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Ultimate Hacks For The Best Christmas Ever

Ultimate Hacks For The Best Christmas Ever

This website is called Lifehack, right? Tips for Life. Well, let me share the best principle I know to hack your Christmas.

Christmas is getting very complicated: gone are the days of a family dinner and a few presents. Now, Christmas includes:

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  • Family dinners (sometimes several)
  • Christmas parties (for work or service organizations)
  • Community Christmas events, like concerts, parades and fundraisers
  • Children’s Christmas events, like concerts or visiting Santa
  • Church/Religious events (concerts, special services, etc)
  • Travelling for family/social events (driving or flying)
  • Taking a Christmas vacation (usually somewhere warm)
  • Giving gifts to close family
  • Giving gifts to others
  • Holiday decorating
  • Holiday baking or special cooking
  • Socializing informally with friends
  • Special entertainment events
  • … all the organizing the above events/activities
  • … all the legwork for the above events/activites

Of course, included in “giving gifts to close family” is shopping (which can take up a lot of time), and deciding on the gifts (which can be very stressful), buying (which adds money pressure) and wrapping. In fact, each item on the list above has a whole slew of complications that can arise, and I’m sure you are familiar with them all. The great part is, you can “hack” your Christmas using this principle:

Keep what you like, and ditch what you don’t.

Contrary to what you may think, you don’t have to do everything associated with Christmas. You can opt out of any part of it at any time, for any reason: for your sanity, because you are simply too busy, or because your in-laws are unpleasant, unkind people. For any reason at all, you can just decide to say no to any part you do not enjoy, find inspiring, or have time for. I know this might sound overly simple, but it really can be that straightforward. Which parts of Christmas do you like? Which aspects stress you out? What things excite you? Which parts are just plain unrealistic?

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As someone who grew up without Christmas, I believe I am uniquely qualified to talk about leaving things out. The religion my parents belonged to didn’t celebrate Christmas, or any of the mainstream holidays, so I grew up without any of the trappings of the holiday season. Although I now celebrate this time of year, I am lucky that I have no baggage about what to participate in and what to leave off: I celebrate Christmas in my own unique way.

If you think you might take a little flak from others when you opt out of something, just think of me, growing up without any Christmas at all. Was I teased at school? You bet. Was I the weirdo? Big time. If you choose to opt out of a Christmas event and someone bugs you about it, at least be glad you aren’t the weirdo of the school! Let the critical person say what they want to say, listen, and ask yourself this:

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  • Is this person really important to me?

If you answered *no*, then smile sweetly and say something like “well, however you choose to celebrate the holidays, I hope you have a lovely time.” Don’t debate or discuss your decision—it’s really none of their business!

If this person is *somewhat important* to you, then you may choose to elaborate a bit, giving some reasons for your decision. Don’t let their feelings influence your decision, however. You have to live your own life and make your own unique way in it.

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If you answered *yes*, then you need to consider why this person is reacting so strongly/badly. Is it because:

  • they are just generally stressed out? Stop everything, and show them that you care. Reach out, give them a neck rub, offer to do something to lighten their load or simply remind them you love them.
  • they are surprised by your decision? Apologize for this coming “out of the blue” and explain why you need to simplify Christmas. Listen to what they have to say.
  • they are under stress from obligations or others’ expectations? Talk about it. Remind them that they can say “no” to things too—we always have options. Reassure them that you want to support them, but you also need to be true to yourself.
  • they have some valid points/reasons for doing the things you want to ditch?Listen. Try to put your personal biases aside and truly listen. Use this opportunity to connect more deeply with this person, and come to a compromise.

If you want to propose a major change to your Christmas schedule, it is best if you don’t shove it on your spouse/family at the last minute—that is always more stressful. Dropping a bomb on someone is not very considerate, and using the “but I gotta be me!” line is not going to go over very well then. Try to bring it up well in advance, and when there is time to discuss it further.

I offer one last caution: don’t use this as an excuse to withdraw from everything. At this darkest time of year (literally, around the winter solstice), getting together with friends is important to keep depression at bay and help the days to pass. Good luck hacking your best Christmas!

Featured photo credit:  Waiting for Christmas via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on October 16, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

It’s well past midnight and you’ve got to get up in less than six hours. You toss and turn all night. Before you know it, another hour passes by and you start panicking.

If I don’t get to sleep in the next 30 minutes, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!”

One thing is for sure, you’re not alone. Over 70M+ Americans have stated that they don’t get the proper sleep they need at night.[1] So what could possibly be causing this insomnia epidemic?

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey of building my language learning company, I have experimented and researched dozens of best sleep practices. Some have flopped but a few have dramatically improved the quality of my life and work.

In this article, I’ll look into the reason why you’re sleep deprived and how to sleep through the night tonight.

