By Guest Blogger Cheri M. Timmons, LCSW, CHC

The cooler weather, scent of pumpkin spice, and Pinterest-worthy decorations all point to one thing … the holidays are approaching! Are you excited? Nervous? Sad? Maybe you are feeling a mix of emotions. The holidays can do that, can’t they?

In anticipation of the visits, festivities and potential expenses, it can be helpful to stop and ask yourself: Is it realistic to say “YES” to everything? Setting limits at holiday time can feel difficult. It’s hard to say “No” to the good stuff.

You CAN find a way to balance doing plenty of the “good stuff,” set healthy boundaries for your time, energy, and money, AND come out feeling great!  My 4 Sensible Strategies will support your efforts to engage in the holiday season “your way,” find joy in what you are doing and take good care of yourself along the way.

Let’s dive in….

Sensible Strategy #1 – Explore what you want ahead of time

Take time in making your decisions: What do YOU want this December? Resist the urge to people please and answer right away. Allow yourself the time you need to process “the ask” and hone in on a response that feels right to you.

Honestly look at your week: Do you already have two evening commitments? Will a third be too much? Have you carved time out yet for self-care? Take a candid look at each week and decide what feels right for how you will spend your time, energy and/or money.

It’s your money – plan ahead: Set a budget for how much you will spend on holiday gifts, donations or extra giving this year. Once you have defined your budget, determine how much money you will allot to each purchase you plan to make. Stick to your budget!

Reconsider traditions: Do past family traditions make sense this year? What life changes may lead you to change things up? Would you prefer to celebrate at your house? Is it best to keep celebrating low key? What can you do to make this wish a reality?

Sensible Strategy #2 – Set limits and stick to them

Know your limits: You teach people how to treat you. Notice the emotional, physical and mental reactions you experience when you have not said “No” or set limits when you wanted to.

Know your triggers: Who are some of the people with whom you find it hard to develop boundaries or speak up for yourself and hold firm? What settings make it hard? Knowing your triggers allows you to target your preparations.

Be prepared: Have tough conversations when you are feeling well-rested, calm and emotionally solid. Meeting face-to-face is recommended. Be clear and specific and ensure others’ understanding of what you are saying and meaning.

Practice: Hearing yourself say the words may take some getting used to. Write down what you want to say. Practice in front of a mirror to become familiar with how you sound and look when discussing your needs.

Sensible Strategy #3 – Have Fun

Fully engage: Be mindful of where you are. Notice the sights, sounds and smells. Be fully present to the people with whom you are sharing this time. You can check emails or Facebook later, but you won’t have this moment to experience a second time.

Learn or try something new: Try a new food or change up the menu this holiday. Learn something new about the cousin or co-worker next to you at a holiday event. Devote energy to learning something new before the fun ends.

Pick your favorite picture: Do you take pictures with your phone, but rarely look at them again? Select a favorite and make it your screensaver for a few days. This allows you to re-connect with the fun memories you made and bring a smile to your face!

Play music you love: Whether it is traditional holiday music, jingles or your favorite pop music, listening to music you enjoy while cooking, eating, writing out cards or wrapping presents can help regulate your mood, boost happiness, and reduce anxiety.

Sensible Strategy #4 – Rejuvenate with nurturing self-care

Get plenty of rest: When well rested, you can think more clearly, remember things easier, have more patience, and remain more calm and resilient when things get busy.

Balance your food choices: Enjoy some of your favorites at holiday time. When you plan ahead and balance your food choices, you can end the day feeling good about how you nourished your body. Consider including additional physical activity to your weekly schedule to give you an energy boost from the additional calories you consume.

Make plans to pamper yourself: Remember to “gift” yourself this holiday season. It can be something simple (warm bath before bed, foot soak after work, or giving yourself quiet time to read) or extravagant (facial, massage, Mani Pedi with girlfriends). Ahhh!

Pump yourself up: If you are not feeling good about yourself, it can be difficult to get into the jolly spirit of the season. Work to reduce your negative self-talk. Use positive affirmations, encourage and celebrate YOURSELF!

Apply these 4 Sensible Strategies for a fun and nurturing holiday season!