Every year, I come across dozens of tips and how-to guides on how to “eat clean” or “stay on track” during the holidays or “how to avoid the holiday blues,” which I shared a couple years back.
Because, obviously, the holidays are supposed to be guilt-inducing and panic-stirring instead of a reminder to be grateful, enjoy treats, and spend time with our families—right?
Oh, you mean that’s not the case?
The holidays can be stressful (finding a sitter when daycare closes, scheduling holiday flights/road trips, etc.), but I think it’s damaging to put so much pressure on ourselves.
Although Thanksgiving is already behind us, I hope you’ll remember my straightforward tips for navigating and enjoying the remainder of the holiday season.
1. Eat the damn treats
If you’re anything like me, some of the strongest holiday reminders are of the edible variety: rum cake, chocolate-dipped pretzels, and candy galore. I’m not going to tell you to turn down an invitation to a cookie swap or to pass on your office holiday party because of temptation. I’m going to tell you to EAT THE TREATS. Don’t make yourself sick, but enjoy them. And don’t even think you need to make up for the indulgences by cutting back elsewhere.
2. Maintain your normal exercise routine…or don’t
Seriously, it’s up to you. Is your morning workout your time to decompress or is the gym your happy place where you fuel up on endorphins? If so, then by all means, continue. However, if you’d rather pass on the Tacky Sweater 5K and sit around in your fuzzy socks, sipping hot cocoa while watching “Love Actually” for the thousandth time, then I won’t stop you. Unless you’re training for a marathon or a fitness competition, a few weeks of lower activity is not going to break you. If you’re anything like me, though, you’ll feel better moving around as often as possible.
3. Be grateful
As soon as that first Christmas carol plays on the radio, I get super nostalgic and sappy. I dream of the simple Christmas pleasures of childhood, but I also embrace the time to count my own blessings. The world is tough and life isn’t fair, but perspective is everything. Instead of dreading holiday parties, be grateful that you have so many friends to celebrate with. Rather than balking at the idea of second helpings or leftovers for days, be thankful that you won’t go hungry.
4. Do something kind for somebody
Money is tight for us right now so we haven’t really participated in any local or national charities, but even small acts of giving go a long way. Bring in your neighbor’s trash can on a cold morning. Buy the person behind you in Starbuck’s a cup of coffee. If your budget allows, then I highly encourage you to “adopt” from the Angel Tree or donate a shoe box to a child in need (I’m planning to make the shoe box our annual tradition next year!), but no matter what, just be kind!
5. Above all, practice grace
Going back to #1 and #2, when you miss a workout or eat a couple too many cookies, show yourself grace. When you’ve been waiting 10 minutes for a parking space and somebody swoops in to take it, show them grace (even if you mutter a harsh name under your breath first). When your dog tears into the gifts or your little one breaks an ornament, show them grace. Everybody is under pressure around the holidays—maybe they’re scrounging to buy gifts for their children, missing a dear loved one, or simply needing a break. I guarantee if you show both yourself and others a bit of grace, your holiday will be much more pleasant.
Remember, the holidays are brief, and then it’s back to life as usual. Don’t beat yourself up, don’t set too many limits, and please try to enjoy each moment and morsel for what they are!
Disclaimer: This somewhat snarky list is not meant to diminish the actual struggles with eating disorders or weight loss journeys. I realize there can be legitimate stress when confronted with “free for all” holiday feasting, and I sympathize if that’s your reality. This list is not meant to offend, and is directed to those of us who simply choose to beat ourselves up around the holidays. As always, thanks for letting me think out loud.