Here Come the Holidays…How to Maximize Them Without Losing Yourself

We have made it through most of 2020 and here we are, looking at the end of the year and the holidays.  Yay!  I’m sure we all expect the holidays and the activities surrounding them to look a little different this year.  Knowing when to say yes and when to say no to different situations or opportunities is a major factor in overall stress level, happiness and fulfillment.  This blog is the first in a three-part series with a focus on some of the challenges many of us face when it comes to the holidays.  While the holidays bring nostalgic feelings from our childhood, they also can be a time when we over commit, overspend and over consume.  Let’s break this down into a few scenarios and how to manage with less stress this holiday season by being courageous to make different choices this year. 

The holidays are typically full of activities that can be a lot of fun and a time to show gratitude and connection with those in your life.  Activities may include:

  • multiple gatherings with friends, volunteer organizations and different “sides” of the family
  • school programs, church programs
  • shopping for gifts for kids, significant others, extended family, coworkers, friends and don’t forget the mailman, the trash collectors, the delivery people and your hairdresser!  I’m sure I’m forgetting someone here….
  • the wrapping of above-mentioned gifts and in some cases, taking them to the shipping store to get out on time
  • family photos for the holiday cards, holiday card writing, sealing, stamping and sending
  • attending company holiday parties and shopping for clothes for said parties
  • and the list can go on and on…

All of this “extra” stuff at the holidays can really stress a person out.  It is important to stop and ask ourselves if all of this is really necessary?  Is the “juice worth the squeeze”?  How many times have you been through the holidays and on January 2nd you are completely worn out and exhausted?  Not to mention you’ve packed on a few pounds from all of the stress eating??  All of these feelings can be a sign that we spend some of our holiday season in the victim loop.  We get stuck feeling that we have to do all of these things to make our family happy, our friends happy or to be seen as a good person in society.  Healthy activities get sidelined because we “don’t have time”.  We also hide behind all of the tasty foods and drinks, using them as an excuse to pack on pounds.  Well, let’s stop that this year, take personal accountability and trade up for a much more fulfilling holiday season!

Over Committed – If you have found yourself feeling stressed and worn out by the time you hit January, take the time now to plan for a different outcome this year.  It is already going to be a very different holiday season with the pandemic, so maybe it is the right time to simplify the holiday season so we can come out the other side feeling fulfilled, loved and healthier than in years past.  I’d like to challenge you to think about how you might trim back in activities, spending and consumption.  Utilize your personal values, rather than society’s guilt, to decide what is really important and what is just excess.  If you haven’t had a chance to determine your top three personal values, spend a couple minutes reading the Pineapple Courage blog about defining values here.  Once you know what you truly value, you can use those values to set boundaries and make decisions about where you will spend your time and more importantly, what you will not do this year. 

Overspend – This is pretty self-explanatory and can be linked to the list above with all the extra “stuff” to be purchased during this time of year.  Have you ever got to January and have been disappointed in how much your savings account has been depleted, or worse yet, how large your credit card bill is?  It seems that even with budgets prepared ahead of time and shopping early for the best deals we still seem to find ourselves scrambling right before the holidays spending on things we forgot about or we just wanted to “do one more thing”.  Take these steps to avoid overspending this year:

  1. Make your list of people you think you should buy a gift for and how much you plan to spend on each person. 
  2. Add up all the estimated costs.  Are you happy with that total number?  Have you forgotten anyone?
  3. I’m guessing that number may be more than you thought.  If this is the case, first scrub your list to eliminate some people from the list.  Again, use your values, not what you think society expects you to do as that is victim loop behavior and will not bring you long term happiness.
  4. For the remaining list, consider whether you could change the way you show you care to some of the people on the list? Is spending time with them more important than actually buying something?  Perhaps a FaceTime call on the actual holiday would mean more than wasting money on something they don’t need?  I know this is the case for me.  I am not much of a gift person and I much rather have quality time with the people I love than get something.  Think about experiences that you could do together that may be more impactful to lasting memories than a new toy or tchotchkes. I do have people in my life that are very much “gift” people and I know how much they appreciate small, well thought out gifts so I definitely do that for them.  The key here is to make sure that you aren’t overspending on someone who doesn’t value gifts.
  5. Add up the total spend of your list again.  Is it where you think it should be and you can afford?  If not, scrub the list again.  I can guarantee you that no one that truly loves or cares about you wants you to go into debt over a gift for them. 

Over Consume – By taking the steps above to prevent over committing and overspending you’ll be a little less stressed.  This reduction in stress alone should help you in your efforts to maintain healthy eating habits during the holidays as you won’t be “on the run” all of the time or stress eating about the mounting bills.  I realize that the holidays are also a time where lots of traditional foods come out of the woodwork and call to us because they are so tasty and irresistible!  Eggnog, pies, casseroles, homemade cookies, candy and the list goes on and on.  This is also a time of year when all of the goodies show up at work, free for the taking and as gifts.  Well, maybe all of you who get to work from home this year will be spared some of that!  Or I guess you might start receiving deliveries to the house.  Yikes.  Here are some tips to try to both be able to enjoy all of the holiday food and drinks while still maintaining some balance:

  1. Decide on a time frame during the day when you will eat and when you will not.  A trick I use is I don’t eat or drink anything but water after 8pm at night.  This practice keeps me from consuming calories that are not going to start to be digested before I go to bed.  It also helps me to get better sleep. 
  2. Substitute a meal with a decadent dessert.  Swapping calories is better than adding them on top of a full meal. 
  3. Understand how many calories are in each of your seasonal drinks – eggnog, hot cocoa, hot toddy’s, etc.  These can really add up.  The good thing is typically these drinks are really sweet so hopefully you’re only consuming one of them.  You might be able to forego dessert this way too. 
  4. Commit to working out X number of days per week in November and December and stick to it.  You have to decide the right number for you in order to maintain a healthy weight and more importantly not get pulled down with how all of those decadent foods make you feel. 

I am not here trying to ruin your holidays so if you are in social situation, do not be so rigid that you can’t enjoy yourself.  Just don’t break your plans so often that you undo all that you’ve done to stay healthy. 

I hope all of these ideas will aid in getting through this holiday season feeling accountable, fulfilled and happy instead of stressed out, tired and broke!  I’d love to hear additional strategies you have used to hold yourself accountable during the holidays.  Please add them to the comments section below. 

Thanks for reading! 

~Natalie

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3 thoughts on “Here Come the Holidays…How to Maximize Them Without Losing Yourself”

  1. Thank you for the wonderful areas to consider as we enter a lovely, albeit stressful time of year.
    Balance is key as you say… do a few things and do them well. And safety first this holiday!

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