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Surviving the Holidays - 25 Tips to Help Keep You Sane and Healthy During the Holiday Season

Surviving the Holidays Title Image

The Holiday Season can be such a stressful and draining time of year. Halloween is my favorite holiday, but once we slingshot around October 31st, the rest of the year runs by in a fast blur (for me anyway). I find this is mostly due to the extra events and added planning that get jammed into November and December. Some of these events may be time honored traditions that you look forward to, others may be events that you attend grudgingly because you feel obligated (don't feel bad about that either, we all have those events, don't we?).

It took me a LONG time to get to the point where I enjoy the days and weeks leading up to Christmas. I was a very grumpy Scrooge. Things were especially hard when my kids were younger, so many family events, so much pressure, not enough time, forgetting to move the elf, etc. It seemed like everyone wanted to create new family traditions while our families were young and while I understood that, I felt like there was never any time left over for the 4 of us to create our own traditions. It wasn't until I carved out a time for us and started making our own traditions that I finally started to calm down and enjoy myself and the holidays. Because we rarely had something planned on the evening of Christmas Eve, I claimed that time as our own and it has become sacred. Whatever else comes at us during the months of November and December, I'm always looking forward to our constants.

In addition to building our own family traditions, the following is a list of things that I try to do during this time of year to help me get through the jam packed days.

1. Create your own traditions - I don't want you to feel pressured to find the perfect family tradition, they will find their way to you. We do have several set traditions with our extended families, but this is one that we have reserved just for our family of 4.

Each Christmas Eve our family would receive a "gift" from our elves, sort of as a going away present until they returned the following year. I worked very hard to keep that gift a hidden surprise and the kids were always super excited to see what had been left for us. Now that the kids are older, we still call it the "elf gift", but we all work together to build it.

The elf gift always contains the following:

  • New PJ's - they used to be Christmas themed, but now I just try to pick what I know everyone will enjoy wearing.

  • A movie - again it used to be Christmas themed, but now we have so many Christmas movies that I've moved on to other genres. One year it was the Jurassic Park DVD's, last year it was Top Gun: Maverick.

  • Snacks to go with the movie, usually candy and popcorn; some years its more bougie - my kids love truffle anything and I found some awesome truffle salt one year for the popcorn. Last year my son asked for mini-gherkins. I had to look that one up (in case you don't know either, they are mini pickles). I do love the word "gherkin" though.

All of that, and more, goes into a fantastic Christmas themed basket that I bought just for that purpose and we open it together the evening of Christmas Eve. We also have a special dinner together. Ok, maybe "special" isn't the right word, it used to be all kinds of appetizers, but now we just have a planned dinner. Together. The "together" is the key word there because we do get busy and we eat this meal, whatever it may be, while we watch the movie. The snacks don't always get eaten that night, but we still enjoy them when we do finally get to them. Everyone dons their new PJ's at some point in the evening and we all turn in at a reasonable hour. Ok, I get to turn in at a reasonable hour which is a huge plus now that we no longer play Santa.

Family Christmas

2. Take a Bubble Bath - I really only take baths in the winter when the temperatures drops. There is something about the warm water and scented bubbles that makes the stress and worries drain away. I like to light some scented candles too and one year a friend even bought me a "Do Not Disturb" sign for my bathroom.

Do Not Disturb My Bath Door Hanger

3. Holiday Movies - The sappier the better, I love Hallmark Christmas movies and watch my favorites each year. And I watch them pretty much everyday. The happy endings help keep my spirits up.

Family Outdoors at Christmas

4. Go for a walk - Walking is one of my favorite activities, I get some exercise and some much needed vitamin D (especially during those winter months), but it also gives me some downtime where I can go over what's on my mind and work through whatever it is. I usually have a solution or new ideas by the time I get home.

Woman Hiking in Woods

5. Spend time with a friend - My social battery these days is pretty lame, but there is something about having coffee or dinner with a friend to help charge the battery back up.

Two People Having Coffee in Winter

6. Drive (or walk) the neighborhood and enjoy the Christmas lights - My best friend's family always had their family Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve and I was lucky to attend for many years. At the end of the evening her mom used to drive us around to look at the lights before dropping me off at home. To this day its one of my favorite memories from growing up.

Outdoor Holiday Decorations

7. Take some time to relax - Light a fire (or candle), curl up under a blanket and listen to music or read a book. Like bubble baths, the weather needs to be cooler for me to have candles lit in our house. I love the winter simply for the warm light that lit candles (and Christmas lights) give off. I have a whole collection.

Person Relaxing by Fireplace

8. Watch cute animal videos - I know we should be unplugging from our devices now and then, but for me, cute animals promote peace and happiness. I limit myself to 10 or 20 minutes per day when I need a dose of that utter cuteness.

Two Dogs Dressed For Christmas

9. Make a Medicine Ball - If you do start to feel run down, there is something about these hot beverages that helps perk you back up and feel better. Sure, you can order one from your local Starbucks (although they call them something else now), but I try to always have the ingredients on hand during cold and flu season. I've included the recipe as I make them below.

