Why do you need to know these 12 ways to stay balanced over the holidays? Well, staying balanced is challenging under the best of circumstances, but over the holidays it can be harder than ever. The winter holiday season is romanticized as “the most wonderful time of the year” but it could also be called the most stressful time of the year. On top of all your day-to-day responsibilities, you now have a holiday to-do list as long as you are tall. Shopping for gifts, holiday baking and meal prep, decorating, holiday parties, and family gatherings can add an extra layer of stress to the season. Toxic family members can turn an otherwise pleasant holiday into a nightmare. For those who live alone, are without family, or have lost loved ones, the holidays can be downright triggering as they sit with their grief while trying to keep up the facade of excessive cheer.
If you’re dreading the holiday season, don’t despair! I’ve put together this list of 12 ways to stay balanced over the holidays so that you can minimize the stress and maximize the wonder of this time of year. All you have to do is keep reading!
1. Stick With Healthy Habits
This is at the top of the list for a reason. One of the most important things you can do to stay balanced over the holidays is to stick with the healthy habits you already have. This is not the time to slack on your gym routine, stick your yoga mat in the back of the closet and forget about it, give up on healthy eating, or start chugging energy drinks instead of water. If anything, those healthy habits that you already have in place are more important than ever during this time of year. So stick with them!
2. Acknowledge Your Feelings
It’s okay not to be okay, at any time of year, including the holidays. Don’t put pressure on yourself and others to be a beacon of cheer. Feeling blue or overwhelmed with everything you have to do? Let yourself feel it. But, remember that you are not your emotions like I talk about in this blog post. Once you have acknowledged the feeling and figured out what message it’s there to give you, let it go.
What do I mean by figuring out what message an emotion is there to give you? Well, I believe our emotions are messengers letting us know what we need. For example, feeling overwhelmed tells me that I need to work on planning and organization instead of living in chaos. Feeling angry tells me that a person or situation is triggering because it’s a reflection of something in myself that I need to work on. When I feel helpless, I know I need to step back and reassess what changes I can make to improve a situation. Make sense?
3. Let Go of Expectations to Stay Balanced Over the Holidays
Your holiday does not have to be perfect, it does not have to be the same as any holiday you’ve had in the past, and it certainly doesn’t have to be “‘gram-worthy”. Let go of any expectations of perfection you may have.
Don’t be scared of having a holiday that breaks tradition. I’ve had a few. When I was 9 or 10, my parents were so poor that almost all our presents were donations from a Secret Santa program. I didn’t find that out until I was a teenager, but I remember wondering if I was wrong about Santa Claus secretly being my parents because there was no way they could afford the bikes and art supplies that we woke up to.
In my early twenties, there was a Christmas when we were dead broke. I had moved to a place where I had no family other than my partner and my only friends were coworkers. On December 21st, I gave birth a month prematurely. We had a plastic tabletop tree, maybe 2 feet tall at most, and my partner gave me a few presents from the dollar store. We ate what we called “stroganoff” for dinner. It was egg noodles, instant gravy, and ground beef.
There were a couple of Thanksgivings that my children spent with their dad. For one of those I met up with a co-worker friend and her family at a local Casino and we had the holiday buffet for dinner. Another time a friend smoked a turkey, I brought potatoes, a couple more people with nowhere to go brought rolls and dessert, and a handful of loners had a delicious feast with each other. Out of all the “traditional” holidays I’ve had, these stand out the most. I think it’s because I found joy and love in the most unexpected of circumstances.
4. Set a Budget and Stick to It
Decorations and presents and expensive meals are not what the holidays are about. Don’t put yourself in debt for the rest of the year (or longer!) because you blew your budget on the holidays. Set a food, decoration, and gift budget ahead of time and stick to it. Because let’s be honest, you can have all the trendiest decorations, a million lights, trees in every room, and a pile of presents so big that it’s obscene and still have a miserable holiday. So, obviously, those are not what makes the holidays magical.
Instead, focus on enjoying the little moments that make the season special. Treasure the twinkling lights hung across Main Street. Savor the smells of pumpkin, apple, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Let the laughter of children warm your heart.
5. Plan Ahead To Avoid Holiday Burnout
Even if you are a minimalist when it comes to the holidays, your to-do list is longer than ever. Avoid burning out over the holidays by planning your schedule ahead of time. For each holiday event that you plan to attend, make sure you carve out time well in advance for shopping, baking, wrapping gifts, etc. That way, you avoid spending your holiday season in a panicked mad dash from event to event while always feeling like you’re a day late and a dollar short.
