With the holidays slowly creeping up, it's hard to take the time for yourself, be still and tune into the moment before braving maddening airport crowds, eschewing questions at family gatherings and looming end-of-year work deadlines. It may be the merriest of seasons, but it can send your stress level into overdrive. By being aware of critical dates and planning the next 100 days, you can make the small mundane tasks of the festive season meaningful rather than last-minute chores.
So, how do you do this? We called on life coach, Marisa Peer, to share the best ways to manage the often-frantic countdown whilst also protecting your wellbeing. “The most critical step is to set your boundaries and stick to them. A blocked schedule helps tremendously with this.” Here we show you how to create a schedule that will help you manage your time and energy, preparing and defusing any holiday stress, and most importantly allowing you to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year.
100 days to go: Decide your travel plans
Block: 2 hours
Now is the time that you can often find yourself stumbling over where to spend the holiday, maybe with your parents, partner or friends. These decisions can be challenging, but choose the best option for you. By managing their expectations in advance, you will be able to enjoy your holidays with a clear conscience.
Booking travel this far in advance will mean you can take advantage of lower prices. Avoid busy travel days – according to The Vacationer you should avoid travel from 22-24 December and 26-27 December. After New Year, try to avoid travelling home on the 1 or 2 January, if possible. Choosing off-peak travel times will help you have a stress-free journey.
80 days to go: Food Prep
Block: A morning or afternoon
Start your food prep in advance. It may seem early, but if you sit down and make a plan of the meals you will be making over the festive period and what ingredients you need for each you will avoid a lot of stress nearer the time. Anything tinned or dried – think gravy granules, mustard, or nuts - can be bought in advance and stored away ahead of time. No one enjoys a mad dash to the supermarket right before the big day, so buy what you can early.
Your Christmas cake base can be made in October, and left to soak in juices until a few days before Christmas. It can then be covered with a layer of marzipan and icing on Christmas eve.
When it comes to the day itself, if you’re stuck for ideas and looking for a nutritious three-course meal our expert head chef Renaud Goigoux of Rouhi in Amsterdam, has a festive 3-course dinner that is sure to impress.
50-60 days to go: Get shopping
Block: 2-3 days
Some people are organised and shop for Christmas gifts throughout the year, if that’s not you allow plenty of time. “If you're going out into the crowds, make it worth it! Try to shop during off-hours. You will get your shopping done twice as fast if it's Saturday at 8 am, as opposed to a Sunday afternoon. If you can, get off work early or schedule a babysitter and spend one weekday shopping.”
Marisa's favourite way to shop is online. All major retailers have free shipping during the holiday season, so take advantage! Shop in your pyjamas and save a massive amount of time, but be mindful of the planet and keep any tissue, boxes and bubble wrap to be repurposed.
Top tip: Why not look in your garden or local park to see if you can collect any foliage to adorn your gifts with. Look for a sprig of holly or press some homegrown flowers to enhance your gift with that little personal touch.
30 days to go: Write your cards
Block: 1-3 hours
For many, it’s the most monotonous of tasks. And while the Christmas card may seem like an outdated gesture, it can be one of the most valued, as it connects us with the people we love. Set aside some time, put some music on, grab a drink and settle into it. Like journaling, writing Christmas cards can be meditative.
Take your time to write each card, tell the person you are writing to why you are grateful they are in your life and make each word count. Your intentional energy and thoughtful words could transform someone's festive period. During such times, be mindful of others around you, why not write a card to a neighbour or someone you know who might be lonely during the holidays?
Top tip: Check the final postal dates ahead of Christmas in your area and pop them in your diary. If you’re sending cards or gifts abroad it will take longer, so be sure to get everything posted off in good time.
24 days to go: Think positive
Block: 20 minutes each day
Taking care of your mental health during this busy period is paramount. Marisa recommends setting aside a little time for some mindful breathing. “This simple technique helps to create a neutral space to stop yourself going over and over the same anxious thoughts. Box breathing calms the nervous system, increases concentration, and helps you to control your emotional responses in certain situations.”
Step 1—Breathe in through your nose for the count of 4
Step 2—Hold for the count of 4
Step 3—Breathe out through your mouth, making a puffing sound for the count of 4
Step 4—Hold for the count of 4
Step 5—Repeat the sequence for 10 breaths.
For a festive touch, imagine breathing in a golden light and breathing out a grey mist holding all the bad feelings you have.
And remember, “we are all born with an inner cheerleader—that little voice inside our head that, as a baby, spurred us on to learn to talk and walk despite hundreds of setbacks. And yet, we let our inner critic take centre stage and rule our thoughts,” says Marisa. “Rekindle your inner cheerleader in festive form as a cute little elf or a friendly snowman. Every time you give yourself a hard time, call on your inner cheerleader to remind you that you are doing your best and, actually, you are wonderful!”
7 days to go: Check out to check back in
Block: 10-20 minutes each day
Establish a routine by checking out each evening. Make a list of anything you need to do, getting it down on paper will get it out of your head. Now, take a little time out before bed to embrace the calm and find a sense of peace, ensure that you take this small moment to relax whether you enjoy a bath or read a book. Alternatively (or as well as!), factor in a small moment for yourself during each day with this walking meditation the soulful words combined with the fresh air will leave you feeling rejuvenated.
On the day: Set the scene
Block: 5 minutes
Scents send signals to the part of the brain that controls memories and emotions. Often overlooked, creating a sensorial ambience in the home has been proven to help with depression, anxiety and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Plus, every time you smell that aroma you’ll be transported back to the happy memories of this festive time. Scent your home with our Soulful Rituals Love fragrances sticks and candle. Take a moment to light the candle and place it at the heart of your home. It will fill the space with the beautiful scent of white jasmine blooms, and the sweet delicate aroma of rose.