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Method For: Doing Less

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How is your month going? Hanging in there? Sometimes the hardest thing to do in December is enjoy it. From selecting gifts for your nearest and dearest to keeping time-honored traditions going to creating a magical world for your kids and navigating tricky familial relationships, December can be quite a strain on your mental health. It wouldn’t be so bad if we could hit ‘Pause’ on the rest of life but somehow the expectation is that we layer on all of the holiday cheer while simultaneously keeping all of the regular stuff going as well. If you are spending all of your energy trying to keep all of the plates spinning it is unlikely that you are enjoying any of it. The pressure we put on ourselves and the messaging that permeates every cultural touch point is an awfully powerful combination. This week I’m offering up some ideas to help you edit the massive list of things taking up your time in December so you have the mental bandwidth to actually experience the stuff that is supposed to be fun. These are all just suggestions so take what works for you and leave what doesn’t. All are gleaned from my years of trying to do it all in December and collapsing from exhaustion on January 2nd. You maybe won’t be able to swing everything on the list but even executing on one or two will make a big difference in your ability to enjoy The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.

Cook less

Anyone cooking for their family knows that it takes time and effort to get that meal on the table. Whether you are a meal-planner or an improviser putting dinner on takes at least 30 minutes each night. And it somehow seems to take longer as the sun goes down earlier; dark skies make it feel like you are eating late even if you aren’t. Looking ahead at the next few weeks leading up to Hannukah and Christmas why not let yourself off the hook by ordering takeout? Or grabbing something already prepared at the store on your way home? You may be doing this out of desperation already but if you plan to do it ahead of time you relieve yourself of a stress layer and enter the usually frantic next couple of weeks with less on your plate. Take it one step further and let each member of your family make the dinner choice one night – the kids will love it and it will add to the magic of their season!

skip the sports

There is no rule that states you must attend every one of your children’s (insert sport) games. It used to be true that the Fall sports died down in December but nowadays with the preponderance of club sports there often is no down time at all. Instead of feeling obligated to attend their games in December think of those times as an opportunity to take some time for yourself. You could take care of errands, wrap gifts or even do nothing. I assure you there will be plenty of games to attend the rest of the year and if your kid complains just remember that you are modeling an important behavior for them; self care. This is a great opportunity for your kids to see that you are a human as well as a parent and that meeting your own needs enables you to meet theirs!

take a day off

One day in the month of December is like a week in any other month, it packs a big punch. As the hundreds of reasons why you can’t take a day off (from work, from your kids, from any other daily responsibilities in your life) dart into your mind pause and think ‘what would I do if I was indisposed?’ If you were physically unable to perform the daily activities that make up a day what would you do? It’s likely that at work meetings can be rescheduled, car pools can be leveraged, favors can get called in. Take those measures to give yourself a day in this stressful stretch, it will make a huge difference in your ability to fully show up for the rest of the month. What to do on your day off? I recommend at least a couple hours of nothing. I used to use my day off to peacefully wrap gifts while watching holiday movies. Or take my dog for a really long nature-bath outside. Or connect with my best friend for a luxurious phone chat. Another idea if you will be navigating any family drama is to use some time preparing yourself to be unsurprised by any offensive behaviors that are bound to be on display in the coming weeks. Being unsurprised is effective but it does take a little prep work, a day off is the perfect time to get mentally ready.

The important thing is not what you do with your day, it is that you are taking it for yourself and doing what makes you happy. That happiness works like a buffer on the rest of the month, providing a soft place to land as the crazy starts up again. So go ahead and take a few minutes to pick a day, do some rescheduling and leverage your village, you are putting your oxygen mask on first before assisting others!

If you can successfully remove some of the every day busy from your holiday season and throw in a little time by and for yourself you may find that holiday spirit that can otherwise be so elusive. May your remaining days of December be Merry and Bright!

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