We often go into the holidays with the best of intentions: We’re not going to spend too much this year. We won’t overcommit. We’ll keep doing all those self-care rituals that prevent us from descending into a rage state at the holiday table when Uncle Wilbur insists on asking why we’re still not married. We’ll watch our sugar intakes, we’ll exercise, we won’t drink too much, we’ll learn how to say no and maintain our boundaries. We won’t keep trying to keep up with the Joneses.
And yet, inevitably, by Jan. 1, we’re literally and figuratively spent — just look at those credit card balances! (No, don’t.) And the New Year’s resolutions can practically write themselves.
Look, there’s no shame in enjoying whatever your favorite holiday indulgence happens to be. But if you’re dreading that overdoing-it hangover, there are practical steps you can take to avoid the post-holiday malaise. Overdoing it, the experts say, doesn’t have to be inevitable at all.
Why do we do this?
Let’s make this a guilt-free space. It’s not your fault! As Farnoosh Torabi, financial expert and author of “A Healthy State of Panic: Follow Your Fears to Build Wealth, Crush Your Fears, and Win at Life,” puts it, “There are many factors at play when it comes to our irrational exuberance over the holidays, from societal and cultural expectations to aggressive holiday marketing and, of course, FOMO or the fear of missing out.”
You knew this already, but Instagram is not your friend here. “When we see all the celebrations, gifts and holiday experiences on social media, it’s hard not to want for all of that,” she says. While heightened holiday emotions are normal and understandable, Torabi explains, they can lead to overspending, overbuying, excess credit card debt, overcommitting to events and engagements — and the feeling of being completely burned out by the new year. Quick tip: Stay off social media, or try to limit your time there.
Take stock of yourself
One of the best ways to circumvent overdoing it is to plan ahead. So right now, the very first thing you should do — if you haven’t already — is a self-check, says Dr. Harel Papikian, a psychologist who runs the West Hollywood Couples Therapy Clinic in Los Angeles. Gauge your mental, physical, emotional and financial resources. Then, “Decide what version of holiday celebration would be both fun for you and serve the purpose of connecting with your loved ones.” If you tend to be the one who takes on a lot of the doing or planning (and you later feel angry or drained), remember that “you are as deserving of holiday celebration and rest as everybody else in your family,” he says. “Put yourself first as a starting point and make plans based on where you are at.”
You can also say no to parties. “We don’t have to make it to everything,” adds Crystal Bailey, director of the Etiquette Institute of Washington, who recommends “prioritizing what’s important and putting your energy in those spaces and places and with those people instead of overextending yourself. There are definitely times when we’re like, you know, ‘I don’t feel quite up to it.’ And that’s OK.”
If, on the other hand, you’re in need of more things to do, or feeling left out, Papikian recommends seeking out volunteer opportunities, “or make your own celebration and invite other friends and acquaintances who do not have family close by and feel left out as well.”
Communicate your feelings to others
Don’t keep to yourself your thoughts on how you want to do the holidays (unless, perhaps, you’ve decided you want to do the holidays by yourself — totally fair!). Involve your family and friends in your decision-making and planning; talk to your partner to come up with a shared vision for the holidays; talk to your kids about how and why things are changing. “If celebrations will look different from the norm, provide context and share age-appropriate reasons for the change this year,” Papikian says. And don’t hesitate to ask for help. “Overextending ourselves for the benefit of others can rob us of the fun of the holidays and can create resentment,” he says. “On the other hand, setting boundaries and asking for what we want offers an opportunity to be heard, validated and supported.” Doesn’t that have a nice holiday ring to it?
Have fun (really!) with budgets
Aditi Shekar, founder and CEO of Zeta, a mobile app designed to assist couples and families in managing their finances, says her team consistently sees families creating holiday budgets for themselves: “What we see people doing is creating a target — let’s say they want to save $1,000 for holiday presents — and then using the whole year to actually fund that account.” One family even opened an account with their extended family so they could each contribute to their holiday fund, which they’d then use to go on vacation together. “I thought that was an incredibly powerful way to use the holidays, to still have that family time but do something in lieu of presents,” Shekar says.
