My top five tips on how to enjoy a stress- and guilt-free holiday season

I feel like I’ve been anticipating the holidays since November 1. I started to do everything really early this year, including decorate, because let’s be honest, there wasn’t a whole lot else to do! December is usually a full month of celebrations for me. We celebrate both Hanukah and Christmas in our household, so it’s the month of never-ending cheer. We usually spend most of December at family events, enjoying mounds and mounds of homemade food and family fun.

For many years, the holidays were stressful for me. I would worry about buying the best gifts so people would be super excited to open them. I would make sure I was staying active up until the big day to “justify” all the food I’d be eating, and I would say yes to everything because it was the holidays, and how could I say no, right?

Well, even though I ended up having fun, this mindset always left me stressed and exhausted by the time New Year’s rolled around. I finally made the decision to shift how I approached the holidays, or it would never be a time of real enjoyment for me.

Over the last few years, I’ve set myself a few ground rules that have really helped me navigate the holidays with less guilt and more overall enjoyment. I know that I’m not alone in feeling this way at this time of year, so today I’m sharing the holiday rules I live by. By following the mindset below, I’ve turned a stressful time into one that I look forward to the most.

  1. Make. A. Budget. Gift giving can be expensive. More often than not, when you do the math, you’d be astounded at what your total comes to. I decided the holidays were going to be handled with a per-person budget. I always give myself a little wiggle room in case I find something that I know the receiver will really love, but I try not to exceed any of my budgets by more than $10. Knowing what you’re planning to spend before you make your purchases will help you save, and it will eliminate the stress of massive credit card bills come January.
  2. It’s OK to say no. During the holidays, you are going to be invited to do about a million things. Granted, this year is not going to have that many (if any) demands for holiday party attendance, but it is still OK to decline the 72 Zoom parties you’re invited to. Your time is precious. That’s not to say you have to turn down every invitation, but you don’t have to feel obligated to do everything. The holidays are a time for you to enjoy yourself, to slow down and to reset, so saying no when you need to will help with this process.
  3. Don’t use the “it’s just one day” motto when it comes to food. The holidays are all about big meals, lots of dessert and usually eating more than we typically would. I always encourage people to steer clear of the “it’s just one day” motto when eating during the holidays. Let me explain what I mean. Often we justify eating foods that aren’t the healthiest by telling ourselves, “it’s just one day.” This often leads to days filled with overindulging followed by days of restrictive eating and over-exercising to “make up” for the “one day” we had. I am not a believer in this way of thinking. Food should bring a sense of joy and comfort. When you approach the holidays with the mindset that you will eat the foods you enjoy, and not worry about the day, or the next day, then you will tend to eat only until you’re full. You’ll quit when you’re ahead instead of eating as though it was your last supper.
  4. It’s more than OK to skip a holiday workout. This is true all the time, but especially so over the holidays. Don’t treat your workouts as a 1:1 with your holiday menu. You are allowed (and encouraged) to enjoy all the food and good times, without feeling the pressure to counteract with a workout.
  5. Don’t feel guilty about really, truly relaxing. You don’t have to be active and productive 365 days a year. In fact, you shouldn’t be. Our mind and body need down time, without having to troubleshoot or think about forming complete sentences, if need be. Giving yourself time during the holidays to unplug, truly be present, and turn off that “on” switch, really allows you to recharge. It can also help prevent burnout, and allow you to be even more creative when you get back to work.

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