Holiday Happiness:
Countdown to the New Year

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This time of year, from the end of November to the New Year, can be hectic and stressful.  For many people it can be downright depressing and for others, it may be fun and joyful, but also quite unhealthy due to all the eating, drinking, and lack of time to exercise and relax.

Whatever the case is for you, the “holidays” can be a special, fun, joyful and memorable time of year for just about anyone.  It just requires the proper perspective, preparation, and some relatively simple tips to make it that way.

So, first, to start in the right direction, read the early holiday blog post from October 9th.  It will provide the big picture perspective which can help anyone prepare better for the holiday season.

Then, come back and read this article to continue the process.

The goal for this entire holiday series (yes, there are more articles and blog posts to come through the New Year) - is to have the happiest, least stressful, and most fulfilling holiday season possible - and ultimately a truly happy life.

Did you download the “Holiday Happiness Planner” provided in the October blog post? If not, do it now so you’ll have a template to guide you through the season more smoothly.

Once you have it – and have completed it – let’s get a bit more specific and begin using it to organize the most important things on your schedule for the next couple of weeks - the parties, the commitments, the events, your budget, your eating and exercise program, etc. And, it’s important to schedule some down time as well, because we all need time to rejuvenate – especially during the holidays. So schedule it. Don’t skip it. Make time to take a walk, watch a movie, or read a book. Just 30 minutes every day or two can help. It’s important to just “chill out”.

Another thing not to neglect is your exercise plan. Again, this must not be sacrificed during the holidays. Not only does exercise reduce the potential weight gain many people experience during the holiday “feeding frenzy”, but it also acts to reduce stress and energize your body. It’s best not to count this as part of your “down time”, but every once in a while it’s okay to do so – especially if you really love exercising.

Finally – and this must be the last thing you schedule – plan your other activities, like shopping, cooking, and cleaning. If you do this first, you will likely not find the time for your exercise plan or your down time (which are essential for the happiest holiday season).

At the risk of stereotyping, if you’re a mom, you may bear much of the brunt of the holiday craziness. So check out this article I found called Scheduling Secrets for Holiday Happiness. It's a good article to read even if you're not a mom.

Now, before we get to your plan, let me say that – regardless of how many things you have going on in your life during this time of year and how many obligations you have - just realize one thing ... the holidays will come and go, just like every year. It’s up to you to enjoy the process. Don’t waste it. Don’t spend this holiday season (or any for that matter) stressed or depressed. You’ll never get this time of your life back. Everything that matters most will get done. Especially if you have your plan completed – and follow it. And even if everything doesn’t get done, it’s not the end of the world. The most important thing to experience is the meaningful connection with those we love and the realization of how many things we can appreciate in our lives, regardless of the circumstances. Take the time to reflect on this everyday. Use the Three Great Things exercise discussed here at BeHappy101.com.

Now, take out your holiday planner. Look through everything you wrote down. And if you didn’t fill it out, do it now. Take an hour or so to get it done. One hour now will save you many hours later (and probably lots of frustration and anxiety).

Here are some quick tips to help you follow your plan most effectively:

  1. If you have many parties to attend, prioritize them first. For most people, it’s best to attend a maximum of 4-6 parties between the beginning of December and the beginning of January. This obviously depends on many factors, but generally 4-6 parties is within most people’s comfort zone and can fit in with all the other activities and events of the season. If you have 10 parties listed, for example, and you’ve prioritized the list as suggested, you might have to send regrets to the bottom 4 or 5 on the list – especially if the same people are involved in several of the parties.
  2. Next, if you have many people on your gift shopping list, hopefully you started early (preferably as early as August). But if not, first, make sure to start early next year. There is no worse time than December to be shopping for holiday gifts. It’s much more stressful – and maybe even more expensive. So start early next year. It will make everything go more smoothly in December. For this year, though, if you still have some last-minute shopping to do, my suggestion is to schedule a day – one day – preferably a weekday - and just get it all finished in that one day. No excuses or exceptions. Although that’s a tiring and “intense” way to get it done, if you can accomplish it in that one day, you’ll be done with it and can use the rest of the next couple of weeks to attend and enjoy your parties, attend your children’s school events, exercise regularly, and everything else. Also, with your holiday plan completed, you should have created a list of people who require gifts, along with a budget for everything you need to buy. Don’t deviate! Stick to the plan – including the budget. Ideally, you should have a gift idea written down next to every name on your list, along with the estimated price of the gift you would buy. If, when you add everything on your list up, it comes out to a number larger than your total budgeted amount, go back and revise the gifts you’re going to buy. Maybe you have to only spend $20 per person rather than $30. You may even have to reduce the number of people on the gift list. If you haven’t tried “drawing names” with family and friends, for example, suggest this as part of your gift plan. Most people are in the same boat as you; so they’ll probably be relieved and grateful for the suggestion. And, if you have time for getting things shipped - don't forget to use online shopping. It will save lots of time, effort, and stress.
  3. If you must travel over the holidays, make it as easy as possible. First, travel light. Don’t spend 2 days preparing and packing for the trip. Set aside an hour (two at the most) for packing and preparing. Remember, it will all work out. It’s not worth getting stressed – or taking the time away from more important things. I know this may be difficult for some, but it can be done if you have your plan and know your priorities. Then, related to travel, don’t neglect your exercise while you’re “on the road” - even if it means just taking some walking shoes and making the time to take an hour walk everyday.
  4. Finally, in dealing with the relationship side of the holidays (probably the most important single issue to address) make sure your plan includes some specific ways to optimize your time with family and friends. Identify the people who typically create stress during this time of the year. Design ways to manage these people. It might be discussing their stress-producing behavior with them. It could be spending less time (but quality time) with them. Read the related Notes from the Desk of the Neighborhood Shrink on family and children to get more great ways to manage the people in your life at this time of year.

These are some basic tips for managing your time and emotions during the holiday season. Use your plan. Be organized in your approach. Prioritize and be selective about your activities. Don’t neglect your exercise regimen. Stick to your eating plan. Take time to rejuvenate.

In the next part of this series, we’ll take a bigger step towards some ideas to ensure the positive things on your list far overpower the negative things you wrote down in the first part of this "holiday happiness" series. We'll talk about things like:

  • Creating "moments"
  • Your "rules" for the holidays
  • And much more.

BeHappy! my friends


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