It’s supposed to be an exciting time of year. But, in real life, the holiday season can be more distressing than merry and bright.
For starters, there are all of the expectations that our minds (and Hallmark movies) set for us. And when those expectations aren’t met, the result can be feelings of disappointment.
The holiday season can also bring a sense of loss of control. Increased spending, eating, drinking, social plans, and altered schedules are just a few ways you may feel your control is severed during the holidays.
You don’t have to settle for a stressful, chaotic, holiday season. Here are some ways to keep your joy, all the way through to the New Year.
Make a Budget and Stick with It
Don’t let financial stress wreak havoc on your holidays. Start planning early and look for deals; don’t assume you are going to get the lowest price at the last minute.
Be realistic with your planning. This is one of the few circumstances where being overly optimistic is unhelpful. You will feel much more at ease after the holidays if you’ve stuck to your budget and have money left over.
Own Your Schedule
Put a stop to the chaos with a clear schedule that’s in writing somewhere visible. Set boundaries for what you have to do in order to leave room for what you want to do.
Tired of rushing from one event to the next? Anticipate events and mentally prepare for them, rather than letting them sneak up on you at the last minute. This way, you can really engage in each moment and feel more satisfied once the holidays are all over.
Don’t Skimp on Sleep
Missing too much sleep can have a negative impact on your health and wellbeing. Be mindful of your caffeine intake and try to avoid getting into the habit of relying on caffeine to help you make it through the day.
Remember that chocolate and other sugary snacks can also make it difficult to fall asleep. It may be better to skip the indulgent desserts if you’re getting close to bedtime.
Schedule in Extra Self-Care
Be aware of how much time you’re spending with others, running errands, or over-extending yourself. Be sure to schedule in some self-care, whether that means a quiet night at home or even a long walk in nature—whatever you need to recharge.
Don’t Forget Your Exercise
It’s easy to let your exercise routine fall by the wayside during the holidays. Keep up with your exercise routine and think about setting a small fitness goal while you’re at it. This might mean going for a 15-minute walk in the mornings, taking a weekend yoga class, or signing up for a boot camp. Set a routine that is meaningful and appropriate for you. The key is to set it AND stick to it.
Eat Some Vegetables
Just because there are 6 dozen cookies on your kitchen counter courtesy of well-meaning friends and neighbors doesn’t mean you need to eat the sweets morning, noon, and night.
Add extra vegetables, fruit, and other foods that are healthy for YOU to your grocery list and stock your kitchen with good choices. Know there will be extra goodies during the holidays, but maintain control over your diet when you’re home or between parties. Your body will thank you.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
More festive events can mean more alcohol consumption than typical. But too much drinking can have a detrimental impact on your mood and health.
Keep in mind that alcohol is a depressant. And drinking to excess will likely result in anxious feelings as you sober up. Alcohol can also disrupt your ability to fall and stay asleep. Limit your alcohol consumption in order to truly enjoy the holidays.
Make the Holidays Yours
You are under no obligation to carry on traditions or attend events that aren’t meaningful to you. Your holidays can be whatever you want them to be.
Take note of what the holidays mean to you. What you want them to mean and what they actually mean may be different. For some, the holidays include not so pleasant memories and can trigger a variety of difficult emotions. If this is the case, write them down or even better, talk to a therapist about them.
Combat the Cold
If the cold weather gets you down, be aware of it.
Take some extra time to spend in a warm bath, hot tub, sauna, or in front of a “happy lamp”. Plan some vigorous activities outdoors during high sunlight hours. Even if you don’t have a winter hobby like skiing or ice-skating, get bundled up and shovel, or go for a walk. Snowshoeing is a sport that requires little to no coordination and can be a fun way to get outside during the daylight hours, no matter how cold the weather.
Don’t Hide Behind Baggy Clothes
Tempted to trade in your “regular” clothes for looser, more comfortable clothes during the holidays? Don’t. Wearing baggy clothes can hide weight gain from overindulging during the holiday season. Not to mention, hiding in your sweatpants can keep you from feeling your best.
Instead, wear your favorite form-fitting clothing—you know, the LBD or stylish pants that make you feel confident.
Own Your Holidays
Remember that you’re in charge of your holidays and what they mean to you. It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed, overstretched, or overly chaotic here and there during the holidays. But, if you continue to struggle during the holidays, seek the services of a qualified provider to explore why and what you can do about it in more detail.