6. Get Some Rest to Stay Balanced Over the Holidays
“But, I’ve got so much to do, how am I supposed to take time out to rest?” Trust me, if you don’t, chances are you’ll end up crashing and burning at the worst possible time. Planning ahead should include scheduling time for rest, and then actually relaxing (or better yet, sleeping!) when that time comes. Like your cell phone needs to recharge its batteries, you need rest so you can keep going… and going… and going. 😂
7. Fit In Some Quality Time
Another important thing to fit in when you’re doing your holiday planning and scheduling is quality time with friends and family that light you up inside and make you feel good. You know who they are. Make sure to take some time out to connect with them and let them know how special they are to you. And, make sure to laugh together as much as possible! This tip will make both their holiday and yours a little bit brighter.
8. Help The Less Fortunate
Even if this is shaping up to be the absolute worst holiday season you’ve had, there’s a way you can help someone who has less than you do. Helping others does two great things. First, it’s a light in the darkness to the less fortunate. It reminds them that they are not alone and someone cares. Second, doing good for others makes you feel better about yourself. This is a fact, and not the alternative kind. A lot of research has focused on the benefits of volunteering to your mental and physical health.
I find it beneficial to help where I feel a lack in my own life. It helps me to change my perspective. If you’re feeling strapped for cash, sign up to volunteer at a food bank or soup kitchen. If you are alone, maybe living apart from family for the first time, visit an elder care home and ask to see someone that doesn’t have visitors. Wishing you had children to spoil but that hasn’t happened for you? Adopt a family and give them a holiday meal and gifts. You may not get to see their faces light up, but your heart will be full knowing that they did.
9. Stay Balanced Over the Holidays by Being Tolerant
Remember, everyone is feeling the extra holiday stress. People are struggling with issues that you cannot see. Try and allow your Grinch-like boss or neighbor some extra grace. Take some deep breaths and bite your tongue when your mother or sister snaps at you when you were trying to help. Don’t get offended if your socially anxious friend doesn’t show up to your big holiday party even though you told them it would mean a lot to you if they came. You cannot control the actions of others, but you can control your response to those actions. Make that your mantra for this holiday season.
10. Set and Enforce Healthy Boundaries
Before we go any further, I want to set the record straight that being tolerant to stay balanced over the holidays does not mean putting up with abuse. Like I do, you probably have family members that are toxic to you. If you do, make sure to set and enforce healthy boundaries.
To be real, setting and enforcing healthy boundaries is something that is easy to say and harder to do. What boundaries need to be is different for each person. Healthy boundaries might look like attending gatherings but leaving as soon as toxic behavior starts. It could mean purposefully staying on the other side of the room or house from the family member that triggers you. Or, if the majority of your family is toxic or abusive, it could mean not going near your family and starting your own holiday traditions. As long as they feel right for you, enforce the boundaries you’ve set, even if others try to talk you out of them. Don’t stay anywhere or in any situation that feels unsafe for you because someone else tries to guilt you out of it.
Also, and this is a hard one, even if you have the best intentions you could be toxic to a family member. It may hurt, but accept and respect any boundaries that they set to keep themselves safe.
11. Give Yourself Time Out
When you have sensory overload from the cacophony of sounds or one of your family members gets on your last nerve, give yourself time out. Volunteer to take the trash out or run to the store to pick up some more crackers for the charcuterie board. Go for a walk. Find a quiet corner and read or look at old photographs by yourself. Use your breath to calm down (you can learn how here). In other words, get away from whatever triggers you until you are back in balance.
12. Timing is Everything
Timing is everything when it comes to staying balanced over the holidays. Shopping earlier is less chaotic and often means a better selection. Arriving at a party or gathering before the other guests can stress out the host and mean you have to listen to kids whining about being “so bored” because “there’s nothing to do” longer. (I haven’t figured out any tips for preventing bored children at family gatherings, sorry).
It’s just as important to know when to leave. It might be best to leave before people start getting sloshed, Aunt Lucy flirts with your husband, Uncle George passes out in the mashed potatoes, and your mom starts crying into her pie. Try to show up when most of the guests are already there, and leave before the crazy starts. This is a best practice even when your family is functional and can be crucial if your family is not but you still want to see them.
Share How You Stay Balanced Over the Holidays
Do you have a tip for staying balanced over the holidays that I didn’t think of? Share it with me and I’ll edit this post to add it and shout it out on social media. You can email me your tip, or message me on Facebook or Instagram.
Until Next Time,
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