Life thoughts

‘Tis the season to be jolly… on your own terms.

You’ve probably realized this by now, but let me hasten to remind you, dear friends: the mayhem of the holiday season is nigh.

Each year until recently, this descent into chaos always caught me unawares — that is, before I started putting more conscious thought into my energetic choices during the holiday season. By “energetic choices” I mean the idea that every activity we pursue, whether it’s stressing out over possible family conflict over the holidays or waiting in line outside of Best Buy for three hours to get all the deals, comes at some kind of energetic expense.

I used to totally dread that feeling of stress and frenzy as I tried to fit everything in — holiday parties, cooking, baking, making or buying gifts for friends and family, scheduling time to see as many people as I could… and on, and on. Once you start putting pressure on yourself to show up to every event and tell every person in your life what they mean to you, all within the span of a few short weeks, it can have serious implications for your mental, emotional, and physical health.

I’ve noticed that this socially inflicted (but also self-induced) pressure can create a lot of resentment and leave us feeling the total opposite of what we want to feel during our friend hangouts and family gatherings. It’s a bit backwards that we invest copious energy preparing for an experience, only to be so physically and emotionally drained by the time the actual social time rolls around that we can’t fully appreciate it, or haven’t given ourselves time to prepare energetically.

How we’ve come to collectively begrudge a time of year that, in many traditions, celebrates peace, love, and relationship is certainly worth thinking about. There are lots of answers, not least of which is the seriously out of control way in which the secular celebration of Christmas is dominated by corporate interests, and synonymous with mass consumerism.

My motivation in writing today is not, however, to think about how we could better expend our financial resources this season, but instead, how we might make more conscious choices about how we expend our energy. Our personal energy is, perhaps, the most important resource we have available to us, and it becomes easily drained if we don’t make mindful decisions about who and what we spend it on.

Here are five simple habits that I’ve cultivated over the years to fully enjoy the holidays and their riches, while mitigating some of their inevitable stresses:

1. It’s okay to say no.

Decline invites that overload your schedule. Instead, make plans to connect in the new year. Your time will be better spent when you are in the right headspace to be present with your friend, coworker, family member, or business contact.

2. Less (crafting) is more.

DIYers find this time of year particularly energizing AND exhausting because their Pinterest boards are brimming with all of the crafts, recipes, and handmade gifts they want to create. Unfortunately, in order to fulfill your DIY dreams, you’d have to start your Christmas creating in July. Instead choose one awesome Christmas craft and a couple of great recipes and make them for every gathering. Or, plan a craft night or cookie exchange with friends. You each provide supplies for one craft or bring one kind of treat and you go home with an assortment. Plus, you double your effort by fitting in some social holiday time.

3. Schedule time for self-care.

Don’t skip yoga. Don’t cancel your massage therapy appointment. Don’t forego the haircut you’ve been needing for months. Honour your personal well-being by scheduling in time for activities that rejuvenate your soul. You’re going to feel like you don’t have time, but this is something you cannot afford to sacrifice. Think about other activities you can cut. And remember, time for self-care doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as blocking out an hour or two in which you commit to personal quiet time (whatever that looks like for you).

4. Know your social limits.

Make a plan for how long you’re going to stay at a party and stick to it. Be mindful of how you spend your time while you’re there. It’s easy to get caught in a corner with an energy vampire who monopolizes your whole evening and leaves you feeling like you’ve barely talked to anyone.

5. Stick to your healthy eating routine at home.

You would be crazy to deprive yourself of ALL of the deliciousness of the holiday season. Allow yourself to enjoy, while paying extra attention to staying balanced. Help your body balance out indulgences by sticking to your healthy eating routine at home. Eat as many green veggies as you can and don’t skimp on the H2O.

This year, let’s deck the halls with some peace, love, and self-care. Have a lovely season!

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