Like many of my fellow holiday enthusiasts, this is hands-down my favorite time of the year. The period that houses the October, November, and December holidays begins, for me, in late August, when I'm already dreaming about fall flavors and Halloween scares. By the time November 1st rolls around, I'm blasting Christmas carols, collecting Thanksgiving recipes, and planning holiday DIYs to do while sitting in front of a fire with National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation playing in the background. Ahh, the good life.
However, you know how the saying goes about the best laid plans of mice and (wo)men. All too often, my reality doesn't match my daydreams. Work piles up as clients try to squeeze everything in before the end of the year, social obligations abound, bank accounts dwindle while stresses are on the rise. It's no wonder that when the actual holidays arrive, I'm usually too burned out to fully enjoy them.
This year, I've vowed to do things differently. I've been on a journey of simplification over the last year or so - one that values better over more, experiences over objects, and working to live instead of living to work. That last one's the trickiest; as a freelancer, I have to be driven, and my desire to hustle often leads me to the point of saturation. But the holidays are a time for enjoying family, friends, nature, and life's littlest pleasures - you know, things that make our souls swell instead of our wallets - and so that's what I plan on doing. Here's how I'm doing it and how you can too:
- Take intentional breaks: No matter how much work is piling up, schedule (as in, put it in your phone calendar and set an alert) time to physically remove yourself from it. It sounds counterintuitive, but the more refreshed you are, the better worker you'll be - and that's a win for everyone involved.
- Nourish yourself with healthy foods: Fueling your body with nutritious foods is important all year long, but even more so this time of year when temptation abounds. Realistically, you can't possibly deny yourself of every holiday treat that comes along (what are we, robots?), but after a night of feasting and imbibing, do your body a favor and load up on fresh fruits and veggies the next day.
- Get moving: Exercise is not only great for your physical health, but it works wonders on your mental wellbeing as well. Wake up early for a morning jog in the crisp, frosty air, schedule gym time with your favorite workout buddy (bonus: your mouth will get a workout too with all the gabbing), or bring your furry children for a midday walk. And if you're a fellow creative, these sweat sessions may just prove to be hotbeds of your best ideas yet.
- Indulge your hobbies: This is the hardest one for me, but the most important. Losing myself in something that requires me to work with my hands and remain laser-focused for a long period of time is essential to my sanity. But it's often the first thing that goes when work or my social calendar picks up. No more, I say! This is the stuff of life, the moments of true bliss, and if we lose those, what do we have left?
- Do something mindless: Sometimes we all just need to zone out a little. Lose yourself in some light reading, put on a trashy reality TV show (let's be honest, we all love them), or watch your favorite Christmas movie. Your mind is a muscle and like any muscle, it needs to rest now and again to perform at its best.
- Get in the holiday spirit: Ok - let's get real. No matter how many of these things we do, we can't help life from getting in the way a little, and some days, it's just going to be nose-to-the-grindstone, don't-get-up-until-it's-done and not much else. But that doesn't have to dampen your good cheer. Blast Christmas songs while running errands, visit local holiday happenings and fairs, and soak up every second of the good will this season brings about. Before you know it, it'll all be over.
- Reconnect with friends and family: This, my friends, is the essence of the season. The gifts are great, the decorations are festive, and the food is drool-worthy. But that's not what people will tell stories about in the coming years. At the end of the day, what we remember most about the holidays are the memories we made with the people we love. So reach out, rekindle, reconnect. The greatest gift we can give this - or any - time of year is our time. But...
- Learn to say no so you can enjoy saying yes: Giving of ourselves and our time doesn't mean saying yes to every invitation that comes our way. Spend your time judiciously, with the right people, doing the right things, so that you can be fully present. Some invitations will be impossible to turn down, but for the rest, choose wisely and then go all in. It's much easier to enjoy the season when you're able to politely decline invitations that don't work for you for any reason. Note: This applies all year long.
- Enjoy the weather: For summer lovers, this sounds crazy. But hear me out: all over the globe there are cultures that live much of their year in the cold and yet fully embrace it (hello, Scandinavia) - heck, some of those places are right here on the East Coast, like Vermont and Maine. This is a time of year like no other - brilliant foliage and crisp breezes slowly become frosty mornings and freshly fallen snow. There is beauty everywhere! And guess what? You can enjoy it without back sweat or frizzy hair! There's a saying that there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. So bundle up and get out there - nature is a wondrous thing.
- Hunker down: Even if you do embrace the cold, you're likely spending much more time indoors this time of year than any other. Get your home ready by stocking up on cozy throws, warm slippers, fluffy robes, and plenty of firewood. Start tackling your ever-growing reading list or learn a new hobby. Write, cook, or dance to your favorite holiday songs. Light candles, drink hot chocolate, and find pleasure in 'hygge' (which is Danish concept of coziness). This season, like any, will come and go in the blink of an eye.