December is joyous and stressful as hell. We all know it. It’s full of love and family, but its also busy and chaotic. At least that’s how it goes for me.
Me and my sisters are now grown adults with significant others and kids (well, kid). Gone are the days of simplicity around Christmas where all you have to do is wake up in your home and stay in your pajamas for 3 days straight.
We’re pretty close, but throughout the year it can be hard to get us all together. It’s nice to know that Christmas is one of those times that with everyone dashing back and forth, we will all still find time to make it work.
But between gift buying and holiday baking, I usually find myself pretty exhausted. It’s that classic time of year when my mental health starts to backslide, and I find it hard to keep up. Classic anxiety – you feel like you have to do it all and do it perfectly, and when you don’t (i.e. your christmas cookies don’t turn out, a family gathering plan goes slightly awry) you can feel like the whole world is falling apart.
Thankfully this year was a little different. And I’m proud of myself. After going through the cycle of craziness and burn out over the past 10+ holidays, I finally kept it together. I won’t say anxiety was non-existent, but it was at the lowest level it’s been in a really long time.
The reasoning behind this is two-fold.
Number 1: You can only go through the same experience so many times until you finally get around to figuring out how to help yourself. After repeating a similar cycle holiday in and holiday out, I realized that I needed to change some things. Drawing boundaries where I am comfortable has been an important part of this. So is taking the time to recharge with Matthew and the dogs. For the past few years we have made our own small, unextravagant family dinner and it is becoming one of my favourite traditions.
Being in the kitchen alone really zens me, so an afternoon revolving around that makes perfect sense.
Number 2: Keep it low key. This has gotten easier over the years, especially since my niece joined us. The older I get, the more I realize that Christmas isn’t about the gifts or the obligations, it’s about family. During the holidays, spending time with them is all I care about. And making my niece smile! My expectations are lower, and therefore easily fulfilled.
Now that my niece is a toddler and more able to participate, the holidays are that much better. Watching her be excited for Santa to visit it, and seeing the glow on her face when she opens a gift is the best part. Christmas is really for the kids – I had always heard that said but couldn’t truly understand until this year. I get it now though.
I know I’m not the only one who finds the holidays difficult, as so many of us who struggle with mental health find it difficult to cope. Whether that resonates with you or not, I hope you all enjoyed your holidays!
What helps you get through the busy holiday season? What do you look forward to the most? I know all of our experiences vary so much, and I’m always curious about how other people see it.
Oh and one more thing – these Shortbread Cookies (gf & vegan!) by The Unconventional Baker are just heaven! Festively fitting and great at Christmas, but also wonderful at any time of year… I highly recommend.