Surviving the Holidays: Managing Expectations

Friday, December 16, 2011

Last year, as I was frantically finishing final edits to my book: The Fat Chick Works Out!  I had to accept that I had neither time nor money for a huge Christmas tree.  Even if I was in a position to shell out over $100 for a nice tree (California pricing--sheesh!) I didn't have time to even go to the lot and pick it out, so much drag it home, prop it up and put hundreds of ornaments on it.  I had to accept that it just wasn't going to happen.  So I took out my tiny little pretend Christmas tree, slapped one string of lights on it, and put on about a dozen little teeny ornaments.  And you know what, it wasn't so bad.  It was disappointing, because I had expected the giant live Christmas tree.  But it's cheery little presence kept me company in the wee, dark hours before dawn as I sat next to the fireplace and did final edits.  And I learned.

This year, I never even thought about that huge Christmas tree.  I knew I would be even busier this year than I was last year.  I didn't win the lottery, so the big tree was probably too expensive anyway.  So I set my expectations for my tiny tree, and this year it's making me happy with no disappointment and no regrets.  My tiny tree is enough.  I am satisfied.

I think so many times during the holidays, we make ourselves crazy with totally unreasonable expectations.  We think we need to uphold every holiday tradition that anybody in our family has ever had.  We think we should give everybody everything they ever wanted for Christmas, and even a few things they didn't ask for.  And everybody is going to get along at all the family gatherings, and the kids will all be perfectly behaved and our holiday will look just like Mr. Rockwell's paintings.  And naturally, we'll lose 30 pounds between Christmas and Thanksgiving so that we can fit into that slinky little black dress we've been dreaming of. Because we need to make this the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!  Ho, ho, freaking, ho.

And  of course, it never quite works out like that, does it?  When you're standing in long lines the day after Christmas returning presents that the kids didn't like after all (and you couldn't afford anyway)  you cringe at this year's NEW crop of holiday memories complete with grandma passing out after too much eggnog, nobody talking to Judy because of what she said about our Susan, and a mess that you couldn't shift with a sherman tank.  And the little black dress?  Honey all the Spanx in the world 'aint gonna get you there.  Frankly, it's depressing.

But does it have to be?  What if you accept that you can't please everybody.  What if you accept that you can't change people?  What if you accept that this crazy, messy, imperfect, noisy and less fiscally irresponsible Christmas will be YOUR Christmas and get over it?  Can't meet old holiday traditions?  Make new ones!  Can't buy expensive presents?  Give of your heart and your mind and your time.  Got a crazy family?  Enjoy them while you still have them.  Gained 2 pounds since Thanksgiving?  Get a great pair of comfy but gorgeous leggings and ROCK 'EM!

That's my Christmas gift to you my love.  Go out and have a personalized, imperfect and perhaps more than slightly crazy holiday season.

The Fat Chick

Surviving the Holidays: Get Some Sleep!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Now don't laugh when I ask this, but seriously.  When is the last time you got a good night's sleep?  I know during the holidays (at least in MY life) this is one of the first things to go right out the window.  I stay up to wrap one more present, address one more Christmas card, bake one more holiday favorite and before you know it, it's tomorrow.  I can't tell you how many times I've dragged myself up the stairs in the wee hours of the morning and collapsed in the bed.  And maybe no other creature (including the proverbial mouse) is stirring at the crack of dawn in my house, but I am.  I'm up early doing all the stuff I would normally be doing, but put off because of holiday obligations.  Tis the season to be surly, cranky and get sick because we just need a little shut-eye.

In the health magazines, I've seen lots and lots of articles about how NOT to eat holiday treats or (gasp) gain holiday pounds.  What I haven't seen is much of any information about the need for sleep.  This despite the fact that there is ample evidence that going without sleep is really bad for your health.  A recent study showed that shift workers are more likely to suffer from diabetes, and the thinking is that the sleep disturbances have a lot to do with it.  (Poor Santa.  Maybe he should deliver presents during the day.)

But diabetes is just one of many potential health effects of not getting enough sleep.  Aside from increased accidents on the road and at work, sleep deprivation is linked to a host of other ailments including:
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Psychiatric problems, including depression and other mood disorders
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Mental impairment
  • Disruption of bed partner's sleep quality
  • Poor quality of life
Yikes!  And let's not discount "disruption of bed partner's sleep quality".  This is probably not a formula for a happy marriage.  I wonder if Mrs. Claus has to sleep with the pillow over her head when jolly ol' St. Nick finally crawls in to the sack at the North Pole.

But seriously, going without sleep over the holidays is NOT a good thing.  Aside from the potential health risks, it makes you cranky as heck, and all the more likely to bite Aunt Ethel's head clean off when she asks you (again) when you're getting married.  Not. Good.

So how do you fit sleep in during the holidays?  First off, you need to prioritize it.  Here's an exercise I sometimes do.  I set my alarm to go off when it's bedtime.  This reminds me that it's time to wrap up WHATEVER I'm doing and go to sleep.  Sometimes that means some things don't get done.  After all, this blog post was supposed to go up LAST week.  But is the world still turning?  Let me check...

Getting sleep is also about managing your holiday obligations and your holiday expectations.  We'll be talking about both of those things in the weeks ahead.  But not right now, because it's time for me to get some shut eye.

So my little chicklettes, my plea for you is to find some time to lay down your fluffy little heads and head off to dreamland.

The Fat Chick