Are you ready for this year’s round of holidays? You may be sitting there, looking at the upcoming hectic schedule, the chess game of which family you will see and when, and the whirlwind of pending frustration, emotions, and absolute exhaustion of the season, and wondering to yourself, “Why does it have to be so difficult? I thought you were supposed to enjoy the holidays!” Well, we are here with your holiday Survival Guide, and some tips and tricks on how maybe this year, you can actually enjoy the holidays instead of ripping your hair out.
1. Plan Ahead – We put this at the beginning of the list because it should always be the beginning of yours! The holidays can fly by, and if you’re not on top of it, they’ll breeze by you before you can say “Feliz Navidad”. Ever gotten to the day before Christmas and realized you still don’t have the Christmas lights up on the house? Or seen Grandma and realized you never called to thank her for the very thoughtful Roomba she sent you? Planning ahead is just as important for the holidays as it is for any other activity you do. We recommend getting a calendar specifically for the months of October-December, depending on how active you are with Halloween. Set dates that you want certain things done: Halloween decorations up by October 10th, Christmas decorations up by November 5th, family holiday party on December 10th, etc. Use both a hardcopy calendar (one at home and one at the office) and your cell phone to keep the dates and reminders. The frequent reminders will help you know what is coming and make sure you don’t miss an important event, which would lead to only more stress.
2. Be Upfront about Finances – Financial stress skyrockets during the holiday season. Most Americans place far too much stress on ourselves to make sure we’ve purchased presents for our significant others, our children, our parents, our siblings, our grandparents, the cousins we haven’t seen in the last five years but will be at Grandma’s holiday party across town this year…. have you taken out a loan yet? The holidays can quickly become a major financial drain that the average family just cannot afford. Understand that you should not have to go into debt to make others happy.
If you cannot afford presents for extended family and friends, then the best policy is to be honest and upfront. Your immediate family comes first. Tell who you need to tell that they will not be receiving presents this year because it is not in the budget. Trust us when we say that whoever you tell will be much more appreciative and understanding having that conversation, than coming up on Christmas Day and handing you your present and getting nothing in return. This is one of the more difficult steps in our Holiday Survival Guide, but it will be critical to helping you get through with your sanity intact.
3. Beat the Holiday Weight Gain – Ah, holiday festivities bring such delicious foods and treats, don’t they? Unfortunately, they also bring an added weight gain for many of us! The average American gains between 1-2 lbs. over the holidays, and an increasingly sedentary American lifestyle means most Americans likely won’t lose the added holiday weight over the next year. While the added calories may be inevitable, the added weight doesn’t need to be. Try planning physical activities with the family, like evening walks in the cooler weather, snowball fights in yard (if you live in an area with snow), or signing up for a workplace fitness competition or a holiday 5k. Make sure you are also getting a steady eight hours of sleep every night as often as possible. Healthy sleep leads to a steady metabolism and helps the body burn fat more efficiently.
It wouldn’t be the holidays without a holiday party or two, so how are you going to beat the calories at those? Try and avoid the sweets (I know, I know) and stick to the veggies, nuts, and seeds, as they are lower fat and tend to be more filling. Have one glass of eggnog instead of six, and stick to water instead of sugary sodas. Water will not only help keep your thirst quenched, but it keeps you feeling full and, as an added bonus, will help keep your complexion clear.
You can also meal prep your meals in advance, so that you are eating healthy for a majority of the holidays. Plan out meals you’d like to eat for the week, and cook them all up in one day. Freeze what you’ve made in Tupperware or plastic meal prep containers, and take what you need for the day to work or out with you in a lunch box. You’ll eat better, be less likely to graze when you’re around communal food, and feel better knowing that your pants will fit the entire season.
4. Buy Your Tickets Ahead of Time – Traveling for the holidays? Don’t let the tickets break the bank. The rule of thumb for the best time to buy tickets is 11 weeks before you plan to leave. For most Christmas flights, that’s the week of October 22nd. For New Year’s Day flights, that’s the week of October 29th. So, grab that calendar from Step 1 and fill in a date with LOOK UP CHEAP FLIGHTS spot.
5. Be Prepared to Adapt – Speaking of traveling to see family…. sometimes we don’t always get along with the people closest to us. If you are going to be staying with family for the holidays, be prepared with a backup plan, should things go south. Know where nearby hotels are, and price out the most competitive ones. Have one of those handy-dandy sites like Trivago or Priceline ready to go, and you may be able to score a last-minute room if you need to get out of Dodge. However, if you think there will be issues with staying with family, then have the hotel ready early. It’s normally best to book a hotel 3-5 months(!) in advance in order to get the best deals. You can also try something like Airbnb.com for something less traditional, but may be a better savings.
So, there you have it. A quick and sure-fire way to help beat stress, save some money, and allow you to enjoy the holidays once again! And always remember, if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail, so get started early and have a roadmap of the holidays in place before you start, and it will be smooth sailing for you to enjoy your ho-ho-holidays!