Now that Turkey Day is over (though full disclosure, I am Canadian and we had our Thanksgiving in October), the holidays are just around the corner!
Read on for my top 9 tips and tricks to stay sane during this time of the year.
Christmas time is my favourite season. As a kid, we would drive from Toronto to Montreal every year for the annual Christmas get-together at my grandparents house. From the moment I walked through the door (after a 6 hour drive) greeted by the amazing smell of home cooked food to the annual Christmas Eve party (and last minute gift shopping), Christmas turkey dinner, and the main event of opening the gifts, the holidays were always a time of good food, great people, and amazing memories.
As an adult, the holidays are still my favourite time of the year. Except now instead of my rosy-coloured nostalgia memories, I usually feel like a headless chicken running around, manically trying to get everything done. Of course, there is the tree, and the decorations, and gift-buying and gift wrapping and cooking (oh god, all the cooking!) and the baking (cookie swap anyone?) and kids recitals and work parties and social parties…
By the time all is said and done, we are always a little more worse for wear, generally about 5-10lbs heavier, exhausted from those two weeks and wait, it’s a New Year?! When did that happen!
The holidays are always so busy, and we always swear that next year will be different, but it never is. No matter how organized you are, somehow something will not go as planned. So how do we make it all work? Here are 9 tips & tricks to help keep your marbles during the holiday season.
1. Shared calendars are your saviour, but make sure you keep them updated!
Whether you’re married, in a relationship, have roommates, or live in your own, a calendar is an easy way to keep all of your social engagements in check. Some prefer to use ones on their phone, which is what I have with my family, but I admit it doesn’t always work for me.
When things are really busy, I rely on week-by-week view (or if you have the space, a view of the whole month) to consolidate all the work, social, and family obligations. Highlighters, coloured pens, and star stickers from the dollar store help me colour coordinate my events and draw attention to ones where I have an obligation (why did I agree to bring homemade dessert!?).
The biggest thing is to make sure this stays updated. Place your calendar where everyone can view it, and instill a system to make sure updates don’t go unnoticed so you aren’t caught off guard. A stick-on white board or chalk board near your calendar can help.
2. Enlist helpers.
We are so quick to take on things ourselves and self-sacrifice, that instead of enjoyable family time, the holidays turn us into balls of stress for everything that needs to get done. If you have kids, engage them in the process to decorate the tree, clean up and prepare for guests, and even in cooking! Kids can help wash fruits and vegetables, lay them out to dry, and even help assemble a cheese or charcuterie board.
The experience will be so memorable for both of you, that the finished product will be so much better than Pinterest-perfect cheeseboard. In my home, we host an annual cookie decorating & swap party. I quickly learned after the first year that it’s better to have everyone bring a batch of cookies than to try and make them all myself.
3. Go green.
In case you didn’t get the memo, humans are destroying the planet. Between Thanksgiving and New Years, we will toss an extra 25 MILLION tonnes of garbage. Do the world a favour and start saving the kraft paper that comes in your Amazon Prime boxes. Wrap gifts using existing paper you have in the house, or use kraft paper with some twine and nice ribbon for a minimalist look. Get a stamp pad to stamp out the names of the recipient. This was a hard one for me as I like to theme my gift wrapping every year. But kraft paper literally gives you a blank canvas to decorate your gifts.
4. Give Back.
On that note, give a gift with a social impact. This could be anything from a donation in someone’s name to the arts, a hospital, or an environmental group, to as far reaching as sending a child in a developing country to school. Better yet, if you are able, foster child a through an organization like Plan Canada. It is amazing to see how your contributions help increase the quality of life to someone else less fortunate. For gift exchanges or office Secret Santas, some great choices are topical-safe essential oils, succulents, or a grow-a-plant kit for your coworker’s desk.
5. Try to maintain a routine where you can.
Whether it’s waking up at the same time, attending your yoga or spin class once or twice a week, reading a story to the kids before bed, or doing your nighttime skin routine every night, keeping a routine will helps keep a sense of normalcy during chaotic times. After all, life is busy and chaotic and we rely on our routines or habits to get us through them and manage our inner self. The holidays are no different. Except for the fact they are chaos on steroids, but hey, you got this.
6. It’s ok to say no.
The holidays are all about family and friends, but it should also be a time to relax. How many times have you gone on vacation and filled it with so many activities that you came home and felt you needed a vacation to recover from your vacation? Same deal for the holidays. It’s tempting to say yes to all the invites you’ll get, but because most of these are sent out up to a month prior, it is easier to take a holistic view of your schedule and prioritize where you need to be, and say no to ones you don’t want to do. Remember, it’s your holiday too.
7. Don’t worry (too much) about your food baby.
One thing I know many of us do is over indulge, then not only feel disappointment in ourselves physically, but mentally as well. I always say if you’re going to eat, then eat and enjoy, and stop when you’re full. I know, I know, easier said than done – especially when everything is so delicious! During special occasions like the holidays, knowing you’re going into a carb-infested, alcohol-induced coma for almost a month is a good way to motivate yourself to be extra good in November.
Enjoy your December, and don’t worry, in January you can work off those 5-10 (or 20) pounds that somehow crept up over the holidays. Don’t sacrifice your holidays foodgasm for the sake of your thigh gap. Thigh gaps are for flamingoes, not Christmas pudding.
8. Give yourself permission to breathe.
Take 5-10 minutes a day, whether when you wake up, go to bed, or both, to meditate or sit in a restorative pose. Don’t run through your to-do list – you can do that after. Give yourself permission to take those 10 minutes in that 24 hour day for you to check-in with yourself and how you are feeling.
Apps like Headspace, Calm, or Insight Timer are great options because you can choose from a variety of options (such as guided imagery or silence) and time lengths (1 minute to over 30 minutes). Remember, put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others.
Saved the best for last …
9. Take time to enjoy!
The holidays go by so fast, make sure you take time to stop throughout the days to take mental pictures and memories. Now more than ever, there has been a societal shift to show others how we spend our time, what we do, eat, experience, see (thank you, social media).
How many times have you been in a group picture that had to be taken 50 times because someone didn’t like how they looked? Or on the other end, how many moments have gone by that you don’t remember because you were behind the camera? While encapsulating these memories is important, it is equally, if not more important to be present when they happen.
“Bad” pictures are hardly as bad as they seem, and funnily enough, it’s the “chaotic” pictures that will bring about the most memories, laughs, and stories later down the line (remember that time Mike popped the champagne bottle and the cork narrowly missed the front window?). At the end of the day, it’s those memories you will cherish, and not the superficially curated ones.
I hope these tidbits will help you keep some of your marbles during the holiday break. When something doesn’t go according to plan, remember to breathe and ask yourself if this will matter in a week, a month, or a year. Chances are it won’t ruin your life, but it will make an amazing story for the vault.
Wishing all you a happy, healthy, safe, fun, and enjoyable holiday season and new year! Now get out there and show that turkey who is boss.
Love & light,