Working during the holidays, attending work functions, meals with extended families, charity activities, volunteering, and parties in our own social circles creates a list of holiday "to do"s that makes one tired just reading it. Add to that regular life activities, decorating for the holidays, holiday shopping, caring for family, and maintaining your health can create a recipe for overload.
It can be helpful to create a plan before the holidays arrive so that you can enjoy your holidays without compromising your health and safety. Making choices in advance helps you communicate clearly with others and set reasonable expectations. You gain control to leave an event if you need to turn down an invitation if your schedule is too busy. While making your plans, consider the following:
Current obligations - It may help to get out a calendar and block off your work schedule, your volunteering, your family responsibilities such as taking and picking up the kids, and your family functions. That way you can see any schedule conflicts before they arise.
Keep your regularly scheduled medical and mental health appointments or squeeze one in before the holidays start. Be sure to find out your provider's holiday availability and get your prescription refills in early. Build in planned rest breaks in your schedule. You may need to take one or more days off, even if unpaid, to balance work and life.
Here are some further tips to planning:
- Cutting back - After you see where you are already booked, can you delegate some of these activities? Some regular obligations are suspended when holidays come around and you will be free. Mark that time as a planned break rather than filling it with other activities. Choose only the most meaningful activities to attend. Send a card instead of making a personal appearance. Stay instead of travelling. At one company, employees could reserve conference rooms with videoconferencing to share dinner with their far away relatives way before Facetime. Have a Skype "dessert and coffee" with far-away relatives and spread distant cheer.
- Locate conflicts - When is everyone out of school or home? It may help to find some planned activities even if everyone can look after themselves. Are you required to attend or can you gracefully "bow out" of the activity? Choose only those events that are meaningful to you and your family.
- Delegate - Maximize your opportunities to "share the joy" of the season by letting others help you. Who might you reach out to, even temporarily, to help you gain space in your calendar? Can someone else pick up the kids? Grocery store cookies are find for the company bash. Many local stores carry tasty pies and baked goods for gatherings. Let others decorate for you as part of a holiday kick-off gathering where you order pizza or barbeque. You get the idea!
- Take time off - Consider taking an extra vacation day around the holidays so you have time to wrap, cook, or prep. Avoid the night before rush. Let the stores or Amazon wrap for you when you order. Cut down the number of gifts or agree not to exchange gifts. Not only will you have more energy, but your wallet will also thank you.
- Simplify - Make new traditions that help you maintain balance. Rather than trading pre-lit, pre-packaged, prepared-at-restaurants' time to make your schedule busier, save both time and effort by choosing important over urgent. For example, have a Christmas pajama party so you can wear your favorite sweat pants rather than dressing up.
Finally, ask for help, keep it casual, and go at a pace that works for you. Don't go simply because you may "hear about it". While everyone will not understand and you may even hear some complaints, you will exit the holiday season rested with fond memories. Isn't that the aim for the season of good cheer?