Well, friends, that time is upon us. We’ve reached the thick of the holiday season, that time when the joyful anticipation of cozy fires and fun holiday parties has devolved into the reality of digging through the attic for Christmas decorations, panicking that we’ve forgotten a hostess gift, and feeling generally overwhelmed with the expectations and to-dos that the holiday season brings.
When we reach this point, it is all too easy for our goal of thriving through an enjoyable holiday season to turn into just plain trying to survive until it’s all over. But I promise, friends, it doesn’t have to be this way!
I’m here to share with you six simple steps that, if you can implement them, will allow you to turn this holiday season around, bringing back the joy and sparkle of cherished memories that you’ve been longing for.
Are you ready? Here’s what we’re going to do:
Manage Your Mindset Through Morning Routine
If you listen to the Design You Podcast or have followed along with me for any time at all, you know that I’m a huge believer in starting any big shift in behavior with adjusting our mindset.
Managing your mindset around the holidays starts with recognizing that all thoughts are optional! From your feelings about your mother-in-law’s visit to your enthusiasm for the daily activities of the Elf on a Shelf, you have the power to change your experience by choosing positive thoughts—if you take the time to be intentional with the thoughts that you’re allowing into your headspace.
Personally, I find that my best opportunity to maintain positive thoughts during the holiday season is by prioritizing journaling and a positive morning routine. Yes, you may need to wake up a bit earlier to make time for this—but I promise it will feel worthwhile when you experience a better, calmer, happier, more joyful holiday season! Because we all know that if we can get started well in the morning, things tend to go much more smoothly from there.
So, I want you to use that journaling time in the morning as an opportunity to check in on your thoughts, as well as on your calendar, your menu planning and shopping lists and self-care time, which we’ll discuss much more in depth later on. But while you’ve got that pen in hand, jot down the thoughts that are popping up each morning and notice if they’re thoughts that are going to make you feel better about the day and the holiday season, or if they’re going to make you feel worse.
Once you become aware of any thoughts of stress, overwhelm, and frustration that may be controlling your day, you have the power to intentionally choose thoughts that will give you energy, joy, confidence, and peace throughout the holiday season.
Need a refresher on changing your thoughts so you can thrive through the holiday season? Take a listen to Episode 4 of the Design You Podcast, where I introduce the model I use for mastering our thoughts.
Cling to your Holiday Season Calendar
In this season where we have far more to do than is typical, your calendar will be your best friend, your ally, and the only thing that ensures that your priorities are actually met and accomplished. The holiday season is not the time to throw the calendar out the window, but to cling to that thing for dear life so you can fight the overwhelm and keep yourself on track.
The secret here, though, is using your calendar to plan time for everything—not just the big-ticket events! In fact, your calendar is most critical for planning all the day-to-day happenings that need to fit around those big events, because that’s where the holiday overwhelm really comes in.
Because even though it’s the holidays, groceries still need to be purchased. Our homes still need to be tidied. We still need time set aside for self-care, for making dinner, for date nights, and for all the preparations that go with those big-ticket events that make the holidays special.
At this time of year, I lean especially heavily on what I call zero balance calendar blocking. I’ll share more about that in a future post, but it essentially is the art of blocking out every hour of your day and determining how it will be used. It sounds restrictive, I know, but I promise it’s worth doing. Because the better we can plan ahead for every aspect of how we spend our days, the better we’ll be able to truly thrive in those moments that make the holidays feel special.
So, that morning journaling time? Write it in your calendar—including some extra time to review and prepare for the day’s activities. If you’re hosting a holiday party, you need to write down not just the event itself, but also determine how much time you’ll need to prepare for that event and write that into the calendar as well. You can’t magically make more hours in a day—so if something needs doing, plan ahead to determine when you’ll be doing it.
Create Space for Self-Care
Now, as you have your calendar open and are planning out your days, let’s take a moment and pay special attention to creating space for self-care. Because for many of us, as we face the holidays and there are so many extra demands on our time and energy, we find that time we’ve set aside to take care of ourselves can naturally be the first to be dismissed. But in reality, if we want to thrive during the holidays, we should be even more committed to creating space for self-care.
Think about it, If you’re going to maintain the energy to decorate your home, travel or host family and friends, and create meaningful family memories, shouldn’t we consider it critical that we’re prepared to operate at our highest capacity? And to do that, we need to keep our health, wellness, and self-care practices in place as much as possible.
Of course, being mindful of the demands on our time, creating space for self-care during the holidays doesn’t mean necessarily a 60-minute workout every day. That might not be realistic. Even so, let’s avoid all-or-nothing thinking and make sure that you’re keeping some semblance of a self-care routine. For example, you can at least do a 20-minute walk three times a week, right? That’s a compromise that will keep you feeling great and leave enough time for those holiday extras.