Why you can’t sleep through the night

The first step to improving anything is getting to the bottom of the root problem. Different studies have shown the reasons why most people cannot sleep well at night.[2] Here are the main ones that the average person faces:

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Stress

If you’ve ever stayed up at night worrying about something, know that it’s a major sleep inhibitor. When you’re feeling stress, your mind and body becomes more activated, making it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. Even when you do manage to sleep, it won’t be deep enough to help you feel rested the next day.

Exposure to blue light before sleep time

We’re exposed to harmful blue light on a daily basis through the use of our digital screens. If you’ve never heard of blue light, it’s part of the visible light spectrum that suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormones. Other harmful effects include digital eye strains and macular cellular damage.

While daytime exposure to blue light is not very harmful, night time exposure tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime. By keeping your brain alert and suppressing melatonin, your mind is unable to shut down and relax before bedtime.

Eating close to bedtime

Eating too late can actually be an issue for many people, especially those who are older than 40. The reason is, eating before laying down increases the chances of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

Another reason not to eat too late is sleep quality. Even if you manage to sleep right after eating, it’s likely that you’ll wake up tired. Instead of letting your body rest during sleep, it has to digest the food that was entered before bedtime.

Rule of thumb: eat 3-4 hours before bedtime.

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Medical conditions

In some cases, it could be medical conditions that cause your sleep problems. If you can’t relate yourself to the above reasons or any of these common sleep problem causes, you should visit the doctor.

The vicious sleep cycle

The biggest danger to repeating the bad habits mentioned above is the negative cycle that it can take you through. A bad night’s sleep can affect not only your energy but your willpower and decision making skills.

Here’s an example of a bad sleep pattern:

You get a bad night’s sleep
–> You feel tired and stressful throughout the day.
–> You compensate it with unhealthy habits (for example junk food, skipping exercises, watching Netflix etc.)
–> You can’t sleep well (again) the next night.

    You can imagine what could happen if this cycle repeats over a longer period of time.

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    How to sleep better (throughout the night)

    To help you break the vicious cycle and stop waking up in the middle of the night, I’ll explain to you a list of actionable steps to solve your trouble staying asleep.

    1. Take control over the last 90 minutes of your night

    What you do (or don’t do) before bedtime have significant impact on the quality of your sleep. Many times, it can be the difference between staying up until 4am and sleeping like a baby.

    Here are a few suggestions:

    • Go from light to dark – Darkness stimulates production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off unused light around the house, and think about investing into warm light that you can use in the bedroom before bedtime.
    • Avoid screens (or wear blue light blocking glasses) – Keep the bedroom a technology-free zone as the light from electronic devices can disturb your sleep. If you need to work, wear blue light blocking glasses (also known as computer glasses) throughout or before you sleep to prevent sleep disruption.
    • Find an activity that helps you to wind down  This could be anything that calms you down, and reduces thinking (especially unnecessary stress). Fir example, listening to soothing/good feel music, taking a hot bath, reading or meditating.
    • Keep any electronics you have on the other side of the room or outside the room – One of the most harmful things that can disrupt your sleep is the notifications you get from your smartphones. The simplest way to avoid this is to keep it away from you.
    • Create a bedtime routine – A night routine is a couple of things you do prior to going to bed. By doing these things every night, you’ll have a more restful and high-quality sleep. Learn how to pick up a night routine here: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide to Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

    2. Eat the right nutrients (and avoid the wrong ones)

    What you eat (not just when we eat) plays a critical role in your sleep quality. If you’re ever in doubt of what to eat to improve your sleep, take the following into consideration:

    • Kiwi – This green fruit may be the ultimate pre-bed snack. When volunteers ate two kiwis an hour before hitting the hay, they slept almost a full extra hour. Kiwis are full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate—all of which may help you snooze.
    • Soy foods – Foods made with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame, are rich in isoflavones. These compounds increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
    • Fiber-rich foods – Eating more fiber could be key for better sleep. Eating fiber was associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep—the more you eat, the better you sleep—per a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. Get a fiber boost from beans, artichokes, bran cereal and quinoa.
    • Salmon – Most fish, especially salmon, halibut and tuna boost vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin— a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.

    3. Adjust your sleep temperature

    Once you’ve gone through the first 2 recommendations, the last step to experiment with is temperature. According to Sleep.org, the ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 Farenheit. This may be cooler than what most people are used to, but keep in mind that our body temperature changes once we fall asleep.

    Rule of thumb: sleeping in cooler temperature is better for sleep quality than warmer temperature.

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    Find out how to maintain the optimal temperature to sleep better here: How to Sleep Faster with the Best Temperature

    Sleep better form now on

    Congrats on making it to the end of this guide on sleep. If you’re serious about taking the necessary steps in improving your sleep, remember to take it one step at a time.

    I recommend trying just one of the steps mentioned such as taking a hot bath, blocking out blue light at night, or sleeping in cooler temperature. From there, see how it impacts your sleep quality and you can keep doing what works, and throw away what doesn’t.

    As long as you follow these steps cautiously and diligently, I know you’ll see improved results in your sleep!

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

    Reference

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