Tis the season to be burnt out and running on fumes. I don’t know about you guys, but up until this year the holidays for me have been pretty chaotic and overwhelming. Stress levels are on the rise, banks accounts are dwindling, and it feels like every other person I know has caught some form of bubonic plague (myself included)!
On the surface, it is truly the happiest time of the year. Christmas lights twinkle along darkly lit streets, dazzling trees strewn about the city, and the lingering scent of cinnamon and cloves permeates the crisp winter air. Magical isn’t it? There’s just one thing that seems to be missing…my sanity. Perhaps she’s been wrapped up in a beautifully decorated box nestled under the Christmas tree by mistake…
Let me start by clarifying, I am no Grinch nor Ebenezer Scrooge. I LOVE Christmas as much as the next person and become easily distracted by the glitter and magic surrounding the holiday season! Ugly Christmas sweaters, handmade cookies, and curling up with the perfect cup of eggnog on a chilly winter’s night sparks my holiday spirit like no other. As comforting and extraordinary as it all seems, it can be equally as taxing on my mental health. Acting as a gentle reminder of the most important gift we can truly give ourselves this holiday season, and that my friends is self-love.
Kibosh Gift Giving
Years ago I created a new holiday tradition that would ensure I could still pay my bills during the month of December #vancitychristmas. I decided to restrict myself to ONE store bought gift each year. You read that correctly, one! This gift is for my partner and is typically something I know she would never purchase for herself (which makes it all the more special in my opinion).
For everyone else, I’ve followed in my mother’s footsteps and carried on her legacy of baked goods, and handmade gifts. Who doesn’t appreciate a freshly baked batch of cookies or homemade body scrub to indulge in during the hustle and bustle of the holidays? My favourite part about homemade gifts is the amount of thought and care that is spent perfecting each piece and tailoring it to my beloved friends and family.
Ingredients are affordable which means less stress on myself and my bank account. Anyone that knows me will tell you there is nothing I hate more than stepping foot into a busy mall (especially during Christmas). By removing stressful lists full of overpriced items, I avoid this situation all together and can spend time at home with my boys, baking up a storm while listening to Christmas music in my pajamas.
Celebrate in Your City
Travelling during the holidays means one of two things, overpriced flights and unsafe road conditions. And for what? So we can exhaust ourselves getting from point A to point B, to enjoy a few short days with our loved ones before packing up and arriving home even more burnt out than when we left? No thank you!
I know the holidays are about spending time with the ones we love most, and sometimes our family (chosen or otherwise) doesn’t live nearby. Perhaps we feel obligated to go home for Christmas because it’s all we’ve ever known, or our parents would disown us if we didn’t. Whatever the reason, your mental health, finances, and most importantly your safety are not worth the risk!
Opting to celebrate in your city removes the stress of travelling and allows you to take full advantage of your much needed time off! No stress, no sketchy road conditions, no layovers or packed airports. Just calm, peaceful evenings spent watching your favourite Christmas movies with your favourite people #christmasvacation.
There is no denying the magical energy of a good old fashioned Christmas party. Women dolled up in velvet dresses and cherry red lipstick, dancing the night away to Kenny G while indulging in 5 star appetizers and one too many bottles of champagne. We dress to impress, consume a little more alcohol than anticipated, and watch as the night slowly slips out from under us.
Social events can be an incredible way to network or simply enjoy eachothers company. We’ve worked hard all year and deserve one night to gather with friends and coworkers and embrace the spirit of the holidays in the form of gatsby like soiree! One party, then another…and another after that. The invitations seemingly endless. Don’t even get me started on family get togethers in the 21st century! Christmas dinner at moms, dads, aunt Carol’s, Grandma Jean’s…it’s down right exhausting.
Learning to respectfully decline and say “no” to certain events and parties is a non negotiable this holiday season. In an ideal world, we could attend every work function and family affair without sacrificing our mental and physical health. But we all know that’s completely unrealistic. This is even more of a priority if there are specific environments which cause you an unnecessary amount of stress and upset. You know those Christmas dinners you spend anxiety ridden in the corner slamming back one too many glasses of red wine in hopes to avoid awkward conversations with your family regarding your lifestyle choices? Consider declining those RSVP’s this holiday season, and in doing so, show yourself the love you deserve. It’s OK to say no.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
I’m not exactly sure why Christmas has become an excuse for us to drink excessively (for the entire month of December might I add). “It’s the holidays”, “We are celebrating”, “Cheers to the end of another year!”. While these are in fact legitimate reasons to pop a bottle or enjoy a fancy cocktail with dinner, when exactly does it become overkill? Mimosa’s with breakfast, Bailey’s in our afternoon coffee followed by copious amounts of chardonnay with Christmas dinner. Before you know it, the entire family has checked out and we are one glass away from a full blown family feud!
Limiting our alcohol consumption allows us to regain our mental stability and prevents anxiety and depression derived from a glorious holiday hangover. We can think clearly, communicate effectively, and avoid inappropriate dinner conversations otherwise hijacked by our lack of inhibitions. There is nothing worse than delving into family drama in the middle of Christmas dinner…I’m currently experiencing cringe worthy flashbacks of xmas 2018 complete with full blown PTSD.
The next time your anxiety sneaks up on you and whispers “one more glass, indulge, it’s the holiday’s”, pour yourself a double tall gin and cran (hold the gin).
Take a Mental Health Day
As 2019 comes to a close, I’m reminded of the remarkable strides we’ve made throughout the mental health community this year #mentalhealthmatters. If you’re feeling run down or burnt out, consider requesting a mental health day to unwind and allow your mind to come unplugged. The holidays can be exceptionally stressful, sometimes all we need is one day to press pause and invest in ourselves.
I have to remind myself at times that work does not take precedence over my mental health. Deadlines, meetings, lunches, events or any other prior engagement, can almost always be rescheduled or shuffled around. Your health comes first. Gone are the days of running ourselves into the ground for a paycheck! Take the day off, catch up on rest, run a bath, read a book, or curl up with your fur babies. Your to-do list isn’t going anywhere. Besides, you’ll find you’re much more efficient when you return to work because your body has finally had a chance to reset. Whose boss would say no to increased productivity? No ones.
Remember, the holidays don’t have to be chaotic and draining. In fact, they should be the exact opposite. We put so much pressure on ourselves to find the perfect gift or the most glamorous outfit, to cook the most extravagant turkey dinner or host the most magical party, and at what expense? Your mental health should never take the back burner (no matter how much glitter or rosé is involved).
Kibosh gift giving, celebrate in your city, set boundaries, limit your alcohol consumption, and take a mental health day when needed. Christmas is about spending time with our loved ones and celebrating the season of giving. Why should you be the exception? As a wise friend once told me, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”.