For those of you who work in HR, the holiday season has already reached in critical mass. You’ve probably planned and lived through the office Christmas Party by now, planned and lived through at least one family or friend group party, and are wrapping up the last of your holiday prep.
Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas you’re not off the hook — it’s impossible to avoid the chaos of end-of-year parties and end-of-year work and often forced holiday cheer. It’s not just the busiest retail season, it’s one of the more challenging office seasons, with so many people taking time off (physically or mentally). And with so many of our friends and colleagues beset with holiday panic and end-of-year gloom, it’s one of the worst seasons for good personal and mental health.
The holidays disrupt our regular routines, which help to simplify our lives, and often see us travelling, taking us away from the people in our lives who give us support when we’re struggling. As wonderful as the holidays can be, they also be a significant source of stress and general un-fun.
Well no more! This year you’re going to spend some time over the holidays taking care of yourself, so you can start the new year refreshed, instead of already exhausted. Here are 5 no-fail ways to treat yourself during the holidays:
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Drinking is a fundamental human need. I mean, drinking water is. Drinking other substances, from tea to juice to wine, is more of a fundamental human pleasure. Of course you should stay hydrated over the holidays (most of our headaches are due to dehydration, after all), but you should also treat yourself to some less holy beverages.
My favourite non-alcoholic holiday drink is, hands down, mulled apple cider. It’s an incredibly easy drink to prepare and will be welcomed by almost anyone coming in from the cold. Pioneer Woman’s adapted recipe for it is the one I’ve taken to using:
Hot Mulled Apple Cider
- 4 whole Cinnamon Sticks
- 1/8 teaspoon Ground Cloves
- 8 whole Allspice Berries
- Orange Peel From 1 Orange
- Lemon Peel From 1 Lemon
- 1/2 cup Maple Syrup
- 6 cups Unfiltered (fresh Squeezed Is Great) Apple Juice
Place cinnamon sticks, ground cloves, allspice berries, orange peel, and lemon peel in a medium saucepan. Pour in maple syrup and apple juice, then bring to almost a boil. Reduce the heat to its lowest setting and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and serve in mugs.
But if you’re looking for something adults only, Irene Gianos of The OP Life shared two incredible holiday cocktail recipes this year:
Salted Caramel Eggnog
- caramel sauce, warmed
- 4 oz. eggnog
- 1 oz. spiced rum
- sea salt
- whipped cream
- nutmeg, freshly grated (optional)
Coat inside of Irish whiskey glass with warm caramel sauce. Add eggnog, spiced rum, and a pinch of salt and stir. Top with whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel, and freshly grated nutmeg.
- Chocolate Mint Milk
- Godiva Liquor (I had white chocolate Godiva)
- Chocolate syrup
- Peppermint Candy Crumbles
Line the rim of your glass with chocolate syrup, then dip the glass in the candy crumbles. Add your Godiva liquor to your liking. Add chocolate mint milk. Stir. Serve with festive straws.
I know many of you are worried about the out of control eating that characterizes so many holidays, but what if you just… didn’t? I’m not saying you should eat everything on offer during the holiday season. That way lies heartburn and food comas. Instead, eat without guilt keeping in mind that there will be more food later and, no, you definitely don’t need to eat it all. Help yourself to have a guilt-free holiday by making a few truly satisfying meals and snacks, rather than a whole buffet’s worth of middle grade goodies.
When I bake for others I try to impress, but when I bake for myself, I make the things I like most. Here are two easy cookie recipes that you can whip up quickly and treat yourself in between present wrapping and turkey basting:
- 2 2⁄3cups sugar
- 2⁄3cup milk
- 1⁄3cup cocoa
- 1⁄3lb margarine
- 3⁄4cup creamy peanut butter
- 1⁄2teaspoon vanilla
- 3 1⁄2cups quick oats
Mix first four ingredients. Bring to a boil, boil 1 minute. Remove from heat and add vanilla and peanut butter. Stir until well blended. Stir in oatmeal. Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper. Store in refrigerator or freezer.
- 2 1/4 cups
- all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup margarine, softened
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
There’s this moment I look forward to on Christmas Eve. I’ve wrapped the last present, baked the last cookie, and have everything prepped for dinner on Christmas Day. I put on some chill music, pour myself a hot toddy and sit down on the couch to just watch the snow fall. (And if there’s no snow, I watch the fireplace channel.) It doesn’t sound like much, but with all the accumulated holiday stress lifting off my shoulders as I relax into the couch, it feels incredible. But… should I really be so focused on that one moment of supreme accomplishment? What if I, and you, found ways to enjoy the whole holiday instead of, like, 10 minutes of it?
Here some easy ways to de-stress during the holidays:
- Go for a walk. Yup, even if it’s snowy out. Walking gets you exercise, fresh air and sunlight! Three things that relax almost all of us.
- Be less ambitious. None of your holiday guests or family members will care if you don’t present a perfect Christmas front, so don’t worry about it yourself. Doing a few things really well is likely to make you happier than doing 20 things poorly. So cut your to do list in half and then cut it in half again.
- Volunteer for a cause that really means something to you. Contributing to something that matters is good for your mental health and it’s in keeping with the holiday season. It’s also a great way for the overly ambitious holidayers among us to feel accomplished, without getting overly focused on the little things.
- Spend some time alone doing nothing. Of course you should — and will — spend time with your family and friends, but in order to avoid holiday burnout, you should also take some time to just be with yourself. Doing nothing. Taking 10 to 20 minutes to mediate, doze in bed, or watch the fireplace channel can help make even the most hectic of days tolerable.
Yes you. You and I both need to play more on the holidays. If you’re lucky enough to live in the snowy north like I do and own a dog, making time to play can be easy. Dog + snow = 20 minutes of high impact cardio and shenanigans in a winter wonderland. But if you don’t have that option, or your just plain hate snow, consider adding a game or three to your holidays.
Let me give you some suggestions to get you started:
- Board games. They’re great for big family gatherings because they welcome many players and require you to sit together at a table and talk. In other words, board games are great because they give you something to do together, easing tension and distracting that one uncle from talking politics. Anything but Monopoly, the game that ends relationships but never ends itself, is good, really, but my top pick for the holidays is Pandemic. This is a board game works best when you’re working together. The subject matter may be a little dark, but it helps to push together players who might otherwise be inclined to work against each other.
- Parlour games. Think Pictionary, charades or trivia. These games are highly interactive, loud, competitive, easy to learn and can stretch to fit small or large spaces. They can also be tailored to fit whatever your and yours are into.
5. Treat Yourself
So you’ve played, mediated, baked killer cookies and had a nice cocktail. What’s left? To really get the most out of the holidays you should give yourself a gift. Depending on your personality that could mean a good book, a nice piece of jewelry, a spa day, or tickets to do something with your kids. You know best what kinds of gifs are best for you. You also know best what you really want that no one else is likely to give you — and it may be something as simple as scheduling a day just for yourself. But giving yourself a gift, something personally meaningful and rewarding, is a great way to reward yourself for making it through this tough year, and remembering to value yourself as much as you do everyone else in your life. Personally, I’m going to buy myself a couple of new adult colouring books and make room in my schedule to do them.
Take care of yourself, friends, and have a happy holiday!