Dear Ann Cannon • Help! I used to love this time of year. I mean REALLY LOVE IT. I enjoyed everything about it — the baking, the socializing, the shopping, the decorating. Especially the decorating. Seriously, our house used to look like a set in a Hallmark movie (still does, actually — I can’t stop myself). I loved Christmas so much I always rolled my eyes whenever people said they hated the holiday. But now … I kind of get it, even though I don’t want to get it. Mostly I just feel tired and overwhelmed and irritable these days. Any suggestions for making the season less stressful and more enjoyable?
— Wants to Get Back That Loving Feeling
Dear Wants • Thanks for your email. This can be the most wonderful time of the year, but yeah. It gets c.r.a.z.y. I’m pretty sure you’re not the only person who can use a holiday life hack or two — which is why I posted your question on my Facebook page and asked cyber friends for their advice. Here are some of their responses:
1. Nearly everyone agreed that you should give yourself permission to do less. As one reader said, “Eat half as much. Do half of the activities. Go to half of the events. Give half as many gifts. Put up half of the decorations. Take a half-assed attitude and things will go much better.”
2. How do you do less? Go all Marie Kondo on your traditions and settle on those that truly bring you joy. Channel your inner Elsa and let the rest go.
3. And speaking of traditions, one reader had this to say: “Every year I was building more and more traditions. One year I was so overwhelmed with all of the traditions I was trying to maintain that I wasn’t enjoying any piece or peace of the holiday season. I cut way back, said no to things, completely got rid of some of these traditions, and it has felt so good.”
4. Once you identify the holiday activities that you enjoy the most, prioritize. Do you love sending out Christmas cards? Then make that a priority. It’s easy to let your time and energy get hijacked during the holiday season. Focus on protecting space for the things you really love to do.
5. But wait! What if you feel guilty about letting things go? Um. Don’t. Remind yourself that with practice, letting go will get a lot easier to do.
6. Speaking of practicing things, practice a little “mindfulness.” One reader offered this suggestion: “Often we get stressed and anxious with everything that needs to be done in the future. So, the solution is to ground ourselves in the present moment. Focus on ‘right now.’ The way I help myself to do that is by checking in with my senses: What do I see, hear, smell, taste and feel? That check-in brings me into ‘right now’ and allows me to be focused on that rather than every little thing in the future.”
7. Practicing mindfulness is part of taking care of yourself in general — another suggestion from several readers. Get enough sleep. Drink some water. Exercise. Watch what you eat — sort of.
8. Other holiday hacks if you’re so inclined? Use paper plates. Delegate food assignments for family get-togethers. Let someone else bake your baked goods. Send cards for New Year’s (or the Fourth of July!) instead.
9. Next year, get your Christmas shopping done early.
10. Perform a secret act of service for someone else. Doing so will elevate spirits all around.
Let me add one more thing. If you’re still feeling tired and overwhelmed and irritable after the holidays are over — and those feelings persist — you might be suffering from depression. Don’t hesitate to check in with a health care provider.