Raise of hands, how many of you are happy the holidays are over? Its ok to raise your hand, no one can see you. I for one am glad. Its not that I don’t
love the holidays, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year… but it is also my most unproductive time of the year, its my most stressed
time of the year, its my most expensive time of the year and its my unhealthiest time of the year.
About November 15th things start to go down hill for me. With work my clients start having to reschedule due to family things. I also start
having to reschedule due to the kids’ school events and activities. Weather starts to turn and some work gets set aside due to accessibility. Plus
the workday suddenly feels busier with all these projects to finish with end of the year deadlines. On the home front we start prepping for the
first big holiday meal around this time, Thanksgiving. This is also when you start negotiating time with family. Who will we see on Thanksgiving,
who gets Christmas Eve, what about Christmas day? Plus it’s time to start scheduling in all the “required” holiday events such as baking, volunteer
work, Christmas parties and Christmas shopping. And you know we all have our certain Holiday traditions that we do each year that we look forward
to and need to find a spot on the calendar. These include Christmas movie nights, ice skating, sledding, building a snowman, and even going for
hot chocolate seems to be more special and a requirement this time of year. We cant skip any of these, they make us feel too good, in fact we almost
get a little intense about setting aside time for stuff like this. We cozy up to the season and tell ourselves we have to do this, that it’s temporary,
we remind ourselves not to be a Grinch or to be bah humbug. And to not be too rigid we try to leave ourselves open for spontaneous get-together’s
with friends. After all we want to enjoy the time and take advantage of the festive attitude of the season.
Now I want to make sure I am clear that I am not a Scrooge and I don’t see anything wrong with all of the above but there is something to be said about
taking it too far and when is enough enough. And it should be pointed out that with all these schedule additions and extra merry making, something
has to give. You cant have your cake and eat it too.
So what gives? Why can’t we have our cake and eat it too? Well for one there isn’t enough time. We all still live the same lives we did the month before.
Most of don’t suddenly get to take a paid month off, we don’t suddenly not have to pay the normal every day bills. We still have to live life.
What gives for each of us, or what we are willing to sacrifice is different for us all. For me the first thing to go is work, I always feel like I
can catch up the next day so its ok to slack and take a day for shopping or baking. Plus, I know how busy I am year round so I justify taking time
off to spend it with my family. This starts to affect my financial state so my stress is affected. Then my sleep starts to go. I blame the start
of less sleep on Christmas movies. There are just so many holiday movies that I like to watch that the only way to get them all in is to stay up
late. But just one night of a midnight bedtime throws me off. This majorly disrupts my sleep cycle making me wake up later. Since I am still working
though, its not feasible for me to get up later, so I set an alarm clock and try to get back into my routine but instead I feel more and more tired
all day, yet wide awake at night. This creates a cycle of fatigue and exhaustion during the season. The next thing to go is my health, of course
lack of sleep affects your health but also the extra stress of the season is a major contributor here, I mentioned one source for stress above,
but there are many offenders here. This time of year my stress levels go through the roof. This coupled with poor sleep and suddenly my immune
health is in the toilet. I end up spending most of the holiday season with a sniffle or worse. Another things that affects my health is what I
eat. I start eating less healthy this time of year. Easy meals of salads and veggies are now replaced with huge meat and cheese platters, appetizer
dips and Christmas cookies. There are holiday teas loaded with desserts at the office and candy every place you go in town. Even at home the holiday
movie nights are accompanied by nachos or pizza. There are more elaborate large high carb meals on the weekends. Then the following week these
leftovers fill our lunch boxes. And finally my activity decreases. I go from working out and doing yoga a few times a week to barely getting on
the treadmill and not remembering the last time I stretched.
Looking back I can pinpoint the day this cascade started. I saw the writing on the wall so to say and could have taken steps to slow the progression
and minimize the damage, or I did as I always do and that is close my eyes and let myself fall neck deep into Holiday madness.
Now lets look at another component of the holiday season and another reason we all love the new year. There is no time of year that breeds guilt better
than the holidays. And not time of year that we feel eager to change this than the first of January. Lets say after you read this you decided to
do it all different next year and not do any of the things above. You decide to not watch the movies with your kids, you decide to not bake cookies
for your husbands co-workers, you decide not to buy gifts for your group of highschool friends, you deicide to cancel your annual wine tasting
night, and you even decide not to visit Santa at Macys. Do you think you would make it through the season unscathed? I have news for you, instead
of the merry making stress to wear you down, you will get an overdose of scrooge guilt. Watch Christmas with the Kranks if you need clarification.
If we didn’t do all that we do we would feel tremendous guilt. It is human nature to feel guilt. And as I stated above the holiday season is a
petri dish for guilt. Image you would feel guilt for not taking time for family when others have traveled hundreds of miles. You would feel it
for not bringing your kids to the Christmas lights village. It would be especially heavy when you don’t get them the gift they asked Santa for
because you decided not to visit Santa and they never got to sit on his lap. It would be present after you turn down the invite to the annual friends-giving.
Again for not participating in the office cookie exchange. The guilt you would feel for not sending Christmas every time you receive one in the
mail. The guilt of not having a gift for the UPS driver this year! I could go on and on but you get the point. The list is endless. I truly believe
that guilt avoidance is ultimately what drives our choices each holiday season. We feel like we are doing things because we want to and some things
we probably do want to do. But a lot of things are done out of obligation and an attempt to avoid guilt.
I feel guilt because I work too hard, then I feel guilt for not working enough. I feel guilt for not seeing enough of extended family but then I feel
guilt for not enough intimate one on one family time either. I feel guilt if I don’t work out, but then I also feel guilt if I don’t indulge in
the season a bit. No matter what guilt is going to visit every December whether we want him there or not. He’s like Cousin Eddy, we don’t really
like him around but somehow he always ends up reminding us of what we should be thankful for.
To conclude this ridiculously long post I want to say that if you are looking for a solution to holiday stress, guilt, busyness, whatever, then you
have come to the wrong blog. I don’t have the answer for you. Sure I could take bits and pieces from my various self help books and encourage you
to take time for yourself, to forgive yourself, to meditate, to put first things first and prioritize but truthfully you already know that. You
don’t need some 30 something dietitian-mom-blogger telling you to do that. What you need is to discover what works on your own, or you just need
someone to say its ok. Because you know what it is ok. None of us are ever going to do everything right at all times. Unless we move to the Russian
tundra, I don’t see the holiday seasons demands changing for any one of us. My little bit of advice to you is to do what I have started this year.
I started saying no to a few things. I’m not saying its working, I mean look at this post, this was not written out of a “zen” state of mind…
I also am currently battling the ultimate lingering cold… I am super broke and not sure how to pay bills next week… I have no new
clients scheduled for the new year... and I am behind on all my projects which have to be done in about 3 days. Am I doing things right? Doubtful.
But is it a little better than last year? Probably. Did we spend a little less than last year? Absolutely. Did I eat a little less bad food since
I didn’t bake for 3 days strait? Without a doubt. Did not attending a few holiday events curb a few calories and prevent a few hangovers? For sure.
So see sometimes there isn’t an earth shattering, ground breaking, move mountains solution. Sometimes the answer is that there is no answer. Sometimes
we first have to learn to be ok with the mess before we can clear things out.
A funny little quip before I end, this picture I found on my phone and through the date I realized it was from last year, but the tree and decorations
are exactly the same as they are in my house this year. Why? Because that’s what my family likes and I would feel guilty if I let them down….
Happy New Year everyone!