The Hey Mishka Guide To A Stress Free Holiday

You better not shout, you better not cry…

We all know the lyrics to this uber-famous Christmas song… but the reality of the holidays for SO many of us is indeed of the cry-and-shout variety.

Between family drama, the pressure of #giftinggoals and stuffed schedules peppered with awkward office parties, it’s enough to drive anyone (except Martha Stewart) insane. With December 24th just a few weeks away, you might be wondering if this’ll be another year of not-so-magical chaos.

But wait—what if this year could be different?

What if you could get ahead of the madness, avoid the ho-ho-hangovers and swear off the vapid cocktail party convos for long enough to enjoy a holiday that’s actually jolly?

Don’t you want to be jolly, woman?!

Of course you do. So keep reading for 5 solid tips you can put to work this season to avoid having a Hallmark movie-sized meltdown. Also, there’s a present for you…

1. Make peace with your to-do list

Secrets to a Stress Free Holiday: Make Peace with your To Do List

Your life is already kind of insane, isn’t it?

Do you remember the last time you crossed off THE LAST THING on your to-do list and indulged in guilt-free Netflix binging?

Neither do I. There’s literally always something else in the pipeline.

During the holidays, this stress of the endless to-do list is only amplified by actual obligations and lovely little things you wish you had time to do, like baking cookies for your doorman and DIY-ing your own Ugly Christmas Sweater.

This year, it’s time to get real about that list.

There are legit must-do’s, like getting gifts for your nearest and dearest. There are other things that can totally be removed, though, like the hipster rendition of A Christmas Carol that you agreed to go to because your BFF is dating Scrooge.

It’s easy to confuse actual obligations with things we can cross off our list, because most of us have a hard time rejecting invitations or requests for help. We don’t want to look like jerks, and—let’s be honest—we let FOMO get the better of us too.

That kind of behavior literally BREEDS stress! So we’ve got to make trimming the to-do list a holiday tradition of its own.

I know it’s hard to look at a page full of obligations and make decisions without being overwhelmed, so I made this template for you to use (right click and open in a new tab or save).

Secrets to a Stress Free Holiday to do list

Here’s how to use it:

  • Print this template out multiple times if needed—this is most effective per-week.
  • Gather your to-do lists, both digital and hard copy.
  • Open up your Google calendar & anything else you use to schedule your time.
  • Get yourself a glass of wine (because obviously).
  • One item at a time, go through and decide whether it’s a must-do, remove, or love-to-do. Write ’em in.
  • Add things to the “love-to-do” column if you have some extra room in your schedule.
  • Resist overbooking yourself!

I would love to see how you use this template to schedule your time. If you do, post a pic on instagram and tag me with @heymishka so I can check it out!

2. Resist family (& friend) squabbles

Secrets to a Stress Free Holiday: don't fight with family

It’s just way to easy to get into fights with friends and fam when they’re riding the same express train to stress town as you during the holidays.

Nothing is worse than a would-be festive evening or dazzling brunch turned sour by snarky comments, passive aggressive behavior or straight up F-bombs.

Recognize that your mom (and your girls) are as exhausted from wrapping presents and making house calls as you are. They probably also lingered in front of the oven for a few seconds last night, envying the gingerbread cookies within.

And hey—you wouldn’t want to start off the new year sans-speaking terms with people who had your back in 2016, would you?

Give them a break. Even if it’s not usually your style, it’s a good idea to resolve to avoid conflict and radiate good vibes during this particularly tense time of year.

How do you put this into practice? Just be a good person!

Be the first to apologize. Reach out and smooth things over before small misunderstandings become big ones. Resist arguing for the sake of arguing. Make light of obnoxious comments from well-meaning relatives. Don’t guzzle Baileys if you know it flings you into the realm of regrettable honesty.

For me, the biggest challenge is resisting arguments. I love to tell people that I’m right, and you’d simply be amazed at how often I am! *wink* But that behavior can slice a festive atmosphere in half like a butter knife through Christmas pudding, so put it away!

It’s not always easy, but you’ll dodge potentially unpleasant situations and make things more merry for your loved ones in the process.

Remember: When in doubt, smile and hug!

3. Don’t totally neglect your health

Secrets to a Stress Free Holiday: don't neglect your diet
Gif via magicofxmas@tumblr

At the moment I’m writing this from the inside of a gingerbread house, face down on the floor, chomping at the cookie interior.

Okay, not literally… but if you knew how much festive junk food I’ve ingested this week, it’s more or less comparable.

This is a pretty tempting time of the year to trade in green smoothies for spoonfuls of whipped cream, at least for me. I get the warm fuzzies whenever I see Christmas tree-shaped cookies or fancy red-and-green eggnog packaging! Yeah, I’m basically a kid.

It can be hard to focus on eating healthy, nourishing stuff when there are constantly cute pastries up for grabs at the office and everyone who visits the apartment has some kind of cake to unload on you.

As most of us know at this point, food = fuel, and if you don’t fuel correctly, you end up getting nasty winter colds and experiencing waves of exhaustion that make even super fun holiday activities a chore.

In order to discourage my immune system from abandoning me, I keep my fridge packed with warm, rich healthy stuff all season long.

