The Holiday Survival Guide – Part One

On the Road to Mom’s House

Here it is – my three-part Holiday Survival Guide, designed to help you get through the season in good shape!

In this first installment, I want to give you some tips to help cope with the unusual stressors the holidays can place upon us: Busier social calendars; end-of-year work deadlines; tax considerations and more time with friends and family members than you might be comfortable with. Combine these things with shorter days and an overabundance of celebratory food and drink, and it’s easy to see why so many people let their healthy habits slide during the holidays, only to spend the next eleven months trying to undo the damage.

This season, I encourage you to step back, take a breath and enjoy the food, fun, family and friends without stressing yourself out or abandoning your healthy habits. Here are a few tips that can help you do that:

1. Don’t Over-Commit – There are loads of invitations each holiday season for fun things like parties, parades, movies, cookie bake-offs, tree trimming, art fairs, and of course the holiday gatherings themselves. But an event is only fun if you go to it feeling energized and excited about it. If you find yourself feeling overtaxed, or if you say yes out of obligation rather than a genuine desire to attend, then just say no instead. Can you skip the traditional family Christmas gathering? Probably not, but you’ll be better equipped for it if you haven’t already spent all of your fun-time energy elsewhere.

2. Get Your Rest – The holidays can give us a lot to think about at 3 a.m. Unfortunately, losing sleep by worrying over all there is to do only makes matters worse. To get good rest consistently, follow these three rules: 1) Don’t eat or drink alcohol within three hours of bedtime; 2) No screen activity (TV, computer, e-reader, cell phone, video games) within an hour of bedtime; 3) If you can’t sleep, don’t toss and turn – get out of bed and read or meditate.

3. Make an Activity List and Stick To It – At the beginning of the holiday season, I like to make a list of a handful of social events I really want to attend. Laura and I take my mom out to a play every year; our family attends the tree lighting in Rice Park; we spend a day at a local shopping mall soaking in the decorated splendor. But I also make another column on my list of more relaxing activities I want to do at home during the season. This includes things like watching holiday movies curled up on the couch; baking a few holiday treats; reading a new book; spending some time on a current hobby.  Then, whenever a new invitation or opportunity comes up, I think of my list and make an informed decision about whether I want to attend: what will I give up if I say yes? In this way, my holiday season is a mixture of fun, memory-making events and quiet time spent enjoying the moment.

4. Set Realistic Expectations – We can all get caught up in the craziness of the holiday season. We eat too much, we spend too much, we do too much. Doing so can leave a kind of tarnish on what is supposed to be a season of joy. To help avoid that, take a step back and don’t get caught up in all the hype. You don’t have to throw the biggest party ever. Your kids will be happy with the gifts you give them – you don’t have to out-do their schoolmates. That holiday meal doesn’t have to rival the ones you see on TV. The things that make holiday occasions special are often the small, thoughtful details, and not the price tag or the flashiness of the gifts you give or the spread you put on. Staying within your means – financially, emotionally and with respect to the time you have – will help make your holiday season an enjoyable one.

Coming up in Part Two: Avoiding Those 10,000 Extra Holiday Calories