Preparing for the Holiday You Want

It may be hard to believe, but the holidays are suddenly upon us again. Every year we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, planning parties and dinners, buying gifts, and losing all sense of self-care that we may have established beforehand. What ends up happening is that the holidays pass frenetically in a blur of obligation and before we know it, it’s over and we feel sick, tired, and maybe even a little disappointed. This year, try to have the holiday season that you and your family wants, maybe even needs. It is possible to come through the holidays and be a little bit healthier and happier, instead of the other way around.

Here are five ways to create a healthy and happy holiday:

  1. Intention - The first (and perhaps most difficult) step is to sit down with your family and figure out what you, collectively as well as individually, want from your holidays. Do you want to spend more time outdoors? More time together as a family? More time volunteering? Eat healthier meals? Which events that you’ve gone to or hosted in the past have been your favourite? Do you want to decorate more? Or less? Maybe even take a minute and do a quick visualization exercise to help get some inspiration around what your ideal holiday might look like. Be choosy, and make a list of the things that you determine to be the most important to you and your family.
  2. Do/Buy Less - All the parties and activities for you and your kids may sound fun in theory, but in practice it’s a different story between gifts, snacks, scheduling, outfits, and ultimately, time. Make a short list, and only plan to participate in the things that really work towards creating the holiday you envisioned. Explain to friends and family why you are doing this, and maybe they will be motivated to do the same. You will truly get more out of the things that you do over the holidays if you do less of them. The same thing applies with gift-giving. Try a gift exchange with your family or friends so that you only end up having to buy one really nice gift rather than a bunch of meaningless things. Consider giving the children in your family only one gift rather than a bunch of things (and I know how hard this can be).
  3. Fit Your “Self” In - As the time before the holidays really picks up, we tend to just dive into the festivities head first, abandoning all of our good habits. It’s kind of like a cascade of unhealthy eating and inactivity; starting slowly with one thing, and leading to complete abandonment of everything that keeps us healthy and happy. This year, work really hard (day-to-day, even) to prevent this from happening. Make a plan to fit in some of your self-care (including your healthy diet and exercise). Maybe this means that you commit to having a healthy breakfast and lunch everyday, and being more flexible with dinner and snacks. Maybe this means that everything stops at 8 pm for your nightly bath ritual. Maybe this means that you fit in 30 minutes of exercise ever day, even if it means getting up a bit early, or having a babysitter look after the kids. Stay true to your self-care rituals, whatever they may be. This self-care will not only help you enjoy things in the moment, but they will also help you to feel well, both physically and mentally, when the holidays abruptly end.
  4. Practice Gratitude and Kindness - It may seem like a no-brainer, but gratitude and kindness are two of the simplest ways to enhance your holiday season (and your life) and, as a result, the holidays of others. If you have kids, make it a fun exercise every morning to list something you are grateful for, and plan an act of kindness for the day. It will turn into something fun, and maybe even a healthy challenge between members of your family. Focusing on gratitude and being kind to others will be particularly helpful if the holidays are a tough time for you, as they are for so many. These practices will help to divert your own challenges into something positive and meaningful.
  5. Be in the Moment - Once you’ve done all of this prep and have narrowed down your list of activities/gifts etc., just stop and enjoy everything you have decided to do. Wherever you are, just be there taking it all in and not worrying about the next thing. It’s really ok if you forgot to pick up cranberries, missed sending a card to someone, or don’t have a new dress for your Christmas dinner. These events in our lives will happen whether we are ready for them or not so at a certain point you have to just let it go and enjoy the moment. Otherwise, what is the point of doing them at all?

This list may be simple, but if you implement even one or two of these ideas into your holiday planning, you will notice yourself enjoying things more fully and being more present with your family, and hopefully you will have an easier settling back into normal life in January. Have a wonderful holiday season!