Well… It’s November. That means Halloween has come and gone and you can actually call it “the holidays.” Thanksgiving is no longer next month. It’s weeks away and with a blink of an eye it will be here with Christmas and New Years creeping up on bank your account too.
It’s weird that such a magical time of year that is full of generosity, love, beautiful decor, and memories waiting to be made has turned into this major stressor for so many people. Over time I think we have zoomed in on certain aspects on the holidays that aren’t necessarily healthy. We want so desperately to find the perfect gift, to try and make time for both friends and family, to travel or make the perfect memory for your child that the spirit of it all is quickly lost.
To put this into perspective, according to studies from the American Psychological Association, 69% of people are stressed due to “lack of time” around this time of year, 51% claim to be stressed over the pressure of find gifts, and 69% once again claim to be stressed out over money during the holidays.
The list of stress statistics gets longer and longer every year. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t be this way. But in 2020, we want the perfect Instagram-able Thanksgiving table and Christmas set-up. We want to make sure no one feels excluded from a great gift and more often than not are willing to break the bank to do so.
Before I sound preachy, I’ll admit this happens to me too. I took a big look in the mirror when writing this and have decided this is the year I change my priorities.
It all started with me laying in bed feeling my baby kick me ferociously. I started telling him the holidays were coming up so he needed to cut that out so I could get everything done. Going through the list in my head, this year’s top things to do didn’t involve my usuals. I wasn’t listing gifts for each friend that I needed to mail across the country nor getting dates together for the parties and dinners I was supposed to host. Instead it was more of a list of things I wanted to do to make this pregnancy-holiday year special and prepare for wonderful traditions with Baby Kozman.
When did this time of year stop being about that? Just making it special. Not expensive. Not extravagant. Not even busy- but just a memory made.
Indulge me for a moment. Spend a couple minutes thinking about your favorite Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hanukkah/etc memories. What are the ones that truly pop up in your head first? I think if we are honest with ourselves it isn’t the most expensive gift someone got for us or how you seamlessly were able to attend each party invite. You might have fond memories from a dinner you hosted but did it matter that you cooked the steaks just right or was it more about the company you held? A joke someone said. A ridiculous tie someone wore to the company holiday gathering or someone’s nogged-rendition of “Santa Baby” that is remembered all these years later.
We stress ourselves over things that we have built up in our head to be of the greatest importance but in the end, they are hardly remembered. What if this year we did things to eliminate those stressors and allow us more time to ENJOY the most animated time of year!
There is time. There might not be an excess of cash but -news flash- you don’t need that to execute a great holiday. What you do need is a good attitude, to embrace those around you despite differences you held all year and a little magic. Luckily, the magic isn’t too hard to find when you slow down and take the time to bring back the olden holidays that held less stress and more pie.
Before anyone can really get to the idea of accepting, you’ve got to eliminate the stressors that have become the new tradition. It won’t happen overnight but if we all try these eight ideas throughout the course of the next few months we can all come out on the other side feeling better than ever going into 2021.
You ready? Here we go.
1. Go outside more
Yes. Go outside more. Nature is a natural stress relief. It’s not only great mentally but physically it’s doing you some good as well. Odds are if you’re outside, you’re not watching TV. Not being bombarded by holiday advertisements and sinking further and further into your couch with anxiety. You don’t necessarily have to get your blood pumping outdoors to reap physical benefits because surrounding yourself with the trees is going to increase your oxygen levels- making you feel good without even trying.
Going outside can lead to a lot of inner-awakenings with a clearer thought process or simply a great idea of something you can pull of for the holidays. For example, while on a walk you come across the great nook that would be perfect for a Thanksgiving pic nic. Maybe you’re hiking and take a great picture- realizing painting or even just printing and framing that shot would make an ideal gift (that’s cost effective) for someone you know. Even just sitting by a fire with a glass of wine could be the meditative exercise your body is craving.
The outdoors are both stimulating and calming which is what makes it the perfect way to start reducing your stress levels before the holidays kick your butt. We are even lucky enough to live in a place where the weather allows us to truly enjoy it all- don’t take that for granted.
2. Say “No” to some stuff
I know. This one is incredibly difficult to do during these months. All you want to do is be there for everyone and say yes to every gathering. It’s one thing to say “no” to a random Saturday hang out but to say no to Friendsgiving seems like a huge offense.
I think in cases like this it’s important to remember that someone else’s holiday doesn’t actually revolve around us. Let that soak in. Of course I’m not talking about your immediate household here, but I’m talking about the acquaintance that wanted you to stop for egg nog after work on Friday or the third holiday party invite you got this year. You are not required to go. You are not the guest of honor. It’s okay to say no because it was an invitation and not a demand.
It’s easy to end up having every single weekend booked or falling into the trap of thinking you need them all booked to begin with. That is such an unhealthy habit that I was sucked into for years. If this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that weekends with no plans are essential to keeping a stable home life. It’s particularly important to remember this if you have little eyes watching you. Remember kids are very likely to grow up with the same thoughts and habits as their parents. When they see you in a complete tizzy every year trying to fill every weekend or even lashing out over the fact there “isn’t enough time to go to both parties,” – this becomes what they think is normal.
This might be extreme, but you might consider setting a quota. No more than X amount of events between November and New Years. The number totally being up to you but the only requirement is it must be LESS than the amount of weekends that there are in those coming months.
Say no to some stuff this year. I mean for one, there is still a pandemic but two and most importantly your body will thank you.
