With Christmas only a month away, the pressure to organize holiday dinners, shop for presents, and hang up festive decorations is growing. While some individuals may welcome all the planning that is required in these activities, it is easy to feel stressed and worn out with all the hustle and bustle.
During the holidays, there is such a big emphasis on buying presents for people, not to mention the pressure that comes from our commercialistic culture to have the latest and greatest ourselves. We feel an obligation to buy gifts for everyone and wrap them up in shiny paper with bows. Some may enjoy shopping. But there are many individuals who feel the financial strain from buying presents or feel guilty if they can’t find the perfect gift for their loved ones. The holidays can really create a lot of negative stress and emotions for people because of all the expectations there are surrounding this time of year.
I want to remind you that you not required to take part in activities that give you stress! You don’t have to buy a whole slew of gifts. You aren’t required to host a giant holiday dinner party for your entire friends’ list. You can do as much as you want, or as little as you want this holiday season!
The important thing to do this time of year is reflecting on what is truly important to you — family and your own mental health! No party is worth you becoming too stressed out to fully be with the people around you. Allow yourself to truly enjoy the holidays and reduce the stress and pressure that surrounds it.
Because I understand how stressful this time of year can be, I created a guide to easy and fun seasonal activities. I did the planning for you, so you can just relax and enjoy this special time with your family and friends without the hassle or stress!
Outdoor Ice Skating
Winter is only a few short weeks away, and many cities and towns set up outdoor skating rinks to celebrate the season. Even if you haven’t skated in years, try it out with your family, friends, or loved one! It doesn’t matter if you fall. Watching your friends or yourself slip around will only add to the joy and fun of it all! Laughing with your friends and family will actually help reduce your stress hormones (source). Bundle up, rent some skates, and have some fun!
Holiday movie night marathon
Instead of going out in the cold, cuddle up inside with cozy blankets and watch a holiday movie marathon! You can stream your favorite seasonal movies on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, or you can check out this list of Christmas related movies that will appear on cable. This is a very laid-back holiday activity that you and your loved ones can do at any time, and won’t give you any extra stress. You won’t need to prepare anything and won’t require any planning except for deciding which movies you want to watch!
Take a walk through Christmas lights
If you are someone who doesn’t mind the cold, check out your local tinsel trail, Christmas tree lighting, or decorated Christmas tree trail. Many downtown parks and cities may have areas lit up with festive lights. Take a stroll through these areas with loved ones and embrace the crisp, winter air. If the weather is too severe to walk outside, pile into the car with your friends and drive around local neighborhoods that are well known for their decorations. To stay warm on your journey, you can make some homemade hot chocolate to take with you.
Check out these hot chocolate recipes, but with a healthier flair!
Mexican Hot Chocolate
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, cashew milk or non-dairy milk of your preference
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp raw cacao
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- pinch of sea salt
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp maple syrup or raw honey, or to your taste.
Classic Hot Chocolate
- 20 ounces unsweetened almond milk, any other unsweetened nut milk or unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 ½ tbsp organic unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp raw honey or maple syrup, or to your taste.
- ¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
Turmeric Infused Hot Chocolate
- 8 ounces of hot water or coconut milk
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp gelatin powder
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp maca powder (optional)
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp raw honey or maple syrup, or to taste or with your other favorite sweeteners
- ½ tsp vanilla extract (optional)
You can also easily add collagen powder to any of these recipes for extra health benefits. I personally use my friend Dr. Axe’s Multi Collagen Protein. There is a yummy chocolate flavor or an unflavored version that you won’t even be able to taste.
Donate to charity
Another seasonal activity you and your family can do is go through any of your clothes you don’t often wear but are still in decent shape, and donate them to charity. There are many coat drives and similar events happening around the Christmas season. You can clear out your kitchen closet and donate any unexpired goods to a food pantry. This is something easy your entire family can do to get into the giving spirit of the holidays. Not only will declutter unused items make you feel less stressed out (source), it will also make you feel good inside which can help maintain good mental health (source).
Pick out a Christmas tree
Get your family or friends together and go to a Christmas tree farm! It can be a fun family outing to pick out a Charlie Brown tree or a nice full one. This way, the family can get together to all voice their opinions on the best tree and work together to find one you all like. For those who really enjoy the outdoors or want a more adventurous experience, take a hike or a drive and pick out your own tree!