Healthy doesn’t have to mean raw, cold and sparse, which doesn’t really agree with winter. Some of my favorite foods are filling, warming and exploding with health benefits, like sweet potatoes, hummus, cranberries, zucchini, ginger, avocado, mushrooms, artichokes and veggie burgers.

(I’m drooling just re-reading that, mmmm.)

I’m no nutritionist—and I know people are fiercely protective of their diets—so get thee to the Google and find some recipes that work for you. Start here, maybe?

Also! You might avoid eating cookies for dinner if you have your fave foods prepped. Chop onions in advance, whip up a week’s worth of soup on Sunday—that sort of thing. Make it a no-brainer, and your body will thank you for it.

One important note: don’t restrict yourself completely. I’m a firm believer in “everything in moderation”, so you’d better believe I still have the occasional shameless gingerbread latte as I hum jingle bells and stroll along 5th avenue…

4. Do it on the internet!

Secrets to a Stress Free Holiday: do it on the internet
Gif via SashaKatz@Tumblr

This year, for the first time ever, I ordered gift-wrapped presents on Amazon and had them delivered straight to the recipients themselves.

FOR SHAME…! 

Previously I felt this cutting out of the “middle man” (ie: the gift-giver, myself) was a cold, Devil Wears Prada kind of way to spread holiday cheer… until I too received a gift shipped directly from Amazon.

I opened a box that appeared at my door and found a gorgeous shimmering red package inside. The tag said it was from a Secret Santa gift exchange I’d opted into on Facebook.

I was pleasantly surprised by Amazon’s use of reusable festive gift bags. I pulled the ribbon at the top and my gift was revealed, along with a cute note and gift receipt. The experience was no less thrilling than tearing up paper and fighting with stubborn scotch tape.

After that experience, I wondered why I’ve been making things harder for so many years.

Now I’m officially sending long distance friends their gifts directly from Amazon. It’ll cut mailing time in half and I won’t have to spend extra money on wrapping.

I think this is one of those instances where we should feel good about accepting a modern solution to an age old problem. After all, I still have gifts in the closet from last Christmas that I just never sent. (Sorry Zooey!)

The moral of this tip?

Anything that can be made easier online, from letting the experts at Minibar figure out your bottle count for a cocktail party to streaming holiday playlists to ordering the hors d’oeuvres instead of making them…

Outsource it to the internet!

5. Enjoy some (non-negotiable) alone time

Secrets to a Stress Free Holiday: Enjoy some alone time

Ahh… precious alone time.

What does that even mean anymore? Even when we’re alone in a room, our phones are buzzing and blinking and chiming with all kinds of notifications from the outside world.

Do you really need to know when your frenemie is broadcasting live from the Meatpacking District?

…no.

Unplugging and spending quality ME time with your own brain is crucial to maintaining some degree of sanity—not just during the holidays, but literally all year long.

If you refuse time for solitude, you’ll lose the chance to sort through all of those creative ideas that pop into your head throughout the day, consider all sides of the heated discussion you got wrapped up in at dinner and even reflect on how damn lucky you are.

Thoughts are precious, and we’ve managed to push them aside in favor of constant updates and an unhealthy obsession with productivity.

(Because thoughts can be scary! But that’s a topic for another day.)

If you want to keep using that #LiveAuthentic hashtag, you’d better find a way to get back in touch with your thoughts.

During the holidays this can be tricky, but you can literally schedule in some “me” time and make it non-negotiable, just like dinner at Mom’s on Christmas day. Put it on the calendar. Make it real!

Not sure what to do when you’re sitting alone in the tub or watching the snow fall from your fire escape? Resist the urge to update Facebook and instead, try letting thoughts flow. Run through things you’re grateful for, or just picture the faces of people you adore.

If negative things pop up, spend time with those thoughts too. Don’t beat yourself up or get crazy. Just acknowledge what you’re experiencing and let it ride for a few minutes before you return to the holiday grind.

If you can manage even a few of these self-reflection sessions this season, you’ll feel more emotionally stable and more equipped to succeed at this last tip…

6. Experience in the moment while it lasts.

Secrets to a Stress Free Holiday: Enjoy the moment while it lasts - be present

*Insert joke about being present*

But seriously… I can’t stress the importance of being “in the moment”.

The holidays are super special, but because they’re also crammed with obligations, it’s easy to get sucked into the whirlwind of tinsel, only to be shot out the other end on January 2nd with no idea what happened.

Did you get to DIY an Ugly Christmas Sweater like you wanted? Decorate a gingerbread house replica of the Taj Mahal? Hand write all of your holiday cards? Who knows!

You spent your time sprinting through department stores, herding tipsy relatives and frantically scrolling Pinterest for recipes.

If we don’t experience the holidays in the moment, they inevitably feel less meaningful. I’m sure you’ve experienced this before.

So, as we approach the most festive time of the year, let’s just consciously decide to spend more time immersed in the moment than not. We can put our phones down and look each other in the eye, resist sharing photos and updating statuses immediately, and ditch small talk for authentic conversation.

Stuff like that!

A little goes a long way with being present, and if you make a habit of it, you’ll find yourself effortlessly consumed by the here and now rather than frantically documenting, planning and remembering.

Those are my tips for a stress free holiday… got a tip of your own? Comment below!

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Written by Mishka

A city girl who loves palm trees, strong coffee & late night writing. Founder of Hey Mishka & Day Job Optional. Learn more about her here.