I’m the LAST person you should be turning to for advice on surviving the holidays. Every year, I do too much, push myself too hard, and wind up crashing. And I spend the first week of January flat on my back in bed.

Clearly, something’s got to change.

So this year, I’m shaking up my game plan. Instead of waiting for New Year’s to make my resolutions, I‘m making some changes at Christmas instead.

Here are 6 holiday promises I WILL NOT break:

I will focus on spending time with my kids. 

I have two grown children, who live far away from home. I only get to see them two or three times a year, and I’m really looking forward to having them both home for a week this Christmas. It’s easy to forget how precious that time is in the rush of the season – and I must confess that, in the past, I’ve been guilty of putting other priorities ahead of them. I’ve been too preoccupied with making sure that the house looks nice and cooking special meals for our guests. I know my kids enjoy the home-cooking too, but in trying to “put on a show” for everyone else, I sometimes feel like I shortchange them. I’m so exhausted by the end of it all that I’m not entirely there. And instead of enjoying the fun, I find myself enduring it – and listening with half an ear. But this year, I’m determined that nothing’s going to take precedence over spending quality time with my kids.

I will relax my standards.

Much of my exhaustion comes from trying to make everything perfect. The gifts. The house. The meals. Everything has to be just so and exactly right. It’s a personality trait deeply embedded in my DNA, and one that I need to abandon – or at least relax – during the holidays. Last year, I had a revelation of sorts, when we were picking out our Christmas tree, that will forever change the way I do things. Usually, we examine just about every tree in the lot. But that day, I didn’t have the energy, so when I spotted a tree right inside the front gate that looked reasonably decent, I stopped. The trunk was a bit crooked and there were a few branches missing here and there. But when my husband held it up for my inspection and asked me, “What do you think?” I surprised myself by saying, “It’s good enough.” And it was. In fact, it turned out to be the most beautiful tree we’ve ever had. So that became our mantra for the rest of the holidays. We coined it our “good enough” Christmas. And you know what? It was absolutely perfect.

I will do most of my shopping online.

This promise I’ve already kept. I challenged myself this year to find gifts online for everyone on my list – and apart from a few stocking stuffers that were too small to ship, I’ve managed to check them all off. So now, with 24 shopping days left until Christmas, I’m done. And I barely left the house. In fact, I did all of it on my bum! That means the energy I would have expended fighting the crowds at busy, noisy shopping malls can now be used for everything else. There are very few things you can’t buy online these days and most sites offer great deals on shipping over the holidays. By grouping the items I purchased together, I didn’t pay a penny for delivery to my door. So, why poop yourself out? Pour yourself a glass of wine. Turn on some Christmas music. And put your feet up. Use the energy-saving power of the internet to get your shopping done.

I will plan ahead.

Obviously, it makes sense to plan meals that can be made ahead and do your baking in advance. But the kind of planning I’m referring to here is more detailed than that. If Santa makes his list and checks it twice – go over yours a dozen times. And make more than one. Try to think of EVERYTHING you’re going to need (cards and wrapping paper, presents that can’t be purchased online, groceries and alcohol, clothing, cleaning supplies, etc.) before you even THINK of leaving the house. And then devise a strategy for getting them. Choose stores that offer the widest selection of merchandise. And group the items on your list together by store – and even by location, within each store. The objective is to minimize how many trips you have to make, the number of times you have to get in and out of the car while you’re out, and the amount of walking you have to do while you’re there. The more time you invest in carefully planning where you’re going to go and what you need to get, the more wear and tear you’ll save in the end.

I will accept help when it’s offered – and ask for it when it’s not.

This is a no-brainer, really. So, why do I so often turn down offers of assistance, when I could REALLY use the help? Is it pride? (Demonstrating that I can still do it?) Perfectionism? (Believing that only I can do it properly?) Or politeness? (Not wanting to inconvenience anyone?). Whatever it is, it needs to STOP! There are simply too many things to be done – and one person (even when perfectly healthy) can’t do it all. So listen up, family. This year, I’m delegating some jobs. Hubby: you’re in charge of getting the alcohol and groceries. Kids: you’ll be decorating the tree and running errands. And me? I’ll still be in the kitchen, preparing meals and cleaning up – but I’ll be occupying other hands to help. The party’s over – or maybe it’s just getting started. I guess it depends on which side of the duty roster you’re on!

I will look after my health.

Self-care usually goes out the window during the holidays. I tell myself that I haven’t got time to exercise or to rest. I calm my nerves by drinking too much alcohol, eat too many sugary treats, and sometimes skip my meds. I know these things aren’t good for me and that I feel better when I eat right and I exercise, but I fall off the wellness wagon every time. Sound familiar? So, I’ve decided to up the ante. If my health and wellbeing aren’t enough to motivate me to maintain my diet and exercise regimen over the holidays, I’m going to sweeten the pot and try a little bribery – by giving myself a monetary bonus every time I pass on a second piece of cheesecake or make it to yoga or the pool. And in the New Year, I’m going to use that money to treat myself to something that will help me to unwind from the holiday stress – a massage, perhaps….or maybe, a Caribbean vacation?

How are you planning to manage the stress of the holiday season this year?

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