OK, at the moment, you don’t have a whole year to save. But there’s still plenty of time to come up with a collaborative group idea for the holidays. “Maybe it’s not a full-blown trip; maybe it’s one experience within the time you’re all spending together, or it’s a few different experiences, or it’s your charitable donation as a family,” says Shekar, who adds that you can simply set a price range or budget for presents to set expectations across your family.
Outsource some of the “doing”
Just because you’ve celebrated one way before doesn’t mean it always has to be like that, especially when it’s causing you stress. Think outside the pumpkin pie box. “Maybe instead of cooking, we can preorder a delicious Thanksgiving or Christmas meal from our local restaurants or grocery stores,” says Papikian. “Maybe we can delegate a chunk of cooking to our guests who are coming to celebrate with us and have a potluck.” You don’t have to do it all yourself. “It’s both financially easier, time-wise easier and an opportunity for everybody to pitch in and connect,” he says.
Rethink your gift-giving plan
“I think one of the core paradigm shifts is moving from buying things and celebrating through consumerism to emphasizing the time together, the connection with our loved ones as the primary goal of the holidays,” says Papikian.
Maybe this is the year you decide to do away with gifts altogether. “There were quite a few years with my family that I just said, ‘Oh, let’s just get together and not worry about gifts at all.’ And those were awesome years,” says Bailey. “We could just focus more on what are we eating and what’s the menu looking like, and just actually being there.”
If you do want to keep gifts in the picture (and I don’t blame you), you can decide that only the kids get them, or offer another limitation (just one for everyone? A group gift?) so the financial burden isn’t quite so overwhelming. You can also take a Secret Santa approach, drawing names and keeping your identity anonymous until the present exchange, which turns gift-giving into a game. Shekar has moved to themed presents with her family, doing charitable donations in one another’s names one year and food items the next. “We actually ended up baking six massive batches of shortbread from Smitten Kitchen and then we shipped them in their little tin boxes to everybody,” she says. “They loved them.” Added bonus: The negotiation over next year’s theme is part of the fun.
When the invitation goes out, let everyone know what you’ve decided regarding gift-giving, Bailey advises. “So there’s not that concern of people rushing out to find things.” And, of course, if someone gives you something anyway, accept it graciously.
Face your FOMO and find your way
You really don’t have to do what everyone else appears to be doing on Instagram (which is never the whole story, anyway). And isn’t the best version of the holidays the one that’s natural and authentic to you? “If you find yourself overcommitting to gifts and events and travel around the holidays, could it have something to do with your fear of missing out on what others are doing?” asks Torabi. “When FOMO flares up in your life, engage this fear in some healthy interrogation. Ask it what it wants you to pursue that speaks more to who you are, what you enjoy and what’s actually feasible (i.e., what you can afford). Find a more personally aligned alternative to whatever’s trending.”
Papikian says, “Ultimately, if our focus is connecting with people that are most important to us in our lives, then this can be a beautiful time.”
Instead of going big, go long
There’s nothing that says December is the only month we can have parties. Feel free to spread it out. “Rather than trying to cram every outing and festive meetup in December, offer to gather with select friends or family in the new year when your schedule’s less hectic and when you have more space, time and possibly money to invest in celebrating,” says Torabi. (It’s a financial win too: “Airfare is cheaper, gifts go on sale and restaurants are no longer packed.”)
You can always just … not
“You can unplug whenever it pleases you,” notes Torabi. “You’re an adult. You’re allowed to (and you should!) take a personal day to decompress.” You can also return things: “Most stores have decent return policies, so if you’re experiencing any buyer’s remorse, just return the item.”
On that note, if party-planning, try to invite friends and family you actually want to spend time with. “If inviting people you do not enjoy is not avoidable, preset boundaries with these people, specifically,” says Papikian. “Call them, have a conversation about the upcoming celebration, and clarify your expectation of a cordial and pleasant eve.” A potentially awkward conversation, sure, but it might be a win-win: “If the no-drama rule is a turnoff, they may choose not to come.”
You also can reschedule plans, though ideally, don’t do so at the last minute. The main thing is, we’re all in this together. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and overcommitted, others probably are too. “Calling a friend to reschedule in the new year may feel scary,” says Torabi. “But it’s only because we may not realize that the person on the other end of the phone was already hoping for a raincheck.”
Source: LA Times