December is here, friends.

 

I have stories about December:

  • it’s too busy
  • there’s too many things to do (shopping, presents, cooking, travel)
  • there are too many parties (and I suck at parties)
  • there are too many obligations (two birthdays, two holiday meals, presents, all.the.things),
  • it’s cold,
  • it’s dark.

 

Then there’s the stories I tell myself about the holidays and family and the comparison monster comes to visit hard. Especially on Christmas Eve when I start seeing other people posting on social media about their families’ huge extended family celebrations and mountains of gifts.

 

This year I decided to do December differently: Welcome to De-stress December.

 

As part of our NOvember challenge we were to write out our fantasy holiday scenario: who is there, what we’re eating, where we are, who is cooking, what we’re smelling, tasting, touching – the works. Then to make one of those fantasies come true for ourselves.

 

I’m happy to report that is exactly what I did and it was the best Thanksgiving in years.

 

This got me thinking, why not do that for the December holidays as well?

 

And since I have my December stories, why not orchestrate the entire month?

 

That’s how I am de-stressing December.

 

Step One: Write out every single thing you want to do, the things you feel like you have to do and all the things you’ve already said yes to doing and wish you could get out of.

 

Try not to get a cramp in your hand. It’s going to be a lot.

 

I wrote down all my work related stuff: new client meetings, Girls on the Run training, on going client sessions, traveling to LA for a work meeting, speaking on a panel at a women’s conference, shooting a TV segment for self-care in the new year.

 

Then I wrote down all the stuff I want to do: let my kid decorate my house, wrap everything in twinkle lights because they make me so happy, nog (aka eat candy cane Joe Joes whilst sipping vegan nog) every day, outdoor ice skating, Mary Poppins Returns movie, grandparent lunch for the girl’s birthday, holiday event at school, husband’s birthday, brother and his kids visiting, neighborhood Christmas progressive dinner, hikes on Christmas eve and Christmas day, ordering Thai food on Christmas eve, ordering Chinese food for Christmas day, seeing my parents, seeing his parents.

 

Step Two: Make a list of who you want to see before now and the end of the year. Make a list of all the people you’d rather see in January when there is less pressure to see every person on the planet. Keep in mind we all still have friends and family in the new year.

 

In fact, every person I’ve suggested moving a social thing to January has given me an enthusiastic wholehearted yes! Who knew?

 

Step Three: Decide where you’d like to be in December and make it happen (if possible). If you’d love to be in Paris, but haven’t gotten your plane tickets yet, that might not happen (this year). You can save for next year and spend the year planning what you’d like to do.

 

If you wish you could be with family and that is not happening for whatever reason, know you aren’t alone this time of year feeling sad. I am sending you really big hugs because sometimes the holidays suck.

 

If you’d really like to stay home, you can make that happen. Again,  you have to let yourself want what you want and make those wishes public.

 

One of my least favorite parts of the holidays growing up is that so much of it was spent cramped up in the car in uncomfortable dress up clothes sitting in traffic between each stop to see extended family. We barely had time to eat and hang out with our cousins before we were on to the next brief stop.

 

I decided that wouldn’t be my daughter’s holiday memory. Instead we invite everyone to come to our house (turns out they don’t want to sit in traffic either) and we order delicious take out. No traffic, no one is stuck in the kitchen when they’d rather be reading a book and then we get ourselves outside for a neighborhood walk to see the lights and up to the foothills for an easy day hike.

 

We schedule holiday time with extended family on days where there is less traffic. Not everyone’s ideal, but it works for us.

 

This was a conversation that happened WELL BEFORE December. It was uncomfortable and we had it anyway.

 

We decided what we thought would work for us and tried to make that happen. We compromised with our loved ones and we’ve been making it work.

 

Step 4:

 

Start with a MONTHLY calendar view. This is important because those squares are only one by one inch.

 

Why does this matter?

 

If I am trying to de-stress my December I can’t have endless space to write all my to-dos on a day.

 

I need limits.

 

My limits are one by one square inches of a monthly calendar. I put each thing I want to do in December in its place. I had to move somethings to other days because the one by one inch square got full.

 

That’s my limit: one by one inch square.

 

Perhaps you are super human and can have more than a one by one inch square.

 

I know myself well. I need lots of down time and space between activities and entire days without social events. Or I am grumpy, resentful and usually downed by a virus.

 

Once  I started seeing my December calendar fill up beyond my capacity to still be a good person I decided I need to start delegating stuff to others, cutting out some stuff and moving social and “winter” stuff to January.

 

I can’t stress this part enough.

 

We can’t do it all in December and feel the way we want to feel.

 

Step Five: Decide how you want this month to feel and maybe more importantly how you want feel at the new year.

 

My word of 2018 is Satiate. That is a pretty freaking good indicator of how I was feeling at the end of last year – all into nuance.

 

Well,  2018 was way bigger, brighter, bolder, grander and humbling than satiated nuance. It was more drinking from a fire hose than a champagne flute.

 

 

That being said, I want to feel stable, healthy and even keel at the turn of the new year.

 

So I have to decide what’s going to get me there. Knowing myself, it’s not endless partying, staying up late, socializing or otherwise pushing myself.

 

Step Six: Edit, edit, edit

 

Go through your calendar and see what you can consolidate, reschedule or bow out of. Be ruthless.

 

This is how the business trip to LA became a same day trip. This is how the Grandparent lunch turned into soup and sandwiches at home following a matinee showing of Mary Poppins Returns. This is how my December kid got a (tentative) January birthday party with friends. This is how I am going ice skating in January. This is how I’m socializing with local girlfriends in January (and already dreaming of a Galentine’s brunch).

 

This is how I have no less than five days on my calendar with the word REST on them.

 

How will you de-stress your December?