‘Tis the season, folks. Yep. It’s coming. The holiday season brings joy, festivities, friends, and family. But for many, it also brings anxiety, added stress, and full-blown migraines. So, how are you planning to keep your sanity through the hectic nature of gifts, budgets, and Aunt Carole’s Jell-O mold? Find your bliss this holiday season in the little things. And follow these tips for keeping yourself merry and bright through the new year.
1. Planning Ahead for Everything You Can
For me, it’s all about checklists. Meal prepping for even four or six guests at a time requires serious time management. But then there are gifts and counting the little ones who need toys, new socks, and Fortnite V-Bucks. It’s a lot to manage. So, before things kick off, get serious about organizing your time and making your lists. Plan ahead and start pricing Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas hams now.
Plan ahead, too, for the expected unexpected. You know who’s coming for dinner, and you know who needs gifts. But maybe prepare an extra plate or two, just in case unexpected guests sit down to the dinner table. Purchase a few additional, marginally priced, gender-neutral presents in the event an extra gift is needed at the last minute. And don’t forget to work in some extra time to handle laundry, dishes, and vacuuming between visits.
2. Practicing Acceptance
The sooner you realize and come to grips with the idea that no holiday is “perfect,” the more at peace you’ll be about accepting mishaps when they arise. Recognize, too, that no matter how prepared you are for dinner guests, inevitably, someone will run late, putting a damper on your fine-tuned meal prep schedule. No matter how kind and welcoming you are with friends and family, someone is going to bring up a touchy subject or be offended. And regardless of your efforts to create a memorable experience, someone’s going to drink a little too much, cause a scene, and ruin your lovely evening. You can’t control these types of instances. But you can always control just how you react to them. Be mindful of your expectations, and you’ll be more accepting when things do go awry.
3. Don’t Hesitate to Book Elsewhere
Even if your house is big enough to comfortably accommodate traveling family members during the holidays, don’t be afraid to book the Airbnb or nearby hotel room. You’ll need some time away to decompress and relax, which you might not be able to do if you feel like you’re constantly entertaining. Clark Griswold certainly makes the case for bringing in all the in-laws and cousins as a not-so-bright idea. But even if you aren’t expecting a National Lampoon’s level of visitors this holiday season, consider booking them accommodations elsewhere. They’ll likely appreciate the alone time away, too, making those times you do spend together more pleasant and memorable.
4. Healthy Fuel for the Go-Go-Go Season
For many families, the holidays mean entertaining at your home, traveling to various family members’ homes, running errands, last-minute gift shopping, and a million to-do list tasks in between. Keep your sanity by incorporating some healthy snacks and treats along the way. Before the schedule gets hectic, plan ahead with healthy snacks for you and your kids. Have some easy meals in the freezer for those nights everyone needs to eat but you don’t feel like cooking or having leftovers from the holiday meal. Make smoothies or buy protein shakes you can grab on the go. And it probably wouldn’t hurt to incorporate a multivitamin into your morning routine, either. Having healthy snacks around will allow you to fight the urge to graze and over-indulge in the not-so-healthy. It’ll be helpful in keeping you energized, too, so you can tackle all those holiday to-lists and go-go-go errands.
5. Download Calming Apps
When you need instant peace and tranquility, try out some of the great apps you can download right to your phone. Here’s a shortlist of a few favorites to sample. And whenever those tense moments creep up this holiday season, go sit in the car or lock yourself in the bathroom and practice some mindfulness and deep breathing with the help of these apps.
- Dark Noise
- Simple Habit
6. Pencil in Some Quiet Time for Yourself
Whether you’re into a morning jog or prefer a fluffy blanket and a good book, pencil in some quiet time for yourself this holiday season. Even if it’s just a Tuesday afternoon, find those few moments you can to take a load off and relax. Get your hair done. Book the pedicure. Secure yourself in the bathroom with your favorite tunes, a glass of wine, and a bubble bath. Whatever brings you peace and relaxation, mark time on your busy calendar and keep those appointments with yourself. They will provide the pause you need to keep your sanity throughout the hectic holiday season.
7. Stick to Your Budget
Part of what makes the bustling holiday season so stressful for many is the risk of overspending and blowing the budget. By the time January rolls around, I’ve grounded my family to ramen noodle dinners and enforced the “don’t ask me for another thing” rule. It can be intense when you worry about your funds for meals, gas money to travel, gift-giving, and holiday details. To combat this anxiety, go back to the lists. Start creating gift lists and meal ingredient lists now. Start buying those few things you can now, so you’re not over-extending all at once come November and December. Buy yourself a few gas cards with any extra cash you have this month. They’ll come in handy for last-minute fill-ups during your holiday travels. We always get a few fast-food gift cards, too, throughout the year. When you’re hustling about, it’s a quick and budget-friendly way to grab a sub or drive-thru burger. But the key to sticking to your budget is sticking to your lists. Don’t be impulsed by holiday sales. Don’t buy more than you need to for those on your gift roster.
