize sleep and swap out your morning coffee from time to time with a healing cup of hot water and lemon to reset your system a little bit.
There is booze everywhere you turn
Why does it feel like you are being offered alcohol at every single moment this month? I've recently heard my brain reminding me I don't have to drink a cocktail or a glass of wine just because it's available to me (and usually free). Novel idea, I know. But it's tough to not want to participate in the celebratory vibes of the season or even to have a drink or two to take the edge off of time with family or awkward work events. Allow yourself one or two nights a week to partake in the holiday spirits, and otherwise swap out your cocktails or wine with a fun (and low-sugar) mocktail like pomegranate juice and soda water or a soothing cup of hot tea. The less alcohol/sugar you consume, the better your sleep, skin, and overall mental well-being will be.
Your bank account kind of makes you want to cry
There's not much worse than being constantly stressed about money. All the holiday shopping and gift buying can add up quickly and start to feel like a black cloud over all that Christmas cheer. At no point does the tradition of gift buying have to turn into the reason you go into debt. If gift buying is stressing you out and straining your finances, find ways to cut back where you can. Ask your family if you can draw names for gifts rather than buying everyone something (especially in big families). Try hand-making gifts if that's something you enjoy. Or my personal favorite is making a vow with your girlfriends to do "experience" gifts rather than material things. Plan a small weekend getaway for later in the year, or take yourselves out to lunch and a museum or anything else local you've been wanting to see. Or consider donating to a cause that's close to a loved one's heart in their honor. We all don't need more stuff in our homes. Think outside the box, and give a little differently this season.
The best advice I've given myself is to stop, listen to my body, and get more comfortable with saying "no." Both things can be hard and unnatural at first, but the more you practice them, the easier it gets. Cheers to a healthy, happy, and surprisingly sane holiday season this year