We all say “happy holidays”, but how often to we actually mean it? Happy isn’t always the first state of being that comes to mind when you think holidays, and the inevitable stressors that accompany the month of festivities that spans December 1 to January 1. But the season of joy and giving shouldn’t be the season of dread and despair. Here are some tips to help you smoothly navigate a time of family get-togethers, turkey feasts, and the love-it-or-hate-it boozy eggnog.
- Set boundaries
Knowing when to say “no” is one of the most important parts of surviving the holidays. With a plethora of festivities to attend, it’s often not possible to take part in all of them. Prioritizing the gatherings you do want to go to will help ensure that you actually want to be there, and aren’t resentful that you have to attend yet another social event. For the introverts out there, taking some time out for yourself to re-charge your batteries is important to help you be at your best when social obligations do come up.
- Don’t over-complicate things
Holidays are often filled with elaborate feasts and exciting activities, but don’t feel obligated to put out all the stops if it’s causing you more stress than it’s worth. Chances are, the friends and family who are coming over for turkey dinner aren’t expecting you to serve a fancy, multi-course meal. Nor do you need to make a dozen types of holiday cookies. On the contrary, they would rather get to spend time with you outside of kitchen preparations. Try not to fuss about everything being perfect, and focus on what is truly important, spending quality time with those you love most.
- Ask for help when you need it
If you’re planning a big event, don’t feel like you have to tackle it alone. Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses can help you to hone in on what you’re good at, while bringing in the cavalry to make up for the things that aren’t quite your forte. Love to schmooze but hate cooking? See if you can co-host a big dinner with someone who likes being in the kitchen, so you can focus on entertaining guests. You’ll both be happier getting to take responsibility for tasks that you feel comfortable with.
- Moderation, moderation, moderation
Big meals with plenty of alcohol to accompany them are a staple of the holiday season. The first most important part is accepting that that’s the way it is. The holidays only come around once a year, so why deprive yourself of your favourite traditions and treats? If you want to be more mindful of your eating this holiday season, try to focus less on “what” you are eating, but rather “how much?” Portion control is probably the #1 thing that goes out the window, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Eat and drink the things that you enjoy, while knowing when to stop. If there’s an over-abundance of options, as there often is, pick the items that you know you can’t go without, and leave the ones you are less keen on.
- Plan ahead
Once you have an idea of what your holiday season will look like, and what obligations you’ve got on your plate, it’s a good idea to start planning out how you will accomplish everything. Lists are your best friend. Not only do they keep you organized, checking things off gives you a sense of accomplishment and helps motivate you to keep getting things done. Use technology to your advantage as well, setting reminders in your calendar to make sure that you’re on track.
- Take the emphasis off of traditional gift giving
Not only will it save you money, it can also help you to lower your stress knowing that you don’t have to worry about finding the perfect present for that one picky person who you know is never satisfied with what they get. Instead focus on showing those who are important to you how much you appreciate them. Make a homemade gift, or write them a letter about why you are grateful to have them in your life. Another idea is to come together as a family, and rather than finding elaborate gifts for each other, putting that money towards the charity of your choice. After all, it is more about giving than it is about getting.
- Don’t forget to have fun
The holidays only come around once a year, but despite this, we often get so caught up in organizing the festivities that we forget why they are actually happening in the first place. It’s not about the things; the gifts, the food, the decorations. It’s about the people. So try and slow down and focus on the “who”, rather than the “what.” Catch up with someone you haven’t seen all year, or spend extra special quality time with someone you see regularly. Celebrating being together; that’s what the holidays are truly about.