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The start of the holiday season can be a merry one at best, and a scary one at worst. As soon as the Halloween decorations come down and the first dig at the children’s Halloween candy begins, the songs of Christmas can be heard on the radio and in the stores, and shops everywhere have already completed their Christmas set up, readying themselves for the holiday rush. The pressure to shop for the best gifts, spend the most money, host the best parties or even be the queen or kings of baking can feel like a race and make one feel that Christmas is not a season to enjoy but rather a race to the finish line.

Instead of enjoying the holiday season, often we feel stressed out, tired, broke and angry- making us feel more like the grinch instead of the Santa. However, fear not! For if you consider these five tips in in your holiday season, you will sure feel like Cheery Santa than the scary Grinch!

1. Focus Less on the Monetary

The holiday season is about giving! Nothing is more exciting than waking up on Christmas morning and seeing gifts wrapped in beautiful paper and bows under the tree, curiously wondering what is inside them and then opening them up to find the gifts we asked from Santa! This is especially special when we see our loved ones faces light up with joy when their Christmas wish list has been granted! I mean we all love to give and receive gifts which makes the holiday season even more special.

However, to achieve this special moment on Christmas day, the months or even days leading up to it can feel like a never-ending shopping spree, and a race to try to find the perfect gift for our loved ones. The long list of people to shop for, the limited budgets and the amount of time it takes to find that perfect gift can be daunting, especially on limited budgets in this current economic climate! In a perfect world, I am sure we would all love to buy the best and most expensive gifts for everyone we love, but that is not the reality for everyone.

So, this season, try to focus on shortening the list of people you are buying for, and limit your budget. There is nothing wrong with limiting your Santa list to only immediate family and a few close friends. If you feel bad about not including everyone on your list this year, you can just get small gifts such as baked goods, handmade crafts or gift cards in small dollar amounts.

You can also suggest doing a Secret Santa with your loved ones by drawing a name out of a hat, and you will be only obligated to shop for that one person. But, be sure set a dollar limit, and don’t be afraid to tell your loved ones this because not everyone can afford to spend lots of money on gifts.

If there are children in the family, you can also just limit the gift giving to the children, and the adults can gift each other with dinners or free baby sitting! Remember, Christmas is not all about the monetary! Gift giving comes in many forms, whether you give the gift of baked goods, home made arts and crafts, free babysitting for family members or offer to host a family dinner; at the end of the day Christmas is about the thought of the gift and the gift of being with loved ones which will be all the more cherished and appreciated. No one wants you to go broke or in debt for the sake of their gifts! So, enjoy gift giving in the a variety of forms, and don’t let the stress of finances get in the way of your holiday season!

2. Find You’re Sanctuary!

The rush of the holiday season can be fun and exciting! With all the shopping, the baking and cooking, the endless Christmas parties, late night out, and all the family and friends to host, this can upend our daily routine, and throw our lives into virtual chaos. Although this is the time where some of the best memories are made, this can also bring out unresolved issues with family members we hardly spoke to over the year or friends we see once in a blue moon or that one colleague that got on our nerves all year long; and with one to many egg nogs, we will have some choice words for them at the office holiday party. However, fear not for if you find your daily sanctuary during the holiday season, you can stay on track and stay sane without breaking your mind. One of the things you can do is to stick to your schedule you have had all year along whether it is attending your weekly book or wine club, hitting the gym, going out with your friends, or board game nights with the family. It is so important to just keep a routine during the holiday season, because it keeps you focused and helps you relax. One of the biggest stressors is getting caught up with the holiday rush is that we often forget about ourselves in the process, and the activities that we enjoyed doing through out the year. For example, if you enjoy reading try to take time to read for one hour a day or going for a walk to clear your mind and stress.

