Gina Florio
December 01, 2016 10:47 am
HandMade Films

The holidays are already upon us, whether you feel ready or not. Now that Thanksgiving is over and done with, we can turn our attention fully to December, a month that gives you a whole lot to look forward to: festive holidays, countless chances to spend time with family and friends, and the first day of winter (December 21st!). As enjoyable as it sounds on paper, though, the December holidays can be an uncomfortably stressful time for pretty much all of us. We’re more likely to feel depressed and anxious, and we’re so busy that we forget to truly take care of ourselves.

But there are a lot of ways to ensure you don’t fall victim to the holiday blues. By keeping healthy, taking time for yourself, and doing things you genuinely enjoy, you reduce your risk of feeling exhausted, cranky, and emotionally flat. And then you’ll have much more strength to actually enjoy all the things December has to offer. So we’ve created a bucket list that will help you do just that, because sometimes it helps to have a few goals written out during the holidays.

1. Donate to a charity you love.

Getting into the giving spirit will do you a whole lot of good this December. Studies have actually shown that giving makes you happier, and you’ll simultaneously support a cause you believe in, so it’s a win-win for everyone involved. There are so many non-profits today that are founded and run by women, or focused on improving the lives of women. Choose one whose mission resonates strongly with you, and decide how you want to give back.

If you’re strapped for cash right now, remember you can always dedicate your time and energy by volunteering. If you’re in doubt about how you can lend a helping hand, don’t hesitate to ask the organization if/how they need assistance. There’s always a way for you to get involved.

2. Create a brand new holiday tradition.

No matter what holiday you celebrate, or who you celebrate it with, you can always make it more enjoyable by letting your creative juices flow. Come up with a new tradition you’d like to do every year, and use this December to implement it. Maybe it’s a new way of exchanging gifts, or throwing a decorating party with your closest friends. Whatever it is, make it your own and be as innovative as you’d like.

3. Spend a whole weekend out in nature.

We get caught up in all the indoor activities at this time of year — shopping, cooking, working, sipping wine — and we forget about the great outdoors. Sure, the cold weather doesn’t exactly invite us to live outside, but it’s not so bad if you prepare yourself for it. Schedule a weekend to go hiking, camping, or skiing, or at least to do a few outdoor activities. Being out in the sun will boost all your happy endorphins, which help relieve stress and anxiety, as well as improve your overall mood. Plus, you’ll be much better equipped at handling all those nosy family members at a holiday dinner.

4. Hand-make a gift for someone you care about.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are fun and all, but there’s something really special about putting your time and effort into a handmade gift. If you’re not the most crafty of people, don’t worry. There are plenty of options out there that don’t require a lot of skill. You can make your own lip balm, create your own hot sauce, or design a little jewelry box. Any of these things would make the perfect gift for your BFF or your mom.

5. Bake something fancy you’ve never tried before

We don’t just mean the basic chocolate chip cookies that usually get baked every December. Try your hand at something a bit more intricate, like a pistachio rose cake or a pear ginger cake with a rum-caramel glaze. It could be a fun project to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon, especially if you’ve got friends who want to take part in the festivities. And because December is usually full of holiday parties, there will always be some kind of event to which you can bring you final creation so others can enjoy it.

6. Buy tickets to see a holiday show at your local theater.

Think honestly about the last time you went to your local theater. Probably not even this year. Supporting local art is an important way to keep your community thriving, so this December, maybe instead of going to see a blockbuster movie, see if the nearby theater is putting on a holiday production. You might actually find that watching The Nutcracker as an adult is just as magical as it was when you were a little kid.

7. Read one of the top fiction books of 2016.

It can be lovely to escape into a fantasy world when our own world is nothing but chaos in the busy month of December. This year, there were a lot of incredible fiction books to choose from, and if you haven’t started to chip away at the list yet, now is the time to get going. Put your phone on silent, leave the online shopping behind, and cozy up by the fire with a warm chai tea and a juicy book. For icing on the cake, put some relaxing holiday music on in the background.

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