This week marks my 38th circle around the sun as well as the kickoff to the Christmas weekend. With a week full of celebrations that span the state, I saved half my vacation time so I wouldn’t be trying to fit in the festivities around my work and travel schedule. While most might consider it a waste of PTO to not cash it in on a trip to an exotic locale, I personally am thrilled at the idea of 10 solid days of having no agenda and ample time to travel to my family holiday commitments. The older I’m getting, the more luxurious it seems to simply have zero itinerary and be able to wake in the morning naturally without the aid of a blaring alarm. This time of year can create burnout for anyone, and for someone like me who works in the alcohol industry and has a December birthday, there’s an added layer of stress that could easily tip me over the edge if I don’t create space for myself. With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I suggest you also carve out some time for rest and rejuvenation.
One aspect of holiday stress I struggle with the most is the pressure to make everything perfect. We’re inundated with images of holiday cheer from the time we’re children. Whether it’s in classic holiday films, Hallmark cards, Norman Rockwell paintings or just the current social media blitz of influencer families in matching pajama sets snuggled up with cocoa around the tree, it can lead you to believe if your holidays don’t match up to this unrealistic portrayal of the perfect family gathering, you’ve failed. In reality, everyone is a mess; we all have crazy family members, money is tight, and there aren’t enough hours in the day. I hosted Thanksgiving in Nashville for 6 people this year and had a complete meltdown while trying to serve the meal. I had created a vision in my head of all the food being plated and properly served, with place settings laid, so when everyone arrived they would walk in and be blown away with the perfect execution. Unfortunately, the timing went completely awry and people came while I was still finishing the sides. We all ended up eating off paper plates instead of proper dinnerware…and no one cared. After I collected myself, I realized if it were me walking into someone’s home who was gracious enough to cook a huge meal, the last thing I would care about is what I was eating it off of, or if it was running a little late on getting done. We’ve got to stop killing ourselves with comparison; no one is broadcasting their blooper reel, only a well-curated feature of highlights and milestones.
In addition to consciously alleviating self-imposed mental pressure, being diligent in my time management has become critical around the holidays. If I don’t properly plan my days/weeks, it’s easy double book and over-commit. If you don’t already utilize the calendar in your phone or a planner, I definitely suggest doing so. With so many events and to-do lists it would be impossible to stay on top of everything by memory alone, which would lead to an enormous amount of fire-drills and last-minute scrambling when something is inevitably forgotten. As soon as a commitment is made add it to the calendar, and when any task/gift buying arises, place it on the to-do list.
It is also important to put impose a strict curfew and stick to it; this year I was diligent in my daily schedule and it has alleviated so much stress. By making my morning workouts non-negotiable and ending my workday at 6p, I kept a healthy work/life balance. It’s also important to be strict with yourself with your bedtime. It’s easy to be at a holiday party having a great time and stay out late; however, this will throw off the entire next day making you sluggish and unproductive and creating unnecessary stress. Set firm boundaries and let people know ahead of time if you will be cutting out early so they don’t pressure you to stay. A friend of mine had a birthday party a few weeks ago on a Sunday night that started at 7:30p and was 35 minutes from my home. I always go to bed at 9p through the week to accommodate my 5:30a alarm and non-negotiable workouts, but additionally I had a very important meeting with our distributors the next day to account for. I let everyone in the group know I had to leave by 9, but still showed up, supported and gave a gift and it was totally fine. A lot of time peer pressure can be the source of a lot of holiday stress, but if you make your boundaries known ahead of time, people will be less likely to rib you about it.
Speaking of boundaries, one of the most important things a person can do during the holidays is learn to say NO. It’s natural to want to accommodate everyone’s plans and in doing so it’s very easy to put yourself last. I am single with no kids and I get burned out, so I can’t fathom the chaos of adding children and in-laws and their plans to the mix. If someone asks you to prepare something you don’t have time for, don’t do it. They’ll figure it out. It is ok to decline an invitation that is going to drain you. If people love you they will care more about your well-being than your presence at a silly event. Do what is best for you and your family and stop saying yes to things that make you miserable. The holidays are meant to be the happiest time of year, so stop forcing yourself to spend time with people you don’t like in situations that cause anxiety. Life is too short!
The biggest lesson I’ve learned this year is that your relationship with yourself is more important than anything. When you start giving yourself the same love and respect and prioritization that you’ve given freely and unreciprocated to so many others, your life will improve drastically. Sometimes this might mean we lose people… well, good. They needed to go anyway. Always carve out time for your own well-being, but this time of year it’s especially important. Don’t let the holiday hustle send you into 2024 on a downward trajectory. Happy Holidays!