How To Actually Enjoy the Holidays

To a lucky few of you, the title of this post must seem insane. How could anyone not enjoy the holiday season, you ask. Parties, festive decor, good food, presents, time with family and friends — what's not to love? Unfortunately though, the holiday season can be fraught with anxiety, rising from extensive demands on our time, family tension and financial concerns, among others. Personally, it's the sheer busyness of December that gets me down: my own holiday schedule includes a trans-Atlantic flight, a mean case of jetlag, two more inter-city flights, and ten days of rigidly scheduled events with family and friends, all while struggling with re-adaption to a climatic extreme that I traded in years ago, and apparently no longer have the ability to deal with (December in eastern Ontario: not for the faint of heart).

It's not that I don't look forward to December, but rather that when it's over, I feel a distinct need to lie down in a dark room for most of January. Whatever happened to just curling up on the sofa with Love, Actually and a bottle of red?

Luckily, I've developed a few tricks and coping mechanisms to ensure that I feel in control of my December, rather than controlled by it.

Schedule Everybody, Including Yourself
The holidays are always going to be busy. Between family (often multiple families), friends, shopping and work occasions, there's a lot going on, and none of us want to miss out. To make the most of your time, you need to schedule diligently, and early. Use email, use the phone, use Facebook events — but sort out the who-when-where as far in advance as you can. Once you've done this, inform your nearest and dearest so that they can work you into their busy lives, as well.

The trick to not feeling like your holiday is an endless series of meetings? Schedule time for yourself, too. I make a point to arrange a low-key breakfast at my favourite coffee shop with my parents, time to take a bath on Christmas Eve (yes, really) and an afternoon of baking with my sister. These low-key commitments keep me from burning out, and allow me to face the less relaxing ones with renewed vigor.

Reduce your Gift-Giving
Look, I think gifts are great. There's nothing like hunting down the perfect item for that special somebody, unless it's unwrapping something thoughtful and unexpected of your own. But with our consumer culture in overdrive, we can (and often do) take this too far. When the ideas of holiday shopping leaves you cold with dread, or you find yourself stocking up on gift cards just to avoid having one more thing to think about, it might be time to revisit your gift strategy.

Consider replacing gifts-for-all with a secret santa, introducing a spending limit, or even agreeing to have no gifts at all with a certain group of family or friends. It can be tricky to get everybody on board, but you might find that others in your circle are just as keen to scale back their spending as you are.

Respect Tradition, to an Extent
When I was younger I defined tradition quite loosely (basically, as "anything we've done once that I enjoyed, and would therefore like to do annually"), and was militant about upholding each and every one. Now that I'm older and wiser, I realize that changing lives and schedules not only make that impossible, but a downright nuisance.

Do I really need to go with my dad to pick out our Christmas tree every year, even though I only arrive in town days before Christmas, have a host of other events to attend (see tip #1) and it often means that we have to settle for a imperfect, already half-dry tree? No, I don't. Do I still want to decorate said tree with my family, while we listen to holiday music and drink tea? Most definitely.

Compromise and sacrifice aren't the most festive of words, but they're key here: when you're no longer looking forward to a certain tradition, it might be time to let it drop in favour of something you'd enjoy more.

So those are my thoughts on keeping the holidays in check. What advice do you have? Chime in below!

(Image: A Peek into Sybille's DIY "Funkytime" Home)

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