How to Make It Through the Holidays Without a Total Meltdown


You don’t need me to tell you the holidays are upon us. Long before the plastic clearance Halloween costumes were stripped from store shelves, almost every single retailer, and Pinterest, began the countdown to the biggest holiday season of the year. Most kids are giddy with excitement and anticipation, and some parents are already wringing their hands and making mental notes of how to do all the fun things; essentially, how to capture the magic of the holiday season and hold onto it through the new year. As we decorate earlier and earlier and stores open their Black Friday doors closer to Wednesday each year, our hopes of “fitting it all in” by getting a head start make it clear that we’re trying to grasp onto something that feels just out of reach. As parents, we long for the same holiday nostalgia we experienced as children, but we’re usually so worn out by the time Christmas morning comes that we can barely make it out of bed when the kids come calling at 6 AM.

So how do we create loving memories each year and reduce stress and anxiety when there’s just so much to do and so little time? The simple answer would be to move out to the country and stop trying to fit it all in. Since that’s an unlikely remedy, instead let’s talk about some practical tips we weary parents can try to follow to help us feel our best and stay sane during the most wonderful time of the year.

Fitness and Nutrition Tips

Because in order to keep up with the hustle and bustle of the season, you need to keep your body running at full capacity, let’s discuss some healthy things you can do in the fitness and nutrition area to help you feel your best. But by all means, do enjoy yourself and indulge a little!

1. Beware of the sugar hangover

The holidays are all about sweets sweets sweets! Sugar cookies, bread pudding, pumpkin pie, bottomless wine glasses, and spiked eggnog are all of my favorite things packed into one single month! But all those lovely sweet treats are filled with sugar, the one ingredient guaranteed to make anyone feel their worst if consumed in excess. From headaches and sleeplessness, to grogginess and brain fog, a sugar hangover is often just as debilitating as an alcohol hangover. Be mindful of this fact and if your favorite dessert ever is being served at your company’s Christmas party, have one less alcoholic spirit. Or if the grocery store cookies and brownies don’t really look all that appealing, skip them all together and save your sweet tooth for another occasion, or for an extra glass of wine; just focus on not double-dipping in excess.

2. Stay hydrated 

We hear how important it is to drink enough water all year long, but seriously, no other time of year is it more important to do so than during the holiday season. Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water helps clear our body of toxins; maintains liver and kidney function, which work overtime during this period by flushing out all that wine and sugar; and helps give us energy and curb cravings. There’s just about nothing better than water for helping us feel and look our best, and if you don’t believe me, take a look at this woman’s shocking results when she challenged herself to drink plenty of water. Need help remembering to drink enough water? Check out this list of apps that help remind you!

3. Drink a power smoothie in the morning

A smoothie packed with greens, a yummy dose of fresh or frozen fruits, and some super food add-ins like spirulina or chia seeds will help ensure you get plenty of nutrients to start your day off right, give you energy, and leave you feeling satisfied and full so you’re less likely to dig into the pumpkin pie for breakfast. It’s a great idea especially on days you plan to hit up several parties or after a food-centric dinner like Thanksgiving. By drinking your morning meal instead of eating it, you’ll also give your body a bit of a digestive break after working hard to break down the rich and indulgent foods the season is so well known for.

4. Lower your fitness expectations, but don’t toss them out the window

Be honest and realistic with yourself and recognize that you’re not Wonder Woman. Chances are you won’t be able to maintain a grueling workout routine during this busy time, so let yourself off the hook and rid yourself of feelings of guilt; it’s just a waste of energy and time. Instead, make a conscious choice to cut down on your routine, yet still stay active. Hitting the gym 2-3 days a week instead of say, 5-6 times, is totally achievable and absolutely acceptable. And it may also be necessary for your sanity, since we all know exercise is a great stress reliever.

5. Bring your favorite healthy dish to a gathering to ensure you have something balanced on your plate

Chances are most parties will have plenty of not-so-healthy offerings, so contribute something nutritious, yet still yummy, so you can guarantee yourself a balanced plate.

