Every year between Halloween and Thanksgiving, most of us have great intentions of making the holidays a time of "comfort and joy."
This will be the year we get all of our shopping done early. We won't overdo it. We won't over-indulge. We will have a calm, stress-free holiday. But for many, this continues to be an incredibly stressful time of year. The best intentions get swept away in the face of gingerbread lattes, tinsel, and endless to-do lists.
Here's how to take your stress level down a notch and enjoy the holidays this year:
1. Simplify plans with close friends.
Grab coffee while shopping instead of trying to plan another night out. Have a gift wrapping session together and chat while you work. The pressure to touch in with everyone during the holidays can become overwhelming -- you don't want to leave anyone out! But remember, the world isn't coming to an end on Dec. 31. Make time for the people who matter most, and know that those who matter most also understand when you need to take a break.
2. Keep water with you at all times.
This might sound like a small thing, but between cold season, being in overheated shops, and bombarded by sweet treats at every turn, you'll be glad you stayed hydrated. If you plan to be drinking in the evening, make sure you are getting enough water during the day. Your whole body will thank you for it.
3. Keep a gratitude journal.
Taking a few minutes each day to notice what made you happy is a powerful habit. It doesn't have to be elaborate, even a list of three things that made your day more enjoyable, a favorite song coming on the radio, a few minutes of quiet with a cup of tea, a letter from a friend. Taking time to feel grateful for what we have is such a simple thing and is a great mood booster. The act of writing it down can help us solidify these feelings and can serve as a few minutes of meditation to quiet down at the end of a long day.
4. Make a budget and stick to it.
The people you love will not love you more because you accumulate debt in order to give them gifts. Know what you have available to spend, and plan accordingly. Some of my favorite gifts have been handmade or secondhand, because they reflected the thought and care that went into them -- and showed that the giver really knew me and what would make me smile and feel loved. Anyone can drop a few hundred dollars on this year's hottest gadget; not everyone knows what your favorite childhood book was or what kind of tea you love. It truly is the thought that counts.
5. Make an energy and emotional budget too.
Sometimes we look at our calendars and see time we have available -- on paper -- and don't take into account how much physical and emotional energy we actually have. It would be easy to let health habits like exercise and adequate rest fall by the wayside in the flurry of December activity, but this is when we need it most. Schedule yourself some downtime, and keep exercise that you enjoy in your December plans too.
Having a season of comfort and joy starts with taking care of ourselves. If we make self-care -- inside and out -- part of our daily practice, we will have much more to give to those we love.