How To Survive The Holidays With Your Sanity Intact
I f*&king LOVE the Holidays. I love the lights on all the houses. I love the big a$$ Christmas tree my mom special orders every year (despite the fact that we usually have to hack it up into pieces afterward to get it out of the house). I love giving gifts. I love (love) the plethora of baked goods, and the turkey buns my brothers and I always make after the main event. I love the obligatory family hangs because I really love my family.
Yes, my love for the holiday season sounds much like a Hallmark card, and for that, I’m both proud and ashamed because how sweet? But also, how cheesy?
But what about all those feels they don’t put in Hallmark cards? Allow me to get real for a minute (or several). As much as I love the holidays, I also really (really) struggle during the holidays.
I set all of these high expectations about how my holiday experiences should go, and how much fun we should all have, and how much my brothers will love their gifts and how much snow should be on the ground to make it count as a “white Christmas” and how I’ll feel on Christmas morning. And any time an event doesn’t live up to my expectations I feel sad, or bad, or guilty, or am overcome with an overwhelming anxiety that I’m not doing it right.
AND THEN, like the highly sensitive person I am, come Boxing Day, I’m a complete emotional wreck because Christmas is over and we’re all going back to real life soon, and I was so busy worrying about everything being perfect that I forgot to actually enjoy myself during my favourite time of year.
So now, you’re probably all like, K so WHY should I take advice on surviving the holidays from someone like you?
It’s a valid question.
But here’s the thing. I need this survival guide. Probably more than anyone else reading this. I’m essentially writing myself new rules to follow because I can’t go on Holiday-ing the way I’ve Holiday-ed in the past. And I figure if I can help myself (which we all know is harder than helping others), well then, maybe I can help you, too.
Read on at your own risk as I spit my (new) truth on how to survive the tumultuous holiday times with (some) grace, a (fairly) good attitude, and a (mostly) positive outlook.
How To Survive The Holidays With Your Sanity Intact
First Things, First: It's About Presence, not presents.
It’s easy to get wrapped up (pun intended) in the whole economy of the Christmas Holidays. Between the office gift exchange, the Secret Santa with your GF’s and buying for everyone in your family, it all adds up.
While gift giving is great — as my mom says, “it’s a defining moment in a person’s life when it feels better to give than receive,” — this year I’ve decided to focus more on being present with my loved ones and all the activities surrounding the holidays, and less on the actual presents.
I want to show up for myself and my family this Christmas. I want to really be there, around the dinner table, enjoying the catch-ups and my grandma’s one-liners, instead of being in my head worried about if I bought enough, enough, enough gifts.
(Don’t worry fam, I still got you a little somethin' somethin’ for under the tree.)
2. Set a Budget
Chances are, even given the whole “presence not presents” spiel, like me, you’re still going to want to gift your loved ones a little somethin’ somethin’, too.
For a lot of people, myself included, money can be one of the leading causes of stress, anxiety, and depression over the holidays. All of those blue holiday feelings can easily be avoided by setting a budget. And because I’m not a financial expert, I’ve sourced this simple 5 step guide for setting and sticking to a holiday budget.
3. Disconnect to Connect
As we get older and life continues to send us in different directions, the time my siblings and I do have together becomes more and more sacred. So this year, if you’re texting me, or tweeting me, or sending me a message on Facebook, chances are, I might be a little slow to respond.
Here’s a fun challenge: This Christmas Day, put your phone away. I know it’s tempting to Snapchat the antics around the tree, and the allure of a freshly stocked Instagram feed is a lot to resist, but there’s something to be said for being in the moment and experiencing life IRL, instead of through a screen.
(Spoiler alert: just because you didn’t 'gram it, it still, most definitely did happen.)
4. Let go of expectations
Like I said, I have a tendency to set high expectations for myself and also for the holiday experience in general. It’s a fault of mine. I'm aware of it. Because while I’m busy gauging whether or not baking Christmas cookies with my siblings is exactly how I envisioned it to be in my head, I’m missing out on the actual experience of baking cookies with my siblings.
