The holiday season is upon us and for many, it’s a joyous time with family, friends, parties and celebration. For others, it can be overwhelming, stressful and can cause situational anxiety and depression. More than likely, everyone is going to experience a little bit of both.

Expectation, grandeur, having too much (booze), having too little (money), saying “yes” to one too many things, family discord, planning, cleaning, cooking, wrapping…it ALL can get to be a little too much.

So, before the train gets too far out of the station, here are six tips to navigate your personal sanity for the next 60 days – and perhaps, beyond.

Say No to Perfection

Let’s face it, perfection is NOT attainable. It truly isn’t. And if you continue to strive for it, you are going to be very disappointed, not only in yourself but in others. And that is not a recipe for JOLLY.

When groups of people come together, they bring their own set of baggage – none of which you are capable of being in charge. Family dynamics change, children grow, our parents get older, friends lose their partners and people lose their financial fortune. Things change. What happened last year, happened last year. Be flexible with family traditions; be open to new traditions and be ok with modifying the old ones. If you have newly walking grandbabies, this may not be the year to decorate with Great Grandma’s glass ornaments.

Own Your Budget

Yep. We are going to talk about money. Sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t. Last year, you may have been rolling in it and this year, you were hit with college tuition. Whatever it may be, pay attention to where you are, financially, TODAY. Make a budget so that you are not using next year’s money to foot the bill for this year’s holiday. You cannot buy your happiness nor anyone else’s. Debt causes stress, divorce, depression, fear, anger and hopelessness. Take your power back by owning the budget.

Here are some cost-saving alternatives:

a. Family or friend gift exchange;

b. Donate to a charity in the name of the whole family;

c. Have a family potluck where everyone participates;

d. Check your emotions at the door;

e. Plan ahead; watch for sales (Black Friday/Cyber Monday).

Eat, Drink and Be Merry (in moderation)

The holidays are a marathon, not a sprint, so take it easy. Copious amounts of sugar and booze are going to affect your mood and your waist line. Did you know that it takes your body two to four DAYS to get back to homeostasis (neutral) after having a few drinks? That means that your daily boot camp is doing little while your body is trying to right itself. If you drink four days in a row, you are looking at 10 days to get back to neutral.

Cakes, cookies, pie…OH, MY! When you eat something loaded with sugar, your taste buds, your gut and your brain all take notice. This activation of your reward system is not unlike how bodies process addictive substances such as alcohol or nicotine; an overload of sugar spikes dopamine levels and leaves you craving more (this is why ONE cookie turns in to nine). Be mindful. Pay attention. Before you indulge, stop and pay attention to YOU. Ask yourself, is this *really* what you want and is the 4th drink or the 6th cookie moving you toward how you really want to feel? Awareness is key.

Physical and Mental Awareness

Auto-pilot during the holidays – or anytime, really – is not a good idea. Being aware how you are feeling emotionally, mentally and physically is important. Not only is the holiday season a time for good cheer, but it is also the time of year we succumb to the flu and colds. Add to the mix, too little sleep, too much booze and too much sugar and you are going to feel REALLY bad. Take time for YOU in these 4 ways:

  1. Yoga: Kill two birds with one stone. Physical exercise with the mindfulness component. It’s a win-win.
  2. Don’t brush off emotions: If you are sad, that’s ok. It’s a common and normal emotion. You are allowed to be sad.
  3. Time Out: Just like your kids or grandkids need to step away, so do you. Five minutes may be all that you need. Take it. Breathe, take a walk, listen to a favorite song or read a chapter in a book.
  4. Take a Family Walk: Being cooped up in the house and watching the umpteenth football game and shoveling staggering amounts of chips into your mouth can cause stress and anxiety. Take a walk. Dopamine is your body’s natural way to relieve anxiety and stress. Take advantage of it.

Be of Service

Do something for someone else. It doesn’t have to be extravagant.

  • Smile at people as you enter the grocery store (for the 8th time).
  • Send a thank-you note to someone that rarely gets thanked.
  • Send an email to check in on someone that you haven’t talked to in a while.
  • Help someone put groceries in their car.
  • Offer to put your neighbor’s garbage cans away.

You are a smart cookie; you will think of something and get your kids/family in on it! Being of service and gratitude are scientifically proven ways to improve mood.

Remember Your Family’s “Why”

Remember why your family gathers for the season. Plan a family gratitude or thankful project. Get a chalkboard, corkboard or even a box of sticky notes. Throughout your time together, jot down those things that you are most thankful for; it could be as simple as the cool weather or as big as Mom surviving cancer. Whatever it is, write it down. At the end of the season or the family gathering, take a picture of it. Get 5×7 prints made and framed for all.

Enjoy the Season. Be open to new traditions. Be aware of how you feel. Acknowledge your emotions. Be kind. Moderation, moderation, moderation. Be of service. Take a break. Include physical exercise and pay attention to the present moment. BREATHE. Happy Holidays!

Jen Yockey is the owner of {gather}, a movement and wellness studio and founder of the Recover You™ Program. She is a certified yoga instructor and master life coach and can be reached at (760) 219.7953, [email protected] or

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