With your family, it is also important to stick to your schedules and routine, and in fact most families include the children in the holiday planning such as the shopping, baking and cooking, the chores, and Christmas decorations. One thing you can do is (if they are old enough) is have the children plan some of the Christmas activities. You can also limit your holiday tasks such as hosting a potluck instead of cooking for everyone, or choosing to only go to a couple of Christmas parties instead of all of them or you can also just enjoy a nights in if you need a breather and a reset. Try not to be afraid of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) because the best thing you can do for yourself is to find the peace amidst the holiday chaos, and sometimes that means staying at home in your pajamas and binge watching your favorite show or reading a book by the fire place.

Remember, the holiday season is meant to be a relaxing time to be enjoyed with family and friends, and create some fun memories, be sure to enjoy it by taking the time out for yourselves and loved ones to just relax, recharge and enjoy this one time of the year where everyone is in a festive and kind spirit.

3. Eat Less Confectionary!

The holiday season means eating and drinking lots of delicious food and drinks, and plenty of it! With all the holiday parties and family dinners awaiting us, it sometimes feels like we have to hit the gym months in advance in order to “not feel guilty” for overindulging and growing our Santa Bellies during the Christmas season. I mean who can resist the buffet and all the eggnog, and never mind all the baked goods we are gifted with over the season from those distant relatives or neighbors. I sure can’t! But, having said that, we do need to keep our mouth and bellies in check for overeating and drinking can leave us in a slump by January, and for some struggling with heart disease and diabetes, this is not an easy month to navigate. Try sticking to your regular eating habits, as hard as it is, avoid foods that are high in fats and sugar or limit yourself to just a few cookies a week and couple of alcoholic drinks. If you find yourself tempted too much, opt for lemon water, for this helps curb cravings and help keep you full. At most parties, hosts usually have a fruit/vegetable platters, and if you are really conscious about keeping your health in check, fill your plate up with these options instead, this way you know your eating healthy and keeping your belly full.

You can also try an “out of sight/out of mind” attitude if you want to stay health and keep the pounds away. If you find yourself receiving lots of baked goods, freeze them! If you find yourself invited to parties, limit yourself to a few outings instead of all of them, or you can also avoid the buffet by remaining in areas of the house or office where the unhealthy foods are not in sight. I know this maybe a hard one, but you can also sneak in your own healthy snacks to avoid binging on the delicious finger snacks and loading up on those extra bits of turkey and potatoes

As much as it is hard to avoid the over eating during the holidays, you don’t want to end up 50 pounds heavier and feeling sluggish by the time the dreary January comes along for we know how long the line ups at the gym can be, and how hard it is to stick to new years resolutions. But of course, don’t completely deny yourself, eat and be merry, but all in moderation!

4. Move around and be less Sedentary!

During the holiday season, we find ourselves either hitting the malls or lazing around the house binge watching Netflix and being much more sedentary than usual, especially during the freezing Alberta Winters! However, if you have a gym schedule, stick to it during the holiday season, for this could be your one chance during the day to let off some steam, and stay mentally and physically healthy. Being physically active releases endorphins, and helps you burn off calories that you tend to pile up during the holiday season. Another thing that helps a lot is to go outside! Even though it feels like a movie scene straight out of Disney’s Frozen, layer up and go outside and enjoy the fresh air. Some communities have plenty of family friendly activities going on such as skating, winter carnivals, and caroling. Go and enjoy what your neighborhood has to offer. If you are flying single this year, go for an outdoor walk on Jasper Avenue or Whyte Avenue. The city is so vibrant during this time of the year, that there is always something to do outdoors. Getting your daily dose of fresh air can increase your endorphins, give you more energy and lets you truly enjoy the sounds and sights of the holiday season. Moving around and staying active helps you stay healthy both physically and mentally and can truly offset some of the holiday stress and seasonal affective disorder that most people experience during the holiday and especially during the months of January and February. So get up, go out and stay as active as much as you can!

Christmas does not have to be a stressful time of the year. Often times we try have the “perfect” Christmas which can lead to disappointment. Do not put so much pressure on yourself and do not feel like you have to do everything yourself. It can be stressful so do not be afraid to ask for help or to take some time to yourself! Follow these tips to help focus on what is really important at the heart of Christmas which is celebrating our friends and families. Have a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

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