When you let go of expectations, you allow space for authenticity. This year, I’m dropping my expectations so I can enjoy the unexpected. So far, it’s a lot more fun.
5. Dare to Splurge
This, coming from the girl who in the last three days since she’s been home for the holidays has eaten two homemade cinnamon buns, four pieces of shortbread, one piece of baklava, and two sugar cookies.
This, coming from the girl who has tried and failed over 10 different fad diets.
This, coming from the girl who is writing a book about her relationship with her body (among other things).
Yes, I get it, it’s responsible and healthy to watch what you eat, but sometimes you just have to live a little (and eat a lot). IMHO, the holidays are not the time for observing strict diets. When else do you get to justify having cookies for breakfast?
This year, I’m taking the guilt away from my eating habits and giving myself permission to indulge.
6. Make Time For Exercise & Activity
Appropriately placed, I’m also making time for exercise and activity. Because as Elle Woods famously said, “Exercise releases endorphins and endorphins make you happy.”
If you’re feeling at all stressed — about your credit card bill next month, about your parents meeting your new BF, about shipments arriving on time, about travel, about anything — exercise is the perfect way to relieve some of those uneasy feelings.
(It also makes indulging in all the Christmas treats a lot more guilt-free.)
I know you’re on vacay and stuff, and probably the last thing you want to do is stare at the clock on a treadmill, so don’t. Round up the troops to go cross-country skiing together. Or go for a winter walk with the fam. Or hit the outdoor rink with friends. Bundle up with your S.O. for a late night stroll to admire the lights in your neighbourhood. Build a snowman.
Anything that burns a few calories, induces a sweat, or gets you outside, will 100% help you battle the holiday blues.
7. Set Intentions For The New Year
Call them resolutions, call them goals, call them what you want to call them. It’s never too early to start setting intentions for the new year.
I’m a firm believer that setting goals makes you a better human. Every year, I spend a few hours thinking about what I want to achieve in the next year, who I want to become, and the direction I want to head. The beautiful thing about being human is that we are constantly evolving and that we are allowed to change, encouraged even.
Set lofty goals. Dare to dream. But also be realistic. Don’t set benchmarks so high that you’re destined to fail. Like... I have had “lose 10 pounds” on the top of my goals lists for approximately the last 17 years but this year, I’m taking it off my list because unless I get really bad food poisoning or something, that’s just straight up not realistic. I realize that now.
Once you’ve spent some time setting your goals, start reaching for them.
Spoiler Alert: You don’t have to wait for the ball to drop to start being a better you.
If you need help setting your 2017 goals, even though it’s like, soooo last year, I still love The Every Girl’s Definitive Guide to Setting Successful Goals. It’s smart, simple and straight to the point.
8. Make Time For Self Care
Yes, your relatives are in town, and you have presents to wrap and people to see and spiked eggnog to indulge in, but when the holiday hustle has its grip on you, it’s important to make time in your holiday schedule for self-care practices.
This doesn’t have to be complicated or involved. It might just mean sleeping in an extra hour or taking a break from the last-minute shopping to do something for yourself. If you’re feeling run down, take a hot bath or skip the GNO (girls night out) for a GNI (girls night in). Steal away from the family for a while and get lost in a good book, or take twenty for some at-home yoga. After all, these are your holidays, too.
If you’re anything like me and you don’t spend a little time every day, doing something for yourself, the holiday burnout will hit you before you even get to the main event.
9. Feel your Feelings
Okay, so you’ve followed all of my (not so) sage advice, but are still feeling those holiday blues bearing down on you. Hear me when I say this: IT’S OKAY.
Sometimes, the best thing I can do for myself when I’m overwhelmed with stress, overwrought with anxiety, or overcome with sadness is to straight up feel those feelings. Face them head on instead of trying to hide or run from them.
We all need to be a little easier on ourselves and acknowledge that, in the end, we’re only human and these feelings are 100% ours, and it’s 100% OKAY to have them.