The holiday season can offer up equal amounts of joy and stress. Connecting with family and friends, decorating the tree and singing along to your favourite Christmas carols is the joy. Racing to get a hot holiday dinner on the table for family that numbers in the double digits, packing the kids, presents and pets in the car to visit the in-laws and checking your bank balance is the stress. 

The secret to surviving the holiday season is finding a holiday routine that fosters more joy than stress. But it doesn’t happen on its own. Here are four strategies to tap into the magic of the holidays before and after Santa comes to visit.  

Plan 12 days of meals

With so much going on mealtimes can get hectic. To help ease the hassle of meal prep during the holidays, create 12 days of menus. Make a list of favourite easy-to-prepare meals and schedule them on the calendar, getting the family involved in which ones make the final cut. Not only is it a fun, festive routine, meals planned in advance make dinner time less frantic. And because the list is vetted ahead of time, everyone’s got a favourite or two in the rotation which makes each meal that much more special. 

Recharge with exercise

Exercise is often the first casualty of a busy holiday season. But it’s one of the best ways to reset your mood when you’re feeling more like the Grinch than Santa. A workout doesn’t need to be sweaty or lengthy to reap its benefits. Even 15 minutes away from the chaos of the holidays can put you back in the spirit of the season. Leave your check list behind and head outside for a brisk walk, letting the sounds of the outdoors feed your soul. Or plug in a podcast or audio book and get lost in the narrative while letting exercise and the fresh air work its magic.

Get your Z’s

Getting up earlier and going to bed later are common strategies during a season where there’s never enough minutes in the day. But a lack of sleep catches up to you, especially since holiday parties, shopping and baking extend over a series of weeks not days. If you get more done in the morning, go ahead and set your alarm a few minutes earlier, just make sure you adjust your bedtime so you’re not losing precious shuteye. The same principle applies to night owls. Stay up late only when you’ve got time to press the snooze button for a few extra minutes of sleep the next morning. 

Be Thankful

It’s easy to think of the holidays as a series of tasks that need checking off your list; presents to buy and wrap, meals to plan, cards to write, baking to do and decorations to put up. But lots of special moments can get lost during the fast-paced days leading up to Christmas. Take a few minutes every night to reflect on the special things that happened that day like taking your ugly Christmas sweater out from the back of the closet and finding out it still fits or stumbling onto your spouse’s secret stash of gifts (again). There’s lots to be thankful for at this time of year, so take a moment to acknowledge what brought joy to your day.