Person Holding Tea Cup

10. Women's Holiday Shopping Day - Holiday shopping can be so stressful, right? Holiday shopping with the close women in my life (sans kids) is a much looked forward to tradition. Its not the typical day of shop 'til you drop, but more about spending time together while crossing a few things off our lists. I love to go to the big TJMaxx store and pick out fun holiday treats for our Christmas Eve bin. There is also a relaxed lunch and afternoon coffee if we need a pick me up.

Friends Shopping

11. Manicure/Pedicure - This is part of my self-imposed self-care routine, unfortunately, I don't prioritize enough of my time to get them regularly. Because my schedule ends up so crazy, I usually end up giving myself a manicure the week leading up to Christmas. I found some really cute holiday themed nail decals last year that are really fun and make me happy.

Feet with Red Toe Nail Polish

12. Go to bed early - I'm not saying you have go to sleep early, but having some downtime in your pj's snuggling with your pets/partner/kids/family is very relaxing. Going to sleep early is totally ok as well.

Woman Sleeping in Bed

13. Don't neglect your spouse/partner - I have a bad habit of getting so far into my head and to do lists that I end up ignoring my husband and then I wonder why I miss him even though he is sitting right next to me. Plan some valuable time with your spouse, 1 on 1. Date night, early bedtime snuggles, etc. You pick what works best for your schedules and mood.

Couple Holding Hands in Winter

14. Maintain your routine - This is hard with all of the invites and activities that crop up around the holidays, but stick with your routine as much as you can. For me it is a self imposed bedtime. My mornings start really early so I turn in at 8pm. Sticking with my bedtime routine helps keep me on track and also helps keep me healthy both mentally and physically. We moved our bedroom into the basement earlier this year and its quiet and cozy down there so it makes it really easy for me to wind down from the day.

Woman Eating Cereal at Computer

15. Keep a Journal - There are things about the holidays that are a trigger for me and I've found that letting out those emotions by writing in a journal helps me move past those triggers quicker than dwelling on them. I've also started blogging; writing of any kind seems to be therapeutic for me. I do try to be careful about imposing too many posting deadlines on myself.

Cute Journals

16. Say No - We all want to do all the things, but if you know that event X, Y or Z is going to push you over the edge of exhaustion (or trigger you in some way), know that it is ok to say no and pass up that invite.

Light Up No Sign

17. Be intentional in your plans - As mentioned before, if there are traditions or events that are an important part of the holidays for you, then make sure that you're making time for them to happen. I try to get our women's shopping day on the calendar early before it starts to fill up. I usually plan for earlier in December.

Woman Organizing Calendar

18. Have Grace - Things will not always go as planned or turn out the way that you expect them to. Learn to have grace to move past those things; treat yourself with kindness and respect. Not one of us is perfect.

Come As You Are Door Mat

19. Watch your alcohol intake - I'm not a big drinker, but when I'm around people I enjoy spending time with I sometimes get carried away. I always regret this not long after, as feeling poorly can mess up the rest of my plans and/or routine. I try to be mindful of my intake during the holidays.

Festive Holiday Beverage

20. Don't be afraid to ask for help - Its totally ok to admit that you are not superwoman/superman/supermom, etc. and to ask for help. This goes for anything you need help with, whether it is cooking the holiday meal or your mental health.

Hands Holding Wooden Bowl or Plate

21. Be in the moment - Its easy to want to catch every moment on camera, but I try to make a point of putting my phone away (at least for awhile) to be in the moment and enjoy the events and people I am with.

Friends Celebrating

22. Give back - I used to work in an office where the company brought in a Giving/Angel tree for every floor and the staff (myself included) loved to pick out a child or family to help through the holidays. My kids loved being part of that process. Giving back does not mean that you have to spend extra money either, there are many volunteer opportunities out there.

Soup Kitchen

23. Enjoy the treats - Another tradition that I've tried to build into our busy schedule is holiday baking (even though I hate the clean-up) because I love frosted Christmas cookies and gifting home-made fudge to our family members. Moderation is the key - enjoy the treats, but also have healthy snacks/meals as well to balance it all out.

Decorated Christmas Cookies

24. Take a deep breath and go with the flow/Keep Calm and Carry (Merry) On - I can admit that I am a control freak and I like to know the plan in detail so that I can anticipate how things will go. This last year I have found that I have a REALLY hard time when the plans change or things crop up that I wasn't prepared for. Its become a real trigger for me. I've had to work very hard (and have many conversations with myself) about how plans change and that this is ok and that you don't need to control the situation to enjoy yourself.

Person Meditating

25. Take a break after the holidays - We love spending time with our families, but so many events leave us exhausted. We try hard to make very minimal plans during the months of January and February. I like to pretend we are hibernating.

Hot Spring in the woods in winter

I hope that these tips help you survive the holidays and make your holiday season happy and relaxed! What do you do to relax during the holiday season? Let me know in the comments below!


Medicine Ball Hot Beverage Recipe:

Fill microwavable mug halfway with lemonade and heat until warm.

Fill the mug the rest of the way with boiling water and add one peach tea bag and one green tea with mint tea bag - You can use whatever brand of tea you like, I like Bigelow or Teavana brand teas.

Add honey - how much is up to you. I like it sweet, but not overly so.

Stir and enjoy!

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