We are deep in what may be the most stressful time of the year — and that’s for people who like the holidays. The travel, the expense, the family dynamics: end of the year celebrations can make a Grinch out of anyone. Here’s how you can get into the holiday spirit without being taught a lesson by various ghosts.
Like many things in life, I think the holidays are something that demand you put work into them if you want to get anything back. If you really don’t want to do that work, my hat’s off to you. But if you’ve just found yourself in a rut, and you are uninspired, here are some tips for learning to enjoy the rest of your year.
Have A Clear Beginning
For me, a lot of Christmas and New Year’s stuff is ceremonial. I’m acknowledging family, friends, a year of accomplishments, and new beginnings through the same old archaic behaviours. Yes, it’s basic, but it was also hard wired into my brain at a young age that the smell of pine and tree lights means a period of joy and peace—until the fights over dinner begin.
In years when I didn’t observe the ceremonies early, the spirit didn’t come; on the day of gorging and gift-giving, it still wasn’t there. Make it a point to get in touch with the things that bring up warm memories or bring you pleasure during this time of year.
Lifehacker staff shared the ways they slip into the season: visit your decorated downtown, make cocoa and add some peppermint oil, visit the neighbourhood where everyone covers their homes in Christmas swag, go places that play Christmas music, put up the tree, watch the traditional Chrissy movies. Let your brain know it is time.
Survive The Parties With Alone Time
There is a horrific amount of socialising around the holidays, which is hard for many. If you love them, you probably have your own strategies for getting through work parties and obligatory festivities with as much good cheer as the occasion demands. For everyone else: drink less than you think you need to, give yourself permission to leave whenever you need to, and make sure you schedule a night at home alone somewhere in there to rest, relax and recharge for the next round.
Having time to yourself will make the activity and gatherings easier to take. It’s easy to get caught up in the social whirl, and part of the reason you’re being a Scrooge might be simply exhaustion. Check in with yourself physically and mentally. You might not hate the holidays! You just need a nap.
Plan Things With Friends
Let’s face it, the most difficult part of the holidays can be your family. How much you can avoid unpleasant dynamics may not be up to you—or you don’t think it is. So be sure to also plan things with people you like, if that doesn’t include the folks you’re related to. Even if you love your family and they’re perfect, friends may celebrate differently. One writer says friend plans are a huge part of her end of the year ceremonies:
Before December hits, my various friends groups and I start planning dinners for each weekend in December, either at my house or theirs. I love it. It’s more Christmassy than anything I do with my family because we’re all committed to having one hurrah before we move into the new year.
Get Gifts Ahead Of Time
I am a panic shopper, which means I end up spending way too much money on the wrong stuff every year. I may never learn, but it’s very true that if you get presents ahead of time, you’re much less likely to be stressed out. Do yourself a favour and make that naughty and nice list very early. Heck, wrap those gifts on Black Friday. You’ll be cool as a cucumber on Christmas morning.
Some people are great at getting exactly the right thing and at a good price, too; for those of us who panic-buy a bottle of wine at the last minute, it might help to think of gift shopping from a different perspective.
Plan Stuff For The Lull
For me, one of the hardest parts of the whole shebang is that quiet time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve because I’m a maniac who loves constant activity. That week always sends me into a spiral—people are out of town, in food comas, and everything’s closed. That’s how it seems anyway, but if you make an effort to find events and stuff to do, you can avoid that depression dip that some (ahem) dread. Go ice skating, to a museum, an exercise class, or a movie marathon. Just find a reason to leave the house and remind yourself the year isn’t quite over yet.
The rest of November and December, which encompass a morass of religious ceremonies, rampant consumerism, and insane eating, often feel like a wash. New Year’s Eve is a shining beacon, the time when we’ll reset all our filthy habits — so, why bother now? Because setting a pre-resolution-resolution can still turn some aspect of your life around.
Take It Out Of Town
Maybe your best bet is to just avoid the usual holiday hullabaloo all together and get away. Rent a little cabin, go to an island somewhere it’s warm enough to wear a bikini; even taking a night off can make the time feel like it belongs to you again, as one staffer shared:
My boyfriend and I have a Christmas tradition where we get a hotel downtown for one night a few weeks before Christmas. There’s usually a nice tree in the lobby and downtown is nice and decorated, and we get to enjoy some stress-free holiday time alone together before things get all Christmas crazy.
Do Something For Someone Else
OK, you’ve tried it all and you still hate everything that happens from the end of November through January. Fair enough! There’s clearly a market for all these Grinch reboots. But that doesn’t mean it all has to be a total wash: instead of sulking at home, do something for someone else. Volunteer, donate, give your time and money to people who need it. It might not make you feel better, but it will spread a little holiday cheer for someone else.