What’s your holiday game plan?

It’s game time! No Holiday Crazy

Not Monday night. Not College Game Day.

It’s holiday game time. (Almost.)

Has holiday planning started kicking into gear for you?

This week my inbox received emails with ideas for gifts for family members,
holiday field trip info for my kindergartener, and the name of the family
member I chose in our annual holiday drawing.

Ahem. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet. Yup, my family is on the ball.

My response to this is to start looking at my calendar and planning my fun holiday events and activities. And when I do that, I also pencil in my own personal game plan.

I teach at a community college, so the planning before the holidays is sort of like getting a syllabus. Here are all of the holiday activities you have coming up, these are the dates they are happening so you can block time in your calendar, and your final exam is December 25th, which is non-negotiable.

As we plug away through the semester, I teach my students the value of systems for things like taking time to prioritize, note taking, studying, and having quiet time to just be.

When we get wrapped up in the doing of the holidays, we can forget to be present (pun intended).

My game plan is comprised of strategies that keep me from feeling overwhelmed. The system I create has regular healthy doses of “me” time in the next couple of months.

Planning ahead for taking time for yourself during the holiday season can be the gift you give yourself this year. You’ll feel less chaos. You’ll likely be more productive. And the best part? As  you’re moving through the fun holiday stuff you do (school band and chorus concerts, holiday shopping, baking, eating, wrapping, etc.), you can be more present and focused in the moment.

By planning ahead and taking steps to maintain a sense of peace and calm, you just might stop the continuous thinking about all of the errands that need to be run, the other functions to attend, and the cards that are still sitting on the table at home, waiting to be addressed.

When we approach the holidays from that slightly frantic state of mind, they zip right by. We may even look back on them with regret and wonder why we don’t feel more complete. Here are a few ways you can start to prepare for the season so that you can fully enjoy it.

Brain dump. Sometimes we get so busy trying to keep everything straight that we forget to slow down and look around to see what’s right in front of us. Our brains are designed to handle only a small amount of information at a time. If we spend our energy trying to remember what we need to do, we will miss not only our current experience, but we are also bound to forget some important detail.

If you’re not already a planner and list-maker, this is the time to establish a new habit. Make a list of the people you plan to buy gifts for. If you know what you want to give them, write that down too.

Plan time in your calendar for all of your special holiday events. Plan time for any holiday shopping. Plan out any meals you’re preparing and write down what you’ll get and when you’ll purchase that too.

Dumping our thoughts out on paper will help to clear your mind, making it easier to focus on the present moment.

Sit quietly. There is more traffic on the road during the holidays. More people waiting in line at the grocery store. There are lights in your face, music playing, and a lot of days when we leave the house, it feels like a month-long party.

There’s a lot going on, and a lot of what’s happening is fun stuff. But sometimes we get annoyed with traffic, even on a good day. We lose our patience waiting for a price check for the person who is two spots ahead of us in the checkout line. And the truth is, it could be easy to get a little grumpy.

Sitting quietly for a short time everyday can make a huge difference with your ability to let the extraneous stuff roll off your back and keep you from going down the rabbit hole of pre-holiday frustration. Set a timer for a few minutes, sit comfortably, close your eyes or focus them on a point in front of you, and just breathe.

Try not to let your mind think. Focus on your breath and when you find yourself mulling over a story in your mind, label it with “thinking” and gently come back to focus on your breathing. This can be five minutes, ten, or even just two. If you do this everyday, you will start to see a difference in your ability to be aware and to live in the present moment.

Keep a journal. The holiday season is a wonderful time to start keeping a journal. Between your individual feelings about the goings-on of the season and keeping records of all the cool stuff you’re doing, there is plenty to write about.

And when you do take the time to write in your journal, you are giving yourself the time and space you need to both conduct a brain dump and engage in a creative outlet. Writing, even journal writing, is a creative endeavor. When we engage the part of our brain that likes to create, we feel better. Whether we call it endorphins, creative energy, or engaging the part of us that wants to be a little less logical and a little more playful, whatever it is, it works.

Journal writing as a means to create peace in your life is most effective when you make it a priority. You may want to journal first thing in the morning, or you may want to write at night to clear your mind before sleep. Write about your day. Write about your plans for the holidays. Write about any intentions you might have for being more focused and present this year.

Use hand sanitizer. How does this fit in with the other stuff on this list? Easy. The holidays are much more fun when you’re feeling healthy. My mother is a nurse at one of the urgent care providers in Tallahassee and last weekend they saw almost 300 patients, most of them with the flu. And last year my kids brought a nasty bug home for Christmas that made its way through our house and went home with family that visited from out of town.

Its no fun when you miss out because you’re sick. And in some ways, taking care of sick kids is worse than being sick yourself.

What do you need to do to keep yourself healthy this season? Washing your hands a couple more times a day can make a big difference. Keep a travel hand sanitizer in your bag. Make sure that in between cups of hot cocoa and cookies you are getting plenty of water and healthy foods. Keep going to the gym to maintain your energy level. This is not the time of year to skimp on health and fitness – in fact, it might be a great time to start developing some new habits.

Walk. Park the car far away from the building. The extra steps won’t hurt. Take a walk after dinner or a big meal. It’s good for digestion. Walking helps things to move around in your body and keeps your organs functioning at a high level.

Walking also gives you space to breathe. To think. To be with your thoughts or with others. Walking with a friend of loved one can lead to the kind of conversations that are difficult to have when the TV is on, or everyone has their smartphone available and next to them just in case they get pinged.

The holidays are a wonderful time to celebrate and be a part of your community, be with your family, heck, even be a part of the experience of being human. It’s a good reminder before we dive in headfirst that things can get pretty hectic around this time of year. Using any one, or all of the above tools, will help you to stay focused. Aware. Present. Engaged.

At the end of the holiday season this year, instead of thinking how fast it went by, you’ll be ready to take a deep breath, smile, and say it was the best year yet.

Like this article? Please feel free to use it on your own blog or newsletter. I simply ask that you please include this blurb:
Sara Marchessault is a coach, writer, teacher, and mom who helps busy women use journaling to create more space in their life for being productive without feeling overwhelmed. To learn more about Sara and her work in the world, please visit joyfulbydesign.com or saramarchessault.com.

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