10 ways to maintain your sanity during the holidays (and beyond!)

As Christmas approaches, it seems the spectrum of emotions intensifies – ranging from the joys of festive lights, nostalgic movies, and fresh-baked goodies to the stresses of last-minute shopping, endless social gatherings, and holiday travel. 

During this time of year, it's easy to get swept up in the rush of the holidays and forego our usual self-care, boundaries, and intentional choices – sometimes even forgetting that we indeed have choices, let alone ones that can help maintain our sanity.

And so, I present a tool that I hope will help you as much as it helps me.

Drumroll, please...

It's a bundle of holiday permission slips!

For me, for you, and for anyone and everyone who needs a little reminder that it's okay to make whatever self-honoring choices we need to in order to show up with love. Because what better gift is there, really?

You have permission to...

1) Opt out of a holiday gathering. Or ALL the holiday gatherings! Whatever floats your boat. The goal is honoring your time and energy. Maybe you're reading this and thinking, "No way, bring on the open bar and endless mini crab cakes!" Or, maybe you're partied out and have your Postmates order prepped and Netflix queued up. There's no right or wrong option. The key here is that you get to decide what feels good to you based on where you are in your life right now.

And by the way: just because someone invites you – even someone you love – does not mean you have to go. One of my friends decided that this year she is really craving quiet time at home, and she's honoring that despite the invitations coming her way. She's being honest and opting out with love, trusting that the friends who really know her and want what's best for her will respect her decision (even if they're initially bummed).

2) Create the schedule that works for you. Holiday travel can be pretty nutty, so it's okay to cut yourself some slack and select departure and arrival schedules that work for you. Maybe redeye flights used to be no biggie, but these days, they really take a lot out of you. Or maybe you're used to dragging your family out of the house at 5am to make it to grandma's in time for breakfast, but man, sleeping in sounds like the best thing ever. You have permission to play around with schedules, even if you've never even considered that before. Start by thinking about one small adjustment you could make that would relieve some stress.

3) Eat (or not eat) a relative's homemade treats. If you've been trying to eat healthy, the holidays can feel like a war against any diet or meal plan. It seems like there's a tasty treat around every corner, and damn, everything smells so good! Consider this your permission slip to indulge in something special. If/when you do, remember to eat slowly so you can fully take in all of the treat's glory. For me, I have my eye (mouth?) on a special lobster bisque soup at a restaurant near my childhood home in Maryland. It's served with these heavenly pieces of bread that are fried and taste like savory donuts. I'm salivating just typing this, so you better believe I'll be milking every bite of that rich, creamy, decadent meal!

On the other hand, this is also your permission slip NOT to indulge in homemade treats. I know it can be hard to turn down goodies made by the people you love, especially if you've always eaten them in the past. Or, if a recipe is prepared by someone you just met (like your boyfriend's aunt), you might feel yourself wanting to be polite and not hurt their feelings. However, if this isn't something you really want to eat – and especially if it's something that you normally exclude from your diet – it's worth it to honor your body and kindly pass. Trust me, your digestive system will thank you!

4) Have your own experience. There really is no "standard" experience for this time of year. Even if your holidays have seemed similar to one another in the past, circumstances change all the time and you're allowed to be wherever you are in your life. For example: this year is extremely bittersweet for me. While I LOVE Christmas, one of my closest family members passed away this year, and I'm really missing them. The holidays feel different without their physical presence, but I'm allowing myself to experience these waves of sadness as they come and go. Accepting where I am feels a lot gentler and kinder than the alternative of suppressing what's real for me. So whatever your experience is this year, let it be okay. It's all allowed. That said...

5) Let the joy fully sink in. When you feel holiday cheer seeping in, by all means, soak it up! Despite feeling lost, lonely, or even filled with grief, you're still capable of experiencing joy. It is always accessible within you. And joyous experiences are all around you, especially during the holidays. As you stumble upon them (or, bonus points: if you look for them) and feel that warmth radiating inside you, give your joy the attention it deserves and be present with it.

6) Say no. To the people, things and experiences you don't feel a pull towards, even if you did in the past. You're allowed to change your mind. And as you clear space for what no longer feels aligned, you open up your heart (and calendar) to...

7) Say yes! To the people, things and experiences you do feel a pull towards. I've always felt that there's something magical and romantic about the end of the year and start of the next one. There's never a better time than the present to step out of your comfort zone and live a little bigger!

8) Be yourself. That includes sharing honestly and openly with the people you love and trust – even if you have different opinions or have felt nervous in the past to bring up particular topics. Putting on a front or keeping things hidden or bottled up takes up a lot of precious energy.

9) Add your own items to this list! Before you get too carried away, remember: this isn't an excuse to act out, or be passive aggressive to your cousin because you're still annoyed about that time she embarrassed you at your 16th birthday party. Nope.

This is an invitation to do what you need to do in order to be the sanest version of yourself. I can't guarantee that everyone is going to like it. If you've always said yes to invites, for example, your "no" might very well come as a shock to some people. However! You know at your core what's best for you. You really, really do. And that inner knowing is a powerful compass for decision-making.

10) Use all of the above during the holidays...and beyond! This isn't a seasonal thing – this is a life thing! The holidays are a great time to test drive this process, but by all means, feel free to keep using it! These permission slips don't have expiration dates ;)

And remember: at the end of the day, showing up as your most loving self is a gift to everyone you encounter! 

Happy holidays,