8. Traditions Can Bring Joy
Sometimes, despite the hectic running around and holiday celebrating, traditions can bring all the balance and peace back to your world. Enjoy those traditions you do have and really savor those moments when you have them. And if you don’t have traditions that bring joy, create some! Load up the kids in their pajamas and pack the hot cocoas for a drive around to see the neighborhood lights. At our house, we have some family time with popcorn to gather around and watch a few classic movies. White elephant gift exchanges can bring fun to a tired family get-together. Whatever traditions you embrace, make time to enjoy them every holiday season.
9. Traditions Can Be Nightmares
For others, it’s the traditions that bring anxiety and stress. Again, Clark Griswold makes a fair point in sticking to tradition as a bad idea. Remember when everyone packs up to leave (after the squirrel ran through the house), and Clark refuses to let them leave? “Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas!” If your family traditions are causing more stress than they are bringing joy, abandon them. Don’t force what no longer makes sense. And maybe you can introduce a new tradition that everyone can support and be happy with.
10. Crank the Tunes
Christmas music will either bring you joy or drive you mad. Consider loading up your iPod with new playlists to get you through the holidays. Have those holiday favorites at your fingertips when you’re baking cookies or decorating the tree. But then tap into your 90s heavy metal favorites in the car if you need some sanity and good, old-fashioned Nirvana in your life. Create a playlist for the kids and keep a separate playlist for yourself. Whenever you’re feeling the holiday pressures, crank the tunes that relieve those stresses.
11. Be Careful Not to Overindulge in Bad Habits
Unfortunately, most of us have a few bad habits or vices that we turn to when we’re feeling stressed. Whatever your triggers are, be mindful not to overindulge. Stick to one glass of wine instead of three, no matter how annoying your “Cousin Eddie” might be. And even if Dad starts talking politics after he swore he wouldn’t, and the entire dinner conversation has taken a drastic turn for the worse, don’t reach for the cigarette. Instead, step away briefly for some deep breathing exercises. Remind yourself again that there’s no such thing as a perfect holiday, and come back to this list of tips for ideas to help relieve those tense holiday moments.
12. Prioritize Your Sleep
You might need to spend a few late nights wrapping gifts or meal prepping for the big holiday meal approaching. But don’t make it a habit. Not getting enough sleep will only sharpen your edges and make you more irritable. Consider fresh sheets and lavender aromatics when you tuck in for the night. Turn off the television and put on those crashing ocean wave sounds. And once the busy schedule starts, don’t hesitate to use that free hour in an afternoon for a cat nap. Make time to prioritize your rest, so you have the energy and mental clarity to put your best foot forward this holiday season.
13. Journal Your Meltdowns
If your brother-in-law says something off-color at dinner, if the turkey isn’t quite done in the middle, or if the kids peeked on their gifts, write about it. Keep a “meltdown journal” for yourself to get those moments of frustration out of your head. It can be really helpful for your sanity to record your feelings, away from others, in a space where expressing them won’t be hurtful. Getting those impulsive or negative thoughts out of your mind and onto paper can help take the edge off of your emotions, too. And come February, when the holidays are over, you can go back and reflect on what went wrong to help you prepare better next year.
14. Aromas Bring Holiday Spirit
Tap into your five senses to find calm this holiday season. Keep your sanity by introducing aromas you love in your home and in your car. Peppermint, for example, is proven to boost alertness. Citrus aromatics are also known to bring energy vibes. And maybe other flavors, like pumpkin spice, warm apple pie, and holiday spruce, can help transform your space into a calming holiday environment.
15. Mindfulness with Exercise, Yoga, or Meditation
Find time for reflection and mindfulness. Schedule it on your calendar so you can commit to it, too. For you, self-reflection might be best during a long, solo drive. For others, a brief exercise routine, yoga, and meditation are best. Taking the time to sort your mind and focus on what really matters to you will allow you to prevent overwhelming thoughts and emotions from ruining your day. Deep breathing, whether it’s in a cat stretch pose or part of your slow jog, with rush oxygen to your cells, helping you to feel more rejuvenated.
16. Look for Ways to Give Back
Another way to find personal peace and sanity this holiday season is by enriching the lives of others. Look for charities you can support locally, like a Coats for Kids project, toy drives, or the Salvation Army. Volunteer any free time at a local animal shelter or serve a meal at a soup kitchen. Explore ways to help those less fortunate in your area, and you’ll find the perspective you need to appreciate more. Get the kids in on your charitable works, too. It could become a new holiday tradition you do as a family.
17. Get Help If You Need It
For some, the stress and anxiety associated with the holidays are so overwhelming that it’s too much to bear. If the thought of the holidays has you on edge, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Talk with your doctor now about resources and help that might be available to you throughout the season. And with therapy apps that connect you immediately to professionals who can help, downloading those might be a great asset for you.
Remember, the holiday season is supposed to be merry and bright, with fond memories, great food, and loved ones. But for those moments that don’t spark joy, reference these tips to keep your sanity. And there’s always a good read or two available here at Ghost Blog Writers with our ongoing blog series.