Blue Christmas Cures
"It's the most wonderful time of the year"
Christmas joy is filling the air and it's a time to spend time with family and friends. The Christmas season seems to start earlier and earlier each year and it is a great time of year - in fact, I absolutely LOVE Christmas and [mostly] everything about it.
But even I get stressed and overwhelmed this time of year. It's no joke that the holidays are both mentally and physically exhausting.
Christmas doesn't just happen - there is a lot of work that goes into it and a lot of pressure to create winter wonderlands and perfectly poised decorations that could be straight from Better Homes & Gardens Magazine.
The expectations of Christmas can simply be too much sometimes.
There is a constant push and pull to "keep up" with Christmas expectations that is ludicrous. Sure, I get pulled in and want to decorate my house just so and buy lots of presents and have a fancy Christmas morning menu that would put brunch at The Plaza to shame... but it's unrealistic. I am proud of my decorations, and it's not perfect, but it's the best I could with what we had (and a small budget for lots of new things). It's also incredibly unrealistic to think that I'll have a house that is #decorgoals because I have a toddler. I'm not going to uproot her daily routine and move toys around and prevent her from going in certain rooms because of the decorations.
Depression is already common during the winter, and to add insult to injury, many people find themselves stressed over finances or struggling with an unresolved issue or loss during this time of year. Hearing cheerful songs about spending time with loved ones and feeling the constant pressure to buy lots of presents is enough to push people further into dark feelings and depression. It's not all candy canes and eggnog.
The holiday season is draining.
When you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed or Grinchy about the holidays, take a step back. It's okay to not love every aspect. Practicing self-care becomes even more important during the holidays. Knowing your limits and knowing how much social, mental, and physical strain you can endure can help prevent a lot of the Christmas Blues.
Knowing your limits is crucial to having a happier holiday season.
There will be an increase in social events and family time, so knowing how much you can handle and prioritizing those events can keep you in control of your spirits. It's okay to say "no" to invitations and it's okay to put limits on how much family time you have. Whether you are entertaining at your house or traveling to see loved ones, sometimes it's helpful to have a set end-time to your social gatherings. You don't have to announce what time you are leaving to the host or hostess, but have a time in mind as to when you feel it appropriate to make an exit (of course, if you are truly having a good time, by all means stay!). But don't feel like you are being forced to spend time with family for an extended period of time.
There are always going to be events you can't attend because your schedule won't allow. So pick a few events each holiday season that are most important to you and make them a priority. The rest you can politely decline. Everyone will understand that you can't do it all. Especially if you're a parent!
Practice Restful Stimulation
Save time and energy for just your immediate family, whether it's a quiet evening with your parents watching old Christmas movies or spending time with your husband and kids making your own family traditions and memories, If you expend too much energy into time with extended family or at parties and social events, you won't be able to give your all to the kids and your spouse.
You don't have to completely shut out everyone to practice good self-care, but be mindful as to who is around you when you do. Having a family game night or movie night might be just what the doctor ordered. It doesn't always have to be a high-stress over-stimulated activity to have good fun!
Start New Traditions
I am huge on holiday traditions. Ask anyone in my family - there are specific things that in my mind, have to be in place in order for it to be Christmas. But don't get so caught up in keeping every. single. tradition. alive and let yourself get stressed about the details. The past 3 years have been an eye-opener for me when it comes to traditions and being open to starting new ones.
Hubs and I used to celebrate Christmas with my dad's side of the family on Christmas Eve, see my family in the morning, and then drive to see his family in the evening. Overall, that's almost 300 miles of driving in 2 days. No Thanks. So when our daughter was born, we adopted new traditions.
And it took our levels of stress and feeling overwhelmed to ground level. I'm talking, now we don't leave our house on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. And it feels so good. We went from seeing a ton of people on Christmas Eve to spending time with just the three of us at home, quietly preparing for the "main event." We host Christmas breakfast for my family, and there are still certain traditions that live on (breakfast menu, dish ware, and even down to the brand of OJ). Traditions can continue as long as there is balance and openness to starting new traditions of your own.
Be Mindful of Nutrition
It's easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and let your diet go down the drain. There's temptations of cookies, treats, holiday snacks, and grabbing a quick fast-food meal while you're running errands or holiday shopping. But eating poorly can affect your mood, energy levels, and stamina.
With all the party-hopping and Christmastime events, you may think "it's just this time of year" or "I'll diet after the holidays." But if you are mindful during the whole season, then you won't have to kickstart the new year with a trendy fad diet. This doesn't mean you can't have desserts or sweets. But have it all in moderation. Balance some cookies with healthy snacks. When you go to a party, offer to bring a fruit or veggie tray to have a healthy option. If you are busy and on-the-go a lot this season, try some simple crock-pot recipes that will simplify your day and keep you from stopping at McDonalds.
We are all guilty of feeling some frustration and annoyance around the holidays - whether it's over-socialization, gaining a few holiday pounds, or just feeling the need to keep up with the commodification of the Christmas season. Just remember to take some time for you and your closest loved ones, and it's okay to take a break and relax. It's okay to have a low-key holiday season. Self-care is more important than ever.
Photography: Kalyn Michele Photography