A Guide to Staying Sane This Holiday Season

We all know the holiday season is going to look a little different this year. 2020 has thrown us all for a loop, and that includes these next few months.

The holidays can be a tricky time for people. I imagine this year will be even trickier. So here are a few tips to help you stay sane during these last months of 2020.

1. Prioritize Self-Care

Yes, we’re talking about self-care. Again. Because it’s vital, and twice as much so during the stress of the holidays.

Between organizing virtual get-togethers, cooking for your own family at home, online shopping for gifts, and where in the world is that dang potato masher? Things are hectic, to say the least.

That’s why it’s so important to prioritize your self-care. You don’t have to have a crazy complicated routine, either. Self-care can be incredibly simple and the benefits are enormous.

  • Journal. Even if it’s only once a week or just a few bullet points about what you’re grateful for at the end of each day. Take the time to work through your emotions and situations on paper. Trust me, it’s so therapeutic.

  • Listen to music. Even if you do it while you’re doing the dishes, tell the family this is You Time and you’re not to be disturbed. Then put on your favorite tunes and zen out. Or listen as you take a relaxing bath. Or have a dance party in your living room. There’s nothing quite so soothing as music.

  • Treat yourself. It’s a bit more difficult in coronavirus times, but if you’re able to safely, consider some pampering. Get your hair or nails done or do an at-home pedicure. Ask your partner for a massage.

  • Watch your favorite movie. Fix your favorite snack and sit down to just… do nothing for a few hours. (Bonus points for turning off that voice in your brain trying to nag you about everything you have to do tomorrow.)

  • Go for a walk. Especially in nature. And put your phone away! Not only is it good exercise but it’s very peaceful for the mind to be fully present in the outdoors.

Take just a few minutes every week (better yet, every day) to do something that soothes and grounds you. It will extend into every other facet of your life.

2. Eat Healthful Foods and Exercise

This one is sort of like self-care, but I think it’s so important it’s getting its own category.

It’s also one of the things that’s the first to go during the busy-ness of the holiday season. It can be very tempting to cruise through the drive-thru instead of cooking. There are times that’s just all you can do, and that’s okay.

However, you’ll feel so much more prepared to handle the season with healthful, nourishing foods in your belly. Consider batch-cooking on Sunday so you can microwave for the rest of the week. Get into overnight oats or freeze a few breakfast burritos to make the mornings a snap.

Exercise goes hand-in-hand with this. It doesn’t have to be an hour of intense cardio, either. Any movement is good movement, so get moving!

Go for that walk I talked about earlier. Incorporate one day of yoga practice into your week. Use HIIT workouts when you’re short on time. Pick up a pair of dumbbells and get squatting.

A regular exercise routine helps balance your hormones, stress levels, and in general keeps you healthier. The benefits can’t be overstated, so prioritize this in your week.

3. Watch Your Sleep Habits

Okay, most of this list is things you should be doing during your life every day anyway. But let’s be honest, a lot of us aren’t doing them, and that includes having good sleep habits.

Sleep is when your body and mind repair themselves. It helps control your weight, improves concentration, reduces your risk of certain diseases, improves your immune system… you get the idea.

Again, the notion of getting better sleep doesn’t have to be daunting. A few small tweaks can help improve the quality.

  • Don’t drink right before bed. Studies have linked alcohol to insomnia symptoms, including disruptions later in the night as it metabolizes.

  • Turn off those screens. Yes, all of them. Instead, try reading a physical book with a cup of herbal tea to help you wind down. You can also do a light yoga routine or meditation.

  • If you do wake up during the night and can’t get back to sleep, don’t just lay there being annoyed. Get up and do a quiet activity in another room until you feel sleepy again, then head back to bed.

  • If necessary, consider natural remedies like melatonin gummies. Always consult with your doctor first, but these over-the-counter solutions can help reset a disrupted routine.

When you improve your sleep, you’ll be amazed at how it trickles into every other aspect of your life. Think less dependence on coffee, a more focused brain, and more energy.

4. Set Boundaries

This one can be scary for some of us, but it’s so important for your mental health, especially during the holidays. We hope that everyone has relatives they love and enjoy spending time with. But for a lot of people, the holidays mean socializing with folks you may not actually get along with very well.

It’s important to learn how to set boundaries. Boundaries can take many forms, but essentially, they are lines in the sand beyond which you don’t want someone to walk.

For example, perhaps you don’t get along with your partner’s parents. Talk with your partner before you meet with their parents, even virtually, to set boundaries about what you will and will not tolerate.

Maybe it’s no political talk at the table or perhaps they have a habit of questioning your career choices. Ask for your partner’s help in backing you up in reinforcing these boundaries.

A polite but firm, “Excuse me, but I would prefer not to discuss <insert subject here>. I appreciate your understanding.” can go a long way.

If they insist on pursuing the subject, a second polite but firm reminder of the boundary can work. If not, be prepared to remove yourself from the situation with a firm, “I’ve asked you not to discuss <insert subject> with me and you continue doing so. I’m going to take a walk/leave now/go into another room until you respect my request.”

It can be scary to assert yourself in this way, but learning how to set and hold boundaries makes you an incredibly strong individual. It also sets the precedent for any younger folks at the table that it’s okay to respectfully stand up for yourself, which is a powerful message.

5. Be Gentle With Yourself

The holidays can bring out a lot of different moods and feelings. It’s important to be gentle with yourself and acknowledge them. Snag a feelings wheel to help you analyze what’s going on if you need to.

Acknowledge the feeling, sink into it, process it, and remember to be gentle with yourself for feeling it. The holidays are stressful; you’re allowed to have a wide range of emotions about them. Once you’ve dealt with it, don’t linger on it.

In particular, it’s important to listen for the “shoulds.” You know, the “I should bake cookies for my daughter’s soccer team like Debbie does” or “I should be happier, like my mom is” or “I should get all my Christmas shopping done early.”

Spoiler alert: you don’t have to should yourself about any of that.

It doesn’t matter if Debbie never forgets to bake the best cookies or your mom is the Queen of Christmas or you procrastinate on your shopping.

Be careful of getting in the Should Trap with the things on this list, too. Yes, they will help you keep your sanity during these months. But if you approach them like work, you’ll be less likely to do them.

So when you go through that drive-thru or sleep through your workout or don’t sleep at all or let your dad walk all over you at dinner, stop and take a deep breath. Remember that you’re human, that you’re trying your best, and that that is good enough. Because it is.

The holidays don’t stand a chance. You got this.