Leandie Buys Realtionship Therapist & Clinical Sexologist

8 Ways to help make the December holidays less dreadful

It’s finally the end of the year… and I’m sure we’re all grateful for that. However, with December comes the holidays and Christmas chaos …

It’s wonderful to have a break, and a chance to prepare for the new year, but I often end up still being exhausted in January because the ‘holidays’ are so full of activity that I never actually get a chance to relax. Do you ever feel the same?

I cannot stand going to the malls at this time of the year. Every December, I promise myself that I’ll get all my gift shopping done by November the next year, but I never get around to doing it… and I always end up stressed out and frustrated right at the beginning of my ‘holiday’.

And then there’s the teenager – who needs to be constantly entertained, and is always hungry!

This year, I’ve decided to try to do things differently. I’m not going to start 2016 feeling exhausted after entertaining family and friends, cleaning up after everyone and driving teenagers around. I’m roping in the family, and we’re going to work together to make sure our December isn’t dreadful!

Here’s my plan:

1.       Put together a list of activities

Everyone in the family is going to write down a list of things they would like to do this holiday. Then we will plan around these activities and coordinate our schedules so that everyone feels like they got to do something ‘fun’.

Put this list on the fridge so everyone can see what is happening, and when.

There is nothing worse than planning some ‘me time’ only to find out at the last minute that hubby is playing golf, and you have to transport a bunch of teenagers to the movies.

Don’t put pressure on yourself to get all the shopping done either. If hubby is out, text him a list of products that you need from the store. Tell him to send you a photo of the items if he’s not sure which ones to get.

2.       Duty roster

Meals, dishes, and housework still need to get done. Most domestic workers take time off during December, and it’s important to ensure that all members of the family contribute towards the household duties so that you aren’t left doing them all!

Put together a duty roster, and make sure that everyone sticks to it.

Another good idea that I got from my mom is to prepare some meals ahead of time and freeze them. My mom makes bobotie and lasagne, and keeps them in the freezer for when unexpected guests come over, or when she just wants a ‘night off’.

3.       Friends and family

We are very blessed to have swimming pool, and it is the perfect spot to cool down and chill out during hot December days. However, I often get last-minute calls from friends and family asking if they could bring their kids to come and swim.

Although I really don’t mind most of the time, I do end up spending a lot of money on snacks and refreshments, and a lot of time doing dishes and cleaning up after them. This year, I’ve decided that everyone needs to bring their own drinks and refreshments. And they can bring disposable cups and plates so that there isn’t any cleaning-up to be done afterwards.

This way, we can all enjoy the pool and the sunshine.

I’ve also decided that if I really just need some ‘me-time’ to relax by the pool, I’m going to say ‘no, not today’. There is no need to feel guilty about looking after yourself sometimes.

4.       Budget

This is the worse time of the year for your bank account! Free time means activity time, and activities cost money! Movies, outings, restaurant excursions etc… end up on the credit card, and make the beginning of the year a very stressful time.

This year, we are setting a budget for each week. Once that money is gone, it’s gone. The family will get together to discuss the budget and the activities, and we will try to fit as much in as possible. However, there are many free or budget-friendly activities to do in Port Elizabeth which I will also encourage the family to do: Going to the beach, spending time with friends, going for a walk, biking etc.

When setting your budget, keep in mind that January is expensive! You have to buy new school clothes and books and pay school fees. Keep this money aside so that you don’t have to stress in January.

5.       Me-time

Why is it that we always want everybody else to be happy, and to do things that they love, while we always put ourselves last on the priority list.

I don’t know if this is a “woman’s thing”, but know that I am happy if I know my family is happy, and their tummies are full. I must admit this includes my pets too.

However, I have also learned to tell myself that I deserve “me-time”, I deserve to do things that I want to do, I deserve to be served too, I deserve to just have a “pyjama day”.

I tell my clients that they need to remember: “you are the most important person in your life”.

6.       Soul searching

Make sure that you take time this holiday to look back on the year that has passed. What has come, what has gone. What have you lost, what have you gained, what have you learned… How has it changed you, and how will it affect the way you live next year?

Take your journal and do some writing and reflecting.

For me, this has been quite a difficult year with some personal losses and other stressors. I’ve also had some ups and downs in my practice. I’ve learned some great lessons, and I know that I’ll use this knowledge positively in 2016.

So if you have experienced some changes in your life this year, look inside you and not outside to what has happened. How can you learn from that, and what will be different from now on forward?

7.       Set achievable goals for the new year

I asked a friend the other day what her goals are and she said “same old same old”:

  • To lose weight
  • To drink less
  • To start doing exercise
  • To start a new hobby

Every year I know she might start with some of her resolutions for the new year, but will soon lose interest – like most of us do!

The problem with this is that you stop trusting yourself to achieve your goals.

My advice for setting goals for the new year is to set goals that focus on your emotional, physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

For example, if you want to improve your emotional wellbeing, seek help from a therapist or life coach. This way you can work through your traumas and past baggage to help gain some new direction and perspective in your life.

Don’t try to focus on too much at a time. Choose only one or two of these so that you know that the goal is achievable.

8.       Relax, revive, have fun, treasure special moments amongst the chaos

I have heard so many people saying that they need a holiday after their holiday, and what is the point of that?! You deserve time to relax, revive and have some fun this holiday. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family so that you can tackle 2016 head-on!

My wish is that you have a fabulous festive season and if you are travelling, drive and arrive safe. And remember to:

  • Lie - Lie in bed a little longer
  • Steal - Steal some time and get together
  • Cheat - On the budget (A LITTLE!!!) and go away for a weekend
  • Divorce - From your office