So decide ahead of time what you need, and use the calendar blocking principles we discussed above to set aside the minimum amount of exercise and self-care that you will do during the holidays to stay sane and healthy.
Let Go of Holiday Perfection
Especially for those of us who already identify as perfectionists, there is something about the shiny “magic” of the holiday season that can send our grand ideas of perfect decor, perfect gifts, and perfect experiences into overdrive. We want every aspect of the holiday season to be incredibly special and meaningful, and that pursuit of perfection can lead us to the number one driver of holiday stress: procrastination.
We’re determined to hold out for the perfect gift, so we avoid just getting our holiday shopping done early. We idealize visions of a perfect shopping trip out with family or our girlfriends when we would have been better off getting it all done online. We have visions of a perfectly themed and coordinated gift-wrapping motif, so we leave all of it to be done on December 23rd.
Are you seeing the pattern here? In all this pursuit of holiday perfection, all we’re really doing is procrastinating and creating opportunities for more stress.
But if you can instead accept that done is better than perfect and choose to get things done early instead of done perfectly, you’ll be much more likely to enjoy the true perfection that comes with a stress-free holiday season.
Curb the Non-Holiday Clutter
I’m someone who keeps a very tidy house in general. Not just clean but tidy—with a place for everything and everything in its place—because I need that sense of order for my attitude and my mental clarity.
But even if you’re also someone who keeps a generally very organized home, it can be especially easy for clutter to pile up during the holiday season. We’re bringing decorations out of storage and setting them up around our home. There are more people around who all bring their own stuff into our homes, and as we receive gifts from friends and family, those are all new things that need a place to belong.
So, if you haven’t taken the time to do some editing prior to the holiday season, your once tidy home can quickly come to feel like it’s filled to the brim with clutter.
The solution? You need to put away at least as much as you take out. That may mean permanently donating our tossing old, worn-out items to make way for newly received gifts, and it will certainly mean storing non-holiday decorations for the duration that you’ll have holiday decor in its place.
Ideally, the month or so just before the holiday season is a great time for a major clean-out of stuff. But if you’re past that point and you’re feeling inundated but clutter, the simple step of moving some of your every-day decor items into storage until after the holidays can do wonders to restore the sense of tidiness in our homes.
Choose Foods that Help You Thrive
At this time of year where there is so much to do, it can be doubly frustrating that we’re also surrounded by tempting foods that taste delicious, but leave us feeling tired, lethargic, overweight, and generally less than our very best.
Even so, the thought of saying no to all that yummy holiday food isn’t really that fun, is it? So, how do we find some balance with the foods that we choose?
My favorite trick for healthy eating at this time of year is the concept of crowding out, a principle I learned from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition when I got my health certification.
So, what is crowding out, exactly? It’s the idea that instead of ditching all the healthy food choices that we typically make during the rest of the year in favor of unhealthy holiday foods, we focus on adding more of the good stuff into our holiday diets.
Realistically, we are still going to eat some of the “bad” or less healthy foods that feel special during the holidays. But by adding in a lot of healthy foods during this time of year, you’re crowding out as much of the bad as you can. This way, you’re not just focusing on all of the unhealthy stuff that you’re not going to eat during the holidays and feeling deprived.
For example, if I’ve looked at my calendar and know that I’m going to a holiday party in the evening, I will plan ahead to eat a satisfying, healthy meal at home beforehand. That way, when I arrive at the party, I can say yes to a nibble or two of treats without going overboard, because I’ve already nourished my body with a full meal of healthy foods.
Planning is the Key to Thriving Through the Holidays
So, what do these six different steps to thriving (and not just surviving) through the holidays have in common? As usual, it all comes down to planning. When you plan ahead to keep a mindful morning routine, to be the master of your calendar, to create space for self-care, to let go of perfect, control the clutter, and choose foods that make you feel good? You will be well on your way to enjoying a meaningful holiday season that you can look back on fondly.
To give you a little extra help with adopting this thriving mentality as you make your way through the holiday season, I have my very own holiday gift for you! Click right here to grab a printable reminder of these six tips as you go through the holiday season. I recommend sticking this to your fridge, tucking it into your calendar or journal, or maybe even taping it to your bathroom mirror so that you can stay mindful of these practices throughout the holiday season. And if you want to hear these great ideas again while you workout or are in the car between holiday shopping destinations, listen to my DesignYou Podcast Episode #34.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays Friends!