November is a glorious month. Where I live, the temperature starts to dip, which means it’s time to break out the cozy sweaters and boots and start cooking comfort foods while enjoying a roaring fire. The trees turn sensational reds, oranges and yellows and the holiday season is right around the corner. For years, I would start out delighted by and excited for this season…. but as the specter of Thanksgiving approached, I would become increasingly anxious. 

Maybe you can relate to this: I adore my family and love to have them close. Since many of them live a good distance away, I always invite them to come for Thanksgiving and to stay with me. I love the idea of us all getting up in the same house, cooking meals together, going for hikes and returning to drink hot cocoa and play cards or a good game of Scrabble. And while I hope that everyone enjoys our holidays together, sometimes it takes a toll on me. 

It took time for me to realize that it didn’t matter if there were crumbs on the floor or plates left on the table after clean up. No one cared if there were dishes in the sink or if the beds were not made. I know it may sound silly, I should have recognized this long ago. But I had to learn to let go of the belief that I was responsible for everyone’s good time. Unfortunately, I used to end up anxious and uncomfortable more times than I would like to admit. 

Thankfully, some years back, I began to see that my pattern was not sustainable and not healthy for anyone, especially me. I had to work on letting go of my belief that I had to make everything perfect and found that it was a lot easier than I thought. I started asking for help before I felt overwhelmed and found that my guests enjoyed being a part of the action! I let go of the idea that it was my responsibility to entertain everyone, which ultimately allowed for waaaaay more fun. I started making sure that I did something each day just for me.. Now, when I have everyone over for the holidays I make sure I go for a walk or a run, take a quiet bath, or meditate, and no one seems to mind. All in all, letting go of my unrealistic expectations has given  us all a more fulfilling experience. 

So, now I want to ask you… do you take care of yourself… are you kind and loving to YOU, so that you AND your guests will have a more enjoyable holiday? 

Here are a few of my best tips to help you stay kind and gentle to yourself during this time:

Plan ahead.

If you are the one entertaining, planning ahead allows you to relax while still getting things done. You can choose and then organize your recipes, figure out your shopping list and then plan for time to shop, and if possible, to prep and cook ahead. Planning time to do things makes it easier to get them done. Remember that the food markets will be jammed in the last days before the holiday, so buy things ahead of time whenever possible.  And if you do have to buy some things at the last minute (it really seems inevitable, doesn’t it?!), remember that it will probably take you longer than usual, because long lines and long waits are part of the process at the end. PLAN out your time and your needs as much as you can, and forgive yourself for the inevitable glitches that may take you a little more time than you’d hoped. 

Ask for help!

Ask your guests if they would like to bring a dish. Most people are thrilled to bring something along and every dish someone else makes is one less for you. If you are going to someone else’s home for dinner, offer to bring your signature dish.  Especially if you are eating a different diet, this is a great way to be sure that you have what you want to eat at the meal. 

Keep hydrated. 

It’s impossible to enjoy your day if you have a headache, feel exhausted or have brain fog. These are often symptoms of dehydration. Simple as it seems, drinking ½ your body weight in ounces of water every day is the most overlooked, and yet easiest, avenue to staying on top of your game. I can’t say it often enough: Keep track of how much water you are drinking and I promise it will go a long way toward helping you get the most out of your holiday!

Make time for you!!!

This one might seem easier said than done BUT the rewards are so great, that I highly recommend making this a priority. When you are looking at your day ahead, find a time that you designate as your own. For me that is often first thing in the morning. Sometimes it’s best for me to wake up just a little bit earlier and have 20-30 minutes to meditate. You could perhaps take a midday walk or bike ride, since getting outside often does wonders for us all! And if the day flies by too fast or things get in the way of my plans, I will make a big warm bubble bath, light a few candles and sink into a relaxing tub before going to bed. Whatever way you choose, make caring for yourself a priority.

Count your blessings. 

This one has made a huge difference for me in my most stressful moments.  I can remember feeling overwhelmed by my to-do list and feeling choked by responsibility.  My perspective changed, however, when I learned to write my gratitude list as well as my to-do list. I started to learn to note not only the things I had to do, but also the things I was lucky enough to get to do. From my personal experience I can tell you for sure, that taking a few minutes every day to write my gratitude list has been a game changer for me. Why not give it a try?

Prep Healthy Food. 

Having good healthy food on hand while you are prepping for your big family event, entertaining, or just hanging out will help to keep your energy high, your blood sugar even and your mood elevated. Here are some of my tried and true favorite seasonal and prep-ahead yummy foods (all gluten free and vegan): 

You may try to incorporate some of these tips, or maybe all of them, but go out of your way to figure out what works best for you.  Any balance that you can strike that enables you to treat yourself as well as you treat your guests will pay off in spades when your holiday festivities are in full swing!  And even when you are busy and stressed, try and take a moment to appreciate how special this time of year can be.

With love, gratitude and seasonal joy,

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