Top Tips to Keeping the “Happy” in the Holidays and Avoiding Burn Out 

Top Tips to Keeping the “Happy” in the Holidays and Avoiding Burn Out 

Dainty at her first hockey game

Merry happy holiday winter season greetings!

From nostalgic, warm-fuzzy feelings to stress, dread and everything in between, the winter holidays can conjure up a whole expanse of emotions for people riding the winter wonderland sleigh. Social conditioning has etched out that it is the time of year for giving generously  of gifts and acts of kindness, connecting with family, friends and co-workers and coming together…why? Many people don’t even know what they are celebrating as most of us have stepped away from the more religious tones of Christmas and into more secular orientated activities. We are driven by societal pressures, traditions, consumer and social media trends and influential advertising. This perfect storm often results in the over consumption of unhealthy foods and alcohol, over spending, over  committing and overwhelm! Still, we feel obligated to create the perfect holiday experience, showing our love with expensive gifts wrapped in pretty paper, whipping up Grandma’s traditional baked goods to pop out of the oven just in time for the neighbours to drop into our picture perfectly decorated home, followed by breezing in and out of office parties, winter concerts and carnivals and our best friends open house. If that wasn’t enough to fill the calendar, it is your year to host the family dinner, complete with all the traditional fixings,  adapted to accommodate your son’s new vegan girlfriend, your sister’s Celiac’s and your father in law’s dislike for vegetables. Inevitably someone starts WW3 over a politically incorrect comment and another drink is poured. Many of us brace ourselves  for the chaos, charge through the motions on auto-pilot and, inevitably, are ejected out the other side depleted, financially stretched and grateful we don’t have to see Uncle Bob for another year. (No offence to the amazing Uncle Bob’s out there!)

But, wait! That sounds so depressing! That is why I am writing this post because I want us all to preserve the joyfulness that the holiday season can bring! Are you with me? Let’s look at some ways we can invite the magic back in and drop some unnecessary pressures.

1. Assess Your Values

Get real with what is really important to you and start releasing what isn’t. What are you celebrating and why? Where do you want to focus your energy? What traditions align with your values and which don’t?

For some, this season may be a special honouring of a faith, or the celebration of the solstice as we transit through the long, dark nights back towards the light. For others, it may have very little meaning at all. Stay focused on what you value and want to support, whether it be family and friends, devotion, generosity and kindness, community, service, introversion or play! Set your intentions. Here are some questions to get more clear:

  • What traditions am I deeply committed to upholding? Why is it important to me?
  • What traditions aren’t serving me anymore but I am still going through the motions, regardless? What can I let go of?
  • How much time and energy do I realistically have to invest and where can I best place my focus? How can I maintain balance?
  • Where do I feel caught in social conditioning and obligations? Can I adopt new habits?
  • What truly lights me up through the holiday season? Am I embracing these things?
  • Am I being mindful of my choices and remaining true to my self?
  • What can I practice that supports the way I want to show up in the world? Can I design new traditions that feel more aligned with what I value?

Explore what this season means to you and what shape you would like your future memories to hold, then focus on these things. If you value friends and family, be with them. If it is your season to acknowledge a faith, cherish the ceremony. If you value service and community then volunteer. If you just want some quiet down time to recluse, then honour the Bear within! Your time is your own to enjoy, therefore, what you make special will be special for you.

2. Make a List of Things You Want To Do then Say Yes and Say No

We all know that there are some things we really do just have to do and commitments we must keep even if we aren’t excited about it and that is just the way it is. But, have you ever written out an I want to do list instead of a need to do list? 

Maybe staying in and tackling a puzzle or reading a good book is your jam. Maybe you want to go skating, or watch silly movies or take a night time drive to see all the pretty lights. Maybe, like me, you love singing along with old Christmas crooners and shaking your jingle bells! Perhaps you have always wanted to take in a Christmas choir or symphony. Find the ways to weave these activities in through the holidays and enjoy the moments with a smile! Say yes to more things that you want to do and no to the things you don’t!

If you love to decorate and surround yourself with pretty lights and beautiful centrepieces or find joy in your tree, light it up! If you don’t have the energy, don’t! If you love the smell of Christmas, get that diffuser running! If you don’t want to go to the office party, say no. Maybe simply staying in and playing games with your kids is all you want to do. If so, stay home and be with them! This season can be a lot for our little people, too, who might love the quieter quality time with mom and dad to recharge their own batteries!

3. Lead the Way in Scaling Back

What would happen if we all just took a step back from the push on Christmas consumption? What if we let go of the expectations of creating the perfect atmosphere? Perhaps we would have a ripple effect and everyone around us would breathe a sigh of relief that they, as well, don’t need to keep up with the status quo. Take a stand and shake it up! Here are a few simple ideas:

  • Pick names for your main gifts and stocking stuffers for your gift exchanges. Place a limit on cost. This limits the feeling that one needs to buy a gift for every individual and can focus their attention on a thoughtful gift for one person instead.
  • Invite gift giving participants to get creative and give gifts of service or experience in the form of a coupon instead of a material gift.
  • Find fun and creative ways to wrap gifts that doesn’t involve one use wrapping.
  • Suggest to family that you have a gift free holiday and instead donate to a charity.
  • Organize a fun event such as a trip to the escape room instead of a traditional turkey dinner or in lieu of a gift exchange.
  • Ask friends and co-workers not to gift you anything over the holidays.
  • Decorate simply using sentimental items, collected tree ornaments, old Christmas cards and natural outdoor treasures  and avoid buying new things just because they are the latest and greatest. I love when the decorations come out and I recall all the fun and silly ornaments that I have gifted my kids over the years from stain-glass pickles, little hockey skates, Scooby doo and even the little sloth on a stick I gave my teenager one year!
  • Create new traditions and do your own thing. One year we decided on an Australian Christmas (my husband is an Aussie) and we cranked the heat, cleared the snow off the BBQ and all got dressed up in summer outfits and had a barbecue surf and turf!
  • Cut back on the baking and experiment with new recipes that move away from highly processed wheats, sugars and saturated fats. This takes the pressure off you to make it and others to eat it as well as avoiding the Christmas 10 and the dread that comes in January. This year we just happen to be in the middle of a great sugar shortage due to an employee strike. What a great opportunity to scale back on sugar consumption!
  • Suggest your co-workers have an office gathering in February and spread out the social commitments.
  • Reduce the travel risks of winter and agree to bring family together for a Christmas in July (I have a friend whose family does this, it is brilliant and they have so much fun!)

Most importantly, stay playful and have fun! Find ways of connecting with what is most important to you and your loved ones through the holiday season. And I hope that we can all remember that kindness is an all year round kind of thing not just an action for 2 weeks of the year! Wishing you the very best this holiday season! 

Peace and Love,


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Inner Vision Health and Wellness Karyn Lawson RMT INHC