Relax, It’s the Holidays!


David Singleton, for WikiMedia Commons

You hear that a lot, right?  Relax, it’s the holidays!  It’s supposed to be a time for family and friends, for gathering together and sharing joy.  But often, this time of year is the antithesis of relaxation.  It can be stressful, emotionally challenging, and generally a pain in the ass.

More than half of the people I know are currently sick.  The rest are run off their feet with holiday baking, errands, and social engagements.  Even I have come home from work and thought, ‘ugh, another party, not tonight’.  Why can this time of year be so exhausting?

Here’s my take – we focus SO HARD on the trimmings of the holidays that we overlook the important stuff.

We run from store to store to find that perfect gift – which is thoughtful, for sure, but usually what your loved ones want is quality time with you.

We fuss, trying to get our decorations hung perfectly and our homes clean enough to to impress holiday guests, when the reason that friends visit is to enjoy your company.

We hurry around the kitchen, timing every dish, making sure everyone’s glass is full,  trying to be gracious hosts, watching and worrying while our plate gets cold, when what we wanted was to break bread with the people we love.

We get so focused on looking after the details that we forget to look after ourselves.  Between the stress of getting everything done before December 25th, managing the holiday bills, the challenges of family relationships, and a whole heap of cookies, you might be looking at a nutritional and emotional powder-keg.  How do you cope?

First, make time for yourself – whatever that means.

For me, it means sticking to my training schedule, even when I have a party to go to after (*gives the added benefit of having pumped up guns at said party).  It means only eating the treats I really, really want, not just the ones that get dropped off in my office.  It means taking time to look at the tree while I snuggle my dog (and husband, though mostly the dog).  It means calling my parents just to talk.  It means forgetting about the list of things left to do while I’m in the company of friends, being present where I am, and remembering to embrace the moment.  Self-care lets you care for those you love.

Next, be rational.

It’s just a couple of weeks, not a way of life.  While there are temptations aplenty this time of year, remember that you’re still in charge of your choices.   Though this season might fill you with child-like wonder, you’re still an adult, and you can make decisions like one.  Here’s a tip – if you wouldn’t let your kids eat it, you probably shouldn’t either.  The holidays are not an excuse to eat stuffing for dinner (no matter how much you want to).

On that note, be kind.

Worrying about food choices (or lack of training or whatever it is you worry about) adds more stress to an already stressful time.  It can be so easy to beat yourself up about “giving in to temptation” over the holidays, but what good does it do?  More often than not, you end up feeling worse about yourself, and making more of those choices you are beating yourself up for.  Instead, experiment with some new recipes, eat lots of veggies and lean proteins, and remember to enjoy the act of sharing food with friends and family. Try to eat healthy, whole foods  in balanced meals 90% of the time, and don’t fuss too much about the other 10%. Train when you can, and schedule rest days when you know you’ll be busy.

This December – don’t try to be perfect.  Perfect gets in the way of wonderful.  Perfect gets in the way of warm and loving and relaxed.

This December – let yourself have fun.  Let yourself relax.  That doesn’t mean letting the latter part of December turn into a landslide of sloth and gluttony, followed by the inevitable early January guilt and shame.  Guilt and shame are not worth your time, you’re busy enough already.  Pick the times and treat that you really want to savour, and do just that.

This December – be yourself, love yourself, and enjoy yourself. 

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