How to Stay Sane Through the Holidays

The holidays are a magical time filled with joy, wonder, excitement, anxiety, dread, financial woes, and a sh*t ton of sugar and alcohol.

It’s a festive combination.

So how do you make it through this season without losing your mind and actually enjoying yourself?

Before I share what you should do, I want to talk about what you shouldn’t do. It’s a story from when I was 24 and still in denial of my limitations. I was living on the west coast for grad school and this was the first major holiday since I made the big move away from my hometown of Baltimore. So I flew back for a nice 10 day trip home for the holidays to see my closest family and friends.

Spoiler alert: 24-year-olds don’t fully appreciate nice and relaxing trips. At least this 24-year-old didn’t.

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First mistake – I decided I needed to see EVERYONE.

Of the 10 days I’m pretty sure I went out partying at least 9 of the days because I needed to see all one-hundred of my very closest friends (Facebook was still in it’s infancy so seeing people in person was still a must). I booked dinners, lunches, breakfasts, brunches, coffee dates, second lunches, third breakfasts, and midnight snacks with people. Many of these rendezvous’ ended at 2AM with me and my friends singing Jingle Bells to the cab drivers while stuffing our faces with pizza. Yes, we had fun but 10 days of this madness was not essential.

Second mistake –  I must get everyone the perfect Christmas gift.

Mind you I was a graduate student at the time and had no money. I have no idea why I thought I could afford this idea [Remember I’m 24 and in denial that I’m an adult.] So I did what every girl on a budget would do – swipe that credit card until you believe Santa truly does exist! I wanted to give the illusion that I had money, while also being thoughtful and caring. Of course I couldn’t just swing by Walmart or Target for these gifts. Instead I opted for the suburban housewife route and bought holiday trinkets from Pottery Barn, ties from Brooks Brothers, Oprah’s favorite Joe Malone candles, and of course some of Nordstrom’s best cashmere pashminas. I felt like I won at gift giving that year….with the prize of a hefty credit card bill.

Third mistake – Believing my metabolism magically speeds up during the month of December.

Denial is a powerful drug my friends. My eating habits during this 10 day party fest were exactly as you’d expect – pizza, bread in any form, cheese and crackers, chips and gauc, Christmas cookies, and anything coming from the liquor store. To balance it all out I maybe worked out 3 times. I was convinced the late night dancing and laughing burned off enough calories to balance things out. Clearly math is not my strong suit.

So can you guess what happened after this 10 days of holiday fun?

I was sick, broke, 8lbs heavier, face broken out, and exhausted beyond belief. Shocking. I know. Let my naïve, younger self be a lesson. DO NOT DO THESE THINGS. You WILL feel like crap.

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Now that I am older and slightly wiser, here are the 5 things I do to get through the holidays to keep my sanity:

  • Rest. Getting adequate amounts of sleep is the best thing to do for yourself during the busy holiday season. In my case 10 days of sleep deprivation left me a hot, grouchy mess of a person. Now I try my best to go to sleep at a reasonable hour, drink a ton of water, and if I’m really dragging I take an natural energy supplement for an afternoon pick-me-up.
  • Stick to your routine as much as possible. I can’t emphasize this one enough!! Don’t completely toss your weekly schedule because of the holiday madness. Keep going to your regular gym classes and meal plan the same as before. If your routine worked throughout the year than it will still work at the end of the year.
  • Sugar and Alcohol are not December’s main food groups. I know there are holiday celebrations happening all around you, but this doesn’t mean you need to act like a fat kid at the buffet line. Partake in the desserts and festive beverages AND eat plenty of the real food too. If you think the party won’t be offering a healthy side dish then bring your own or have a healthy snack before you go.
  • Be realistic about gift giving. It’s easy to go overboard with gifts. I love when there are spending limits on the gift exchanges because it helps me curb my spending. If there isn’t a clear limit then hold yourself accountable and set one for yourself. So much easier said then done, but remember there are 364 other days of the year you can gift something to the ones you love. I also abide by the belief that personal is always better than expensive, so work your creative magic or peruse Pinterest for some economical ideas.
  • Choose to spend time with the most important people in your life. It’s not to say the outer circles of friends aren’t important, but your health and happiness are more important than another holiday party or night out. Now I schedule my time with close family and friends first and then if there is extra time I add in 1-2 additional get togethers.

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Those are my lessons learned from Christmas’ past. What would you add to the list?

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