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Tame your holiday season by journaling like a wild thing

  • 11 min read

October may be the ‘scary season’, but let’s face it, as we hurtle headlong toward the holidays, November and December can be downright terrifying.

In these last two months of the year, time has a tendency to fly by at break-neck speed. With so much to plan and get done before schools close and the rellies start arriving, it’s easy to feel stressed out, overwhelmed and exhausted instead of feeling relaxed and refreshed.

By now, you’re probably already scouring the shelves for Secret Santa pressies, and frantically counting the chairs under the house to ensure you have enough for all the uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews and their plus-ones.

Even if you’re not planning a big family gathering at your place, there are likely a gazillion work, school and club functions to attend. And all the while, you’re flat out ferrying the kids to and from school, sports, formals and awards ceremonies, and more parties than you can shake a glowstick at.

Oh, and to top it all off, your boss casually mentioned that, ‘If you could just clear your workload before your annual leave kicks in, that’d be great.’

Keep this up and, by the time November’s over and there’s just a couple of weeks til Christmas, you’ll already be burnt out like a spent firework on a soggy New Years’ morning.

What if this holiday season could be different?

What if instead of clawing your way through the holidays, barely managing to hold onto your sanity, you could use your break to relax, recharge and enjoy time with friends and family (even if they can be a little annoying)?

What if, instead of arriving back to work, a dried-up husk of a person who’s only thought is thank goodness it’s over, you could float into the office on a cloud of contentment, feeling rested and ready to smash your professional goals in the new year?

We’ve got good news: The simple act of journaling can help you stay sane and get the rest you deserve this holiday season—and every holiday season for years to come

Here’s how you can tame your holiday season

1. Stop trying to keep track of everything in your head

Probably the most obvious way to tame your holiday season is to use a bullet journal to keep track of everything for you.

When you’re trying to hold onto everything in your head, you’re wasting valuable mental energy. Let your bullet journal do the hardwork for you and save your energy for more creative and fun things, such as baking cookies or making festive decorations with your kids. 

Bullet journals are incredibly versatile. In addition to your daily, weekly and monthly things-to-do lists, you can use them to keep track of:

  • Pressies to buy
  • Things to pack for your camping trip
  • Things to take on holidays
  • Things you’re grateful for (more on this later)
  • Activities to do during school holidays
  • Chores to get the house ready for the festive season
  • Seasonal greeting cards and invitations to send out
  • Shopping lists for season celebrations and New Years parties
  • Instructions for the pet minder/house sitters—you name it.

Keep your journal with you at all times and jot down whatever comes to mindwhen it comes to mind, so you don’t forget anything.

When you’re trying to hold onto everything in your head, you’re wasting valuable mental energy.

2. Use your journal to control your crazy calendar

At this time of year when calendars quickly fill up with activities, parties and functions, you can rely on your journal and wall planner to keep track of your social and professional commitments and ensure that you’re not overcommitting and/or double booking yourself.

Have regular diary meetings with the whole family to ensure you’re all on the same page. Yes, you could use a shared online calendar, but sitting down together, and planning things on paper is much more inclusive, and it can be loads of fun. Plus, you’ll be teaching your kids valuable life skills.

Getting them to write their own lists of things to do, pack, and take care of will help them take ownership of their commitments. They’ll love the opportunity to actively take part in planning holiday activities and will enjoy the feeling of empowerment that comes with keeping your own schedule and being the master of your own time.

3. Use a wall planner to give everyone a bird’s eye view

Transfer all your important activities, appointments, functions, parties, kid’s sleepovers, and so on, along with any deadlines for tasks, to your wall planner. You can even colour-code tasks and activities. That way, everyone can see at a glance, what needs to be done, and where they need to be and when, without having to go digging around on their devices.

4. Don’t try to do it all yourself

You’re no good to anyone if you’re overloaded, stressed out and exhausted before the holidays even start. So, stop trying to do it all yourself. As hard as it may be to let go and let others do their fair share of the work, it is so worthwhile.

Delegating some of the tasks on your list will take a load off your shoulders, leaving you feeling more relaxed and able to cope. Plus, you’ll be giving others the chance to make a contribution to the big day.