6. Keep convenient and nutritious snacks on hand at all times for all-day shopping marathons and various kid-centric holiday events

This is pretty self-explanatory. Mall food and kiddie parties are teeming with sugar, sodium, and fat overload from iced desserts to fried dinner, so stay balanced and munch on your own goodies to stay feeling your best.

Mental and Spiritual Health Tips

For many of us, enjoying the season is as much about maintaining physical health as it is about maintaining mental health. From dealing with multiple family events where some form of dysfunction is par for the course to trying to keep vacationing kids happy and entertained 24/7, we run ourselves ragged and put our stressors on overload. It’s a very modern day problem, and many of us are sick of it. In order to actually feel joyous during this time of year, I’m being proactive.

7. Create a digital wish list for the kids in your family, which can easily be shared via email or Facebook, and ask that your family do the same

This year, put your kid’s Christmas wish list online through a shopping channel like Amazon or Target or a gift registry site like Giftster. This way when family members ask you what your kids want, you can direct them to the site or send them a link. This saves me a lot of back and forth on the front end and also saves time after the holidays in trying to exchange gifts that were received in multiples. It’ll also save you from having to listen to kids whine about the pair of pajamas their grandma gifted them. Of course it’s the thought that counts and no other season offers so many opportunities to express and teach grace and gratitude as the holidays, but why not give ourselves a break and try to make everyone’s lives a little bit easier?

8. Consider a family Secret Santa swap

Sure, we tell ourselves that the holiday season is mainly for the kids, but why can’t we grown-ups have some fun, too? Plan out a Secret Santa swap with family members so that we can receive a little something fun and also keep within a reasonable budget by cutting down on spending for multiple family members.

9. Put toys together ahead of time and store them at a neighbor’s house

Don’t be that parent who stays up until 3 AM assembling toys on Christmas Eve! You already know the kids will be dragging you out of bed at dawn, and no other thing will ruin a very special day than being exhausted. Plan ahead and save yourself.

10. Plan thoughtfully

Speaking of planning, make a holiday to-do list and prioritize accordingly. Mark special events on your calendar so you don’t forget them, and make sure to schedule plenty of down time where you do nothing or something simple with just the family. Also, consider the one thing that causes you the most stress during the holidays and figure out how you can eliminate it or at least scale it down. For me, it’s our annual holiday party, which I’m sadly skipping this year. But I know when the time comes and the season is in full swing, I’ll be thankful to have a lot less running around to do.

11. Let the kids get bored

Our kids’ holiday break does not have to be filled with constant fun 24/7. Repeat after me, “I don’t need to provide endless entertainment for my kids.” Avoid over-scheduling and let the kids stay home so they can get bored, which studies have shown time and time again to be one of the best things for kids these days.

12. Divide and conquer

Don’t let your partner off the hook, and delegate a portion of the holiday shopping and/or wrapping to your spouse. Also, the whole family doesn’t have to be drug around to every single event, so consider splitting up holiday parties, especially ones that are more focused on a certain child’s activity, so that you can rest up in rotation. For instance, last year we all attended my son’s Boy Scouts party and all of my time was spent trying to keep my daughter and toddler entertained. This year, dad and our boy scout will be attending just the two of them.

13. Lower your expectations

In closing, lower your general expectations for the holiday season. Realize that no matter how well you plan and prep, some days will still be stressful and busy and not every day will feel like the most wonderful time of the year. Focus on what matters for your family, whether that entails religious and spiritual events that will fill up your good feelings cup or spending time with a close group of friends. Once we let go of how magical this season is supposed to be and lower our standards of making every single day count, we can truly slow down and absorb this special time of year.

Wishing you and your loved ones a health-filled, joyous holiday season. When you embrace the imperfections, focus on what’s important, and celebrate the ordinary, you can’t lose.

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

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