Go to holiday plays, pageants, or special events
Instead of stressing yourself out by planning your own holiday event, why not go to someone else’s events? During this time of year, there are many fun types of live plays that normally occur, like The Ghost of Christmas Past. There are also Nutcracker ballets and local church Christmas pageants to attend. Don’t let yourself get bogged down in the details of planning a party and attend a local event instead.
Bake and decorate healthy Christmas cookies
Everyone loves a good cookie swap and decorating holiday cookies, but consuming those extra calories and sugar-filled cookies that aren’t on your diet may give you stress and guilt. To avoid the stress that goes into planning baked good recipes and breaking your healthy diet, I created a small list of healthier versions of classic cookies!
Classic “sugar” cookies for decorating
- 3⁄4 cup coconut flour
- 1⁄2 cup arrowroot powder
- 1⁄2 cup coconut oil
- 1⁄4 cup maple sugar
- 1⁄2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1⁄2 tsp fine sea salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp cold water, if needed
- 1 egg white
- 1/2 cup arrowroot powder
- 1/2 cup maple sugar
- 1-ounce cacao butter, melted
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp natural liquid food coloring
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
To make the dough, get out a mixer. Combine the dry ingredients: coconut our, arrowroot, palm shortening, maple sugar, and salt. Add in the vanilla extract, and beat on medium speed until the items are fully mixed.
Add the eggs and beat on medium-high speed until the eggs are blended and dough texture is formed.
Put the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and use a rolling pin to even out the thickness to about ¼ inch. Remove the top parchment sheet.
Next, get your favorite cookie cutters and use flour on them so the dough doesn’t stick to it. You can slightly wet your hands with water to work with the dough if it begins to crack. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden around the edges. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Dairy-Free Gingerbread Man Cookies
- 1/3 cup molasses
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/3 cup well mashed sweet potato (about 1/2 a medium sweet potato)
- 1 tablespoon coconut milk
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 cup almond flour
- 1/4 cup softened coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a nonstick saucepan, bring molasses to a boil. Mix in the maple syrup, sweet potato, and coconut milk to saucepan. Stir ingredients until completely mixed and then remove from heat.
In a small bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Pour dry ingredients into wet, and stir until the mixture is completely blended.
Chill the dough for about a half-hour. Roll out dough between two sheets of parchment paper, until about 1/4 inch thick. Cut batter with cookie cutters of choice. Bake for 10 minutes on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Mix frosting materials together until light and fluffy. Once cooled, you can decorate it!
Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
- 2 1/2 cups almond meal
- 2 tbsp coconut flour
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar + 1/4 cup ground coconut palm sugar for rolling
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1/4 cup dairy-free chocolate chips, melted
- 1 tsp peppermint extract
In a large bowl combine almond meal, coconut flour, cocoa powder, 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar, baking soda, and salt – your dry ingredients. Get a second bowl to mix together the eggs, coconut oil, chocolate chips, and peppermint extract. Slowly stir in the wet ingredients into the dry bowl. Next, put the dough in the freezer for 20 minutes to harden, this is an important step!
When the dough is hard, scoop out a small handful of dough, smooth it into a ball and roll the sugar for a nice texture on the cookie. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for ten minutes on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Remember to let the cookies cool completely before moving, or else they will break!
Dairy-Free Shortbread Cookies
- 1 cup fine cane sugar
- 2 cups all-natural, unsalted butter
- 3 cups unbleached flour
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (or almond extract for a different flavor!)
Before you start, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line your baking sheet with parchment paper. Take your butter and beat it in a mixer until it is light and fluffy in texture. Next, pour in the sugar slowly into the butter and continue to mix until fluffy. Take a sifter and use it to add the flour.
Add the extract flavoring you want. Continue to mix until dough is formed.
Knead the dough with your hands and then place in the refrigerator until it is hard enough to form into balls. Form balls or use cookie cutters to make your cookies.
Bake for 18 – 20 minutes and cool before moving!
The holidays are supposed to be a happy time. You can have a holiday season that isn’t just about parties and gifts! Allow yourself to breathe, and embrace your family and loved ones. It is so easy to get caught up in the commercial aspects of the holidays and get stressed out about all the effort needed to plan seasonal activities. You and your mental health are more important than creating an extravagant holiday that ultimately just stresses you out! I hope these activities can take the pressure off you so you can enjoy a peaceful season with the people you care about.