Be sure to ask nicely, rather than just issuing instructions. Put a positive spin on your requests, and you’ll be surprised how much friends and family enjoy taking an active role in the preparations. Don’t forget to show genuine appreciation for everyone’s contributions.

A great way to overcome fear of letting go is to use your journal to keep track of the tasks you’ve delegated. Make a list of people you’ve approached, and what they’ve agreed to do. This will also help when it comes to thanking them for their help.

Enter reminders into your journal and/or wall planner, so you can follow up to ensure that everyone is on track, and offer help where required. Be sure to spread your “reminders” out, so you don’t end up nagging people.

How to get everyone (even the kids) involved

Throw your net of delegation wide to include everyone involved in the event. And yes, you should even delegate some things to your kids.

If you’re thinking, ‘Good luck with that. My teenagers won’t help out. I’m better off doing it myself’, here are a few tactics you could try.

Empower them by allowing them to choose their own tasks

Firstly, instead of giving instructions, ask them to nominate ways in which they would like to help out. Make a list of everything that needs to be done in your notebook or journal and let them take their pick of the tasks. You might be surprised by what they are prepared to do. Put their names beside the tasks they’ve chosen, so you can follow up with them as time goes by.

Offer them rewards and incentives

If your tribe needs a little extra encouragement, you could discuss possible incentives that might coerce them into doing their bit (e.g. movie tickets, game credits, or a shopping trip). Enter all these details in your journal, so you remember what was promised by both parties.

Give them plenty of time to complete their tasks

It’s important to give people (especially kids and teens) sufficient time to get their tasks done. Don’t throw them in the deep-end on the day or try to get them involved at the last minute, when you’re frazzled and they’re moody.

5. Plan holiday activities ahead of time

Keeping kids entertained through the long summer holidays is a challenge for all parents. A little bit of planning can go a long way to relieve tension caused by bored and irritable kids.

It’s best to start early here too. As you’re probably already aware, it’s no good asking them what they want to do on the day. So, next time you’re all at home, grab your journals and get ready for a family brainstorming session.

Let the kids come up with ideas for indoors, outdoors, family time, and alone time. And, don’t forget to include some things that you’d like to do, whether it’s attending a play or concert, cooking classes, playing minigolf or electronic darts with work colleagues or enjoying a night out with your friends. Laughing and having fun during your holidays is essential for ensuring that you stay positive, energised and happy through out the season.

A side-benefit of planning your holiday activities ahead of time is that you’ll be able to ace your holiday packing by ensuring that the concert tickets, hiking boots, cricket sets, board games, tennis rackets and other necessary paraphenalia are all onboard before you leave.

Include time to relax and recharge

That said, don’t forget to include some downtime in your holiday schedule too. Give yourself and the kids enough time to catch up on sleep, lounge around and generally take it easy. This will help you all to relax and recharge so you’re ready to tackle life once the holidays are over.

6. Reframe the way you think and talk about the holidays

Looking to reduce the overwhelm and recover your holiday mojo? Try reframing the way you talk and think about the season.

Words have a massive effect on your mindset and how you experience the world around you. This is never more true than in the lead up to the holiday season.

Journaling in Notely Blossom Journal in field of yellow wild flowers

Try this: For the next couple of days, take a notebook with you wherever you go and jot down the words you and those around you use to describe the holiday season. Chances are you’ll come away with a list that includes:

  • Hectic
  • Busy
  • Rushed
  • Flat out
  • Stressful
  • Crazy

Truth is, words are powerful. If you keep telling yourself that the holidays are stressful, frantic, and busy, things will play out that way for you.

If you want to have a better holiday experience this year, try making a list of (and using) more positive terms to describe the season. For example, instead of “hectic”, you could choose “action-packed”, instead of “stressful”, you could describe it as “exciting”. Instead of “crazy”, how about “fun”? You get the idea.

By choosing your words carefully and framing the season in a positive light, you’ll find your attitude towards the holidays changing. Before you know it, you’ll be waving goodbye to your inner grinch and enjoying the holiday vibe.

7. Focus on the doughnut—not on the hole

With so much going on and so many demands on your time, it’s easy to get caught up in planning, organising and striving to make everything perfect. In doing so, you’ll likely lose sight of the real significance of the holidays—taking a break and spending quality time with friends and family.