3. Adopt the ‘Less is More’ rule
I’ve been wanted to adopt this rule myself for what feels like forever. Instead of waiting another forever- why not right now.
You can adapt this into our last piece of advice with making plans- less plans, more time and happiness – or go literal with it. Like I said before, 51% of American stress over gifts and even more over the finances of it all. LESS IS MORE.
Instead of worrying about quantity or topping the previous year, think about the heart of the gift. The spirit of what giving is. Since when was giving something that was only a physical something wrapped in glitter? I do firmly believe in being generous around the holiday but it can mean so many different things.
Be generous with your home. Host a potluck for your friends. In doing this, you keep yourself from paying tons of money to feed everyone and only make one dish. Keep it simple. Enjoy a meal together and play some board games you already own.
Be generous with your spirit. Share kind words with people more often this year. We think them in our head all the time and it’s so silly we don’t spit it out more often,
Be generous heart. Instead of stressing over trying to travel and see every person on your list, think of some alternatives that save you time and money. I hate Zoom so I’m not even going to list that- but I LOVE handwritten letters! And guess what? People love receiving them. I decorate just plain pieces of paper with little sketches, write something heartfelt and then send them off to my friends. It’s better than a nice text because it can be saved and cherished. Another alternative is to plan an event for all those people you intended to see, but for a different time. Get started on the family reunion or see if your pals want to meet up near a theme park next year (or whenever things are safe again.) Sometimes it’s just the time of year that is too much to handle, not necessarily the traveling itself.
The gift of thought is bigger than we realize and cheaper too. Get creative and realize that your friends aren’t here to judge what kind of gift you got them. I think most people just want to be remembered in one way or another this time of year.
4. No politics at my party rule
This is a long standing rule for me and it has served us well!
The number 1 WORST party crasher is a political conversation. No one invited you, yet you somehow snuck your way into the merriment. Guess what- when you’re the host, it’s not rude to shut that down. It’s YOUR dinner, YOUR party, and they are your friends most importantly.
You don’t even have to get confrontational. Hang a sign at the entrance that states “No political conversations at my party!” But I have personally found that no one gets offended when you just speak up. There are polite ways of saying, “hey that’s not a fun topic.” Or my favorite, acting like to didn’t hear it and announcing that everyone is going to do a shot. That shuts up even the most vocal debaters.
Does someone keep breaking the rule? Well, you can always think of a hilarious punishment. Like a dunce hat or squirting them with a spray bottle until they pass training. That isn’t everyone’s style so not inviting them back next time is an easy an option too.
Rules typically aren’t fun at parties but I promise this is one that everyone will thank you for
5. Schedule some self care
Remember how I said leave some weekends open this year? This is why.
Self care doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us. Even if we are good at it, around the holidays it is easy to skip out on it. What is self care for you isn’t the same thing someone else would say helps them so I really leave this up to you. I like hiking to help me meditate in an active way but I also enjoy a holiday massage to release stress in my shoulders.
Whether your self care is a true day off or getting something literally on the schedule, do it. Do it now even. Call and make the appointment to get your nails done or whatever it is. Get it on a calendar BEFORE the holidays hit that way you plan around it instead of trying to plan your self care around the craziness of it all.
When you take care of yourself it becomes tremendously easier to take care of everything else. Some of it is physical, I mean your body can only do so much. But just as much of it is mental. Half of what we “can’t do” is just because we told ourselves we couldn’t.
Take care of yourself and so much will fall into place.
Couldn’t pass up an opportunity to remind you to exercise! Not to fit into your skinny jeans because sometimes happiness isn’t that, but exercise is just proven relief for your body. When your stressed, you build up all sorts of chemicals in your muscles and bones. Exercise literally shakes it all out. It’s really not rocket science. The proof is in your sweat. I’m not kidding. You release a lot of toxins when you sweat. So this year, sweat your stress away!
You can use it as a time to clear your head or just get away from your family. It’s all beneficial around the holidays. I won’t judge your reasoning.
7. Use your phone less
Use your phone less this year.
As much as we like to use the excuse that someone important might call, most of the time we are just using our phones as a tool for boredom. It’s kind of silly how easily we feel bored anymore. Watching TV used to be exciting 30 years ago but now it’s not good enough and we mindlessly scroll Facebook at the same time.
Without realizing it, we are taking in all these images of people having “the perfect” holiday and internalize all that into thinking that ours isn’t good enough.
It’s easy to say you’ll use your phone less but not actually execute so I encourage you to come up with a real plan. Whether it’s no phones after 7pm or no phone during TV time, whatever- just give this a try.
You’ll be surprised how much you didn’t need it to begin with.
8. Listen to more music
It’s not secret that music is healing. During this time of year we need it more than ever.
If you LOVE holiday music. Play more of it! Instead of having the TV on while you cook, clean or eat dinner, play that holiday music instead.
On the flip side, if you can’t escape the holiday tunes and it drives you nuts, spend more time listening to what YOU like. What fills your soul with goodness, but apply the same rules. Less TV, more music. Make a special playlist to help you get through this time of year.
While this isn’t a guide to making the holidays easy, I do hope you find yourself in a better headspace this year after implementing these ideas. Let’s work towards taking back the holidays for what they were meant for. Beautiful memories and spreading around kindness. Don’t but pressure on the things that only matter for a Facebook post and will be forgotten by this time next year.
The new norm is as simple as bringing back the old. Who are you trying to impress anyway? No one besides you remembers what your holiday card looked like last year anyway. Spend less money and more time on what really matters.
Good luck over the next few months!