The Season for Sanity

Soooo, it’s October and beginning with Halloween’s demand for costumes, candy, and various parties both of the adult and the kid-friendly variety, you’re starting up the track of the roller coaster that is the holiday season. Before the trick-or-treat candy is even gone, you’re having to think about Thanksgiving and all that comes with it: the meal preparations and the celebratory gatherings and the decorating and the family visits…tired yet? Still sane?

Set your fork down in the puddle of gravy on your plate, and you’ve barely got a chance to blink before Christmas looms large, bringing visions of overcrowded shopping malls and endless cooking and strict budgeting and insane schedule-juggling dancing in your head like a sugarplum fairy on high speed And joy is supposed to be in there somewhere, but true, genuine holiday cheer can get lost in the shuffle as can your focus on staying healthy, enjoying quality time as a family, and taking a moment to remember what the season is really about.

Unfortunately, by the time New Year’s rolls around, you’re so frazzled and ready for it to all be over that the champagne isn’t so much celebratory, and you’re starting a new calendar year off feeling like your sanity is on the verge of collapse. No wonder all those resolutions seem so hard to follow—you’re tired, stretched thin, and wishing you could crawl into bed for the next three months.

Have we nailed it? With so much going on even during the most normal parts of the year, when the holidays descend on us with what seems like an increasing list of demands that all need our attention NOW, it’s easy to see why so many people have begun to dread them. But all it takes is a little bit of planning, and you can have a holiday season that runs smoothly (or as close to it as humanly possible) and allows you enough space, time, and sanity that you can actually enjoy this most wonderful time of the year.

First off, do a mental cleanse and just take ten minutes of quiet to breathe and let go of everything you think you HAVE to do.

Mind clear and fresh, think about the budget you have to work with for all of your various holidays. That will help you determine things like gifts, party budgets, meal hosting budgets, etc. Money is a huge stressor during the holiday season, so feeling that you have a firm grasp on that will give you a major sense of relief.

Next, create a schedule or a timeline for when your shopping must be finished, whether that’s buying the ingredients and supplies for the parties, gatherings, or family visits you’re hosting or shopping for all of the gifts on your list. Having that will help you avoid feeling frazzled at the last minute when you realize that it’s (gasp) the DAY BEFORE and you’re still short on something. Or everything.

Remember that time is also a gift, and you’re not the only one who feels a little crazy in all of this holiday madness. Your kids and your spouse have their own things going on, as you well know, since you ARE the one managing the household and all of its comings and goings, and they can feel just as over-scheduled as you do. Make sure to plan some quality time together—alone—as a family that is relaxing and gives you the opportunity to enjoy one another’s company.

That said, remember that you don’t have to say yes to everything. We know you might feel a little guilty about having to say no, but handle it with care and explain that you’d love to be there, but you have prior commitments. If you decline a few initiations, realize that people will more than likely be understanding—this is, after all, a time that’s busy for everyone, and no one person can do it all.

This is also a reason to ask for help from your family and delegate things to people you know can handle the responsibility to take some of the stress off your shoulders. Have your kids set the table for meals and help you clean the house, have family gift wrapping parties so that you’re not the one doing it all, and have your spouse pick up some of the groceries or supplies you need on their way home from work. The more helpers you have, the less stressed-out and alone you’ll feel.

Remember the importance of your own mental health and physical health as well. Do something for yourself that centers your mind and puts you in a calm, happy mood whether that’s meditating, reading, or just going for a nice, leisurely stroll—and make exercise a priority, even if it’s a few minutes here and there. It’ll help you feel at the top of your game and ready to charge on.

Don’t let the holidays leave you feeling like the Grinch. This time should be a gift, so take a breath and focus on what you need for it to be one you want to unwrap rather than return.