At this time of year, it’s easy to focus on the “hole” (i.e. the things you have too little of such as time, energy, money, and yes, patience too!). Focusing on these things leaves you depressed, drained and exhausted.

If you shift your focus to the doughnut (i.e. the things you have in abundance, such as loving friends and family members, time to watch your kids play under the garden sprinkler, a great work environment, a lovely home, a fridge full of food, and the chance to let your hair down and have some fun at a party or two), you’ll be reminded of the true purpose of the holiday season—peace, not perfection. And you’ll be free to go out and enjoy it without worrying about getting everything just right.

Focusing on the positive aspects of the season, such as the memories you’ll be making with friends and family, will not only improve your mood, but also provide the mental resillience you need to handle the challenges that inevitably arise as the holidays draw closer.

8. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude around the holidays

We may not celebrate Thanksgiving Day here in Australia, but that doesn’t mean we can’t approach the holiday season with gratitude.

In fact, maintaining an attitude of gratitude is a sure-fire way to get into and stay in the festive spirit throughout the holidays—no matter what happens. Yes, even if Aunty Ethel has Mariah Carey’s Christmas album on repeat (and insists on singing along), Uncle Clive manages to break not one, but two chairs, you drop the trifle, and bindies spring up just in time to ruin your backyard cricket match.

Reinforcing your gratitude mindset daily is the key to maintaining the super powers you need to see you through not only Christmas and New Years, but the entire school holiday period.

A gratitude journal can really help you nail this bit. Getting into the habit of focussing on the good things in your life each and every day, is like plugging in to an energy source that will buoy you up—even on those days when the kids are feral from being cooped up inside during the latest heavy weather event. 

The secret to keeping a gratitude journal lies in digging deep when you’re making your lists. Resist the temptation to only write down the obvious things. Take time to connect with your inner self and let your thoughts flow. Think about specific things that happened on that particular day and, if possible, try to also write down why you’re grateful for them.

No matter how big or small, be sure to include as many things as you can think of in your list. Did you get a Christmas card from a long lost friend or an overseas relative? Maybe the pet minders who were fully booked when you rang, called back to say they now have capacity to take Rufus while you’re away. Or perhaps, it was something as simple as the pleasure of biting into a juicy mango while you waited for your son to finish cricket practice.

Notely Journal in flower field

9. Take time to journal like a wild thing!

Holidays are ideal for morning journaling. The kids are sleeping in. There’s no rush to get everyone up and ready for work or school. No last-minute projects to assemble or cupcakes to bake for the bake sale you’ve only just been told about. You have the one thing every parent wants – blissful time to yourself. Make the most of this by taking your journal out and getting your thoughts, feelings and ideas on the page. 

The physical act of writing about your life is not only cathartic, it’s revitalising. Feel free to vent as much as you like while you’re doing this exercise. You’ll feel better for it.

Once you’ve written out all your anger, frustrations, pain, fears, and sorrows, focus for a while on writing about things that bring you joy, peace and gratitude.

If you’re out of ideas about what to write about, you can write about that. Or, you could try answering some of the following questions:

  1. What went well yesterday?
  2. What could have gone better?
  3. What can you learn from yesterday?
  4. What are you thankful for from yesterday?
  5. What are you looking forward to today?
  6. What do you need to let go of to move forward today?

Answering these questions will help you gain clarity, give you a fresh perspective and help you to focus your attention and energy on what’s truly important in your life.

The holidays are the perfect opportunity to look back at the year that was and plan for the year ahead. Use the questions above replacing yesterday and today with last year and next year (respectively). Enter your answers in your journal. Other questions you could ask include: 

  1. What personal and professional goals do you want to achieve in the coming year?
  2. Which growth areas would you like to explore?

Feel free to speak your truth without judgement. Your journal is private, for no one else but you to read. Such is the power of a daily journal that you don’t need to be eloquent or even use full sentences, as long as you’re getting your thoughts down.

Ready to make this the BEST holiday season yet?

If so, grab a Notely journal or notebook, pick up a pen, and get cracking. Within no time at all, you’ll be excited, energised and enthusiastic about the upcoming holiday season. Your friends and family will love you for it. 

Our journals, wall planners, cards, and notebooks make great gifts. Plus, with every Notely product you purchase, you’ll enjoy the added feel-good factor that comes from helping us to give backby replanting the planet, one note at a time.