Updated: Dec 7, 2022
The holidays are here!
Cue the gift buying, jam-packed weekends, friends, family, Mariah Carey, yummy food and excessive amounts of cranberry garnished beverages.
While this is the most wonderful time of the year for many of us, the holidays can pass in the blink of an eye and leave us feeling depleted. Why is that? Why is one of the happiest times of the year sometimes the most draining?
I think this sense of overwhelm occurs for many reasons. For one, it’s a lot of people — a lot of face time. Thanks to Covid, large groups of people can still be triggering for many of us. The small talk, the 21 questions from family members and on top of that, the onslaught of germs that comes with large groups of people! Hello anxiety.
If your family is anything like mine, then there are lots of kids running around. Lots of kids = lots of germs. For me, there is this constant tug-of-war between wanting to roll around on the floor with my little cousins and nephews and the desperate need to wash my entire body off in the sink immediately afterwards.
Then there is the bittersweet issue of being surrounded by food & booze 24/7. Christmas cookies, hot cocoa, candy canes..treats for days. Alcohol suddenly becomes the centerpiece of family gatherings and holiday girls’ nights. It can be hard to resist the late night espresso martini (and you shouldn’t — its all about balance!).
Lastly, the holiday season can be an especially tough time for anyone who has lost someone close to them (aka most of us). There is this mix of emotions ranging from happy nostalgia and intense sadness wishing we could spend this time with those we love that are no longer with us.
** I found this blog post helpful if you're looking for some help dealing with grief during the holidays.
Mix the big gatherings, food and alcohol, lingering feelings of sadness, potential sickness and then tack on sleep deprivation (shout out to you moms) and it’s the perfect equation for burnout. No wonder we get stressed during the holidays! It’s a lot of emotions that can affect us both physically and emotionally. The good news, is that these feelings are completely normal and you are not alone.
The following are a list of ways that I have found help me to stay sane during this chaotic season. I hope some of these can help you feel more at ease and more present. ** Try to remember that these are special times with the people you love the most -- moments you will never get back. There is nothing worse than looking back on years where you wanted to feel happy and present but you couldn’t get out of your own way enough to relax and soak it in!
1. Spend time alone
Whether it’s your morning routine, your midday gym break or your late-night walk around the neighborhood, schedule and prioritize that one-on-one time with yourself. This is crucial for my everyday life but even more so during the holidays. Give yourself that chance to take a deep breath and check in with yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure you fill yours up first!
2. Get outside
You're at a holiday brunch or a work dinner party and you’re suddenly feeling overwhelmed. We’ve all been there; the room is stuffy, the drinks started hitting 20 minutes ago and you’re antsy. You worry you’ve run out of things to say or that you’ve said too much, whatever the case may be, try stepping outside. Walk out onto the back deck or take an important “phone call” outside the restaurant. If you’re in the appropriate setting, maybe you can suggest a group walk. Sometimes getting outside and taking a sip of fresh air is all you need to chill out.
3. For every drink, have a glass of water
This is something I am always trying to remember to do, and when I do, it is an absolute game changer. After each drink you consume, try to remember to fill a glass of water and just CHUG it. Keep the glass next to you throughout the night and ask the bartender to refill it often. You want to stay hydrated to prevent that early morning headache. You will thank yourself when you’re driving to Aunt Margaret’s annual Yankee Swap the next day, trust me.
4. Don’t forget your greens
It can be tough to stick to a healthy diet when everyone’s swapping Christmas cookies and making gingerbread houses but if you make a point to consciously incorporate greens into your meals, your body will thank you. More often than not, there is some sort of salad option at family/work gatherings, or at the least, a veggie platter. Hit those up! If you are going somewhere that you know won’t have a lot of healthy options, bring your own! Volunteer to bring the antipasto plate/charcuterie board and load it up with sneaky fruits and veggies (and cheese, obv). Any chance you get, try to incorporate more fruits & vegetables to keep that healthy balance.
** Side note, try not to beat yourself up about what you're putting into your body during this season. The holidays are meant to be enjoyed and that includes indulging in your favorite foods! Rather than avoiding certain snacks or treats, simply make the effort to ADD a fruit or vegetable to your plate. It's about that yin and yang baby ;)
5. Think before you speak
With the holidays comes small talk. As much as you try to avoid it, you can’t escape the awkward one-on-one with Linda from the office, or the too-close-for-comfort heart-to-heart with your drunk Uncle Herb. Someone is going to inevitably say something that is going to rub you the wrong way, whether that be a political comment or otherwise. My advice — don’t react. Don’t say the first thing that pops into your mind, because it probably isn’t going to be pleasant. Instead, take a step back, figuratively and literally, process the comment and/or question and then form your response. Most people don’t think before they speak and can come off as jerks, but it’s not personal. Don’t get on the same level. Rise above it, shake it off, and move on.
A classic. I have some breathing exercises that can be done anywhere at any time (yep, even during the Secret Santa swap when you realize you brought the worst gift). It all comes back to breath. Once you realize that you have the ability to slow it down and rein it in by focusing on your inhale/exhale, you come to the realization that you have the power to completely alter your state of being. You are always in control when you focus on and maintain your breath.
7. Make “me time" a priority
This should be a non-negotiable. It's easier said than done for most of us, but if you implement this one thing alone, I promise you will maintain some semblance of normalcy during the holidays. Even if you’re only able to sneak in a 20 minute walk, a 5 minute meditation in your car, a quick face mask in your bathroom while the kids nap, anything, your mental wellbeing will thrive because of it. We need these small moments of connectivity with ourselves during this go-go-go season in order to recharge and regroup, making it easier for us to show up for those around us.
Try not to let your regular day-to-day routine fall by the wayside. The holidays can sometimes feel like a free-for-all with no structure; don’t fall into the trap of letting it all go because “it’s the holidays”. Sure, things are going to come up and there could be some early morning drives to the airport or late nights with cousins you rarely get to see, but this does not mean we should throw our routines out the window altogether. The longer you neglect your healthy habits, the harder it will be to get back on track. You will have a lot better chance at staying sane throughout the holidays if you stick to your script!
9. Say no
Just say no. If you don’t want to go to something, stay home and take a bath or watch a Christmas movie with your kids. Stop stressing yourself out for no reason. The person/people you’re bailing on will understand, and if they don’t, then they will get over it! Don’t stretch yourself too thin and overcommit because nobody has fun when you show up to something only to be the Grinch in the corner wishing they stayed home.
10. Put Your Phone Away
Another one I am trying to work on! When I do make this a priority, I feel so much better. I try to take a couple pics at the beginning of an event and/or gathering, and then put my phone away for the rest of the time. The best way to stay present is to take away the factors that blur our ability to focus on the here & now — things like our phones, social media, tv, alcohol, etc. All of these things are numbing devices. If we limit these interferences, we are suddenly forced to pay attention. Try keeping your phone in your jacket for the night and take note of how much happier you are for it.
I hope some of these tips help you! Let me know if you found them helpful.