Mindset & Mindfulness, Stress & Self-Care

How to Cope With Silly Season

Am I the only one who thinks the world goes a little nuts in December? Or, more accurately, for about the last 6-8 weeks of the year? At the risk of sounding like Scrooge, I really don’t understand the wisdom of spending around 12% of every year in what I call “silly season”.

Think about it: 12% of your life is a huge chunk of time… 9 years, roughly. If we stepped back and made mindful decisions, would we really choose to spend that proportion of our precious moments on this planet in a mode where we eat too much, drink too much, buy too much, and engage in more than a few quarrels with “loved” ones? And if we’re not careful, we shelve our healthy habits, forget that we have a good deal of control over what goes in our calendars, inflict festive FOMO stress on ourselves, and act like self-care is for weaklings.

Coping with Silly Season | Pauline Wiles


I’m here with a gentle reminder: you don’t have to climb on this crazy hamster wheel and fall off with a headache on January 1st. You do have a little choice in the matter.

Tips for coping with silly season

  • Take an honest look at your firm commitments and the expectations already placed on you for the remainder of this year. Which of them make your heart sink? Can any of these be negotiated, delegated, or relegated? You might be surprised what can be deferred, lessened, or canceled without dire consequences.
  • Notice what magazines, advertisers and the media are trying to foist upon you. An “easy” festive menu does not involve stuffing a goose with a partridge. Your family can be happy and healthy without matching reindeer sweaters. You don’t need to get your carpets specially cleaned, just in case Santa floats down your chimney. Truly.
  • Remember that the more stressed you are, the less likely you are to ask for and accept help. Be honest: are you the only one setting unreasonable expectations for a task list “only you” can do?
  • You might not be escaping for a spa day in December, but you can still take the micro-breaks which will keep you sane. And just because you can’t stick to all your healthy habits, you can still do small pieces of them. You might:
    • Take a 10 minute walk instead of going to the gym.
    • Drink a cup of herbal tea instead of a soda.
    • Go to bed 20 minutes early instead of getting caught scrolling through social media.
    • Sit for 3 minutes of quiet breathing, instead of a full yoga class.
  • Seek out others who have grown weary of the rampant commercialism which eggs us on at this time of year. I found this cartoon and this short animation particularly memorable.
  • If you’re in over your head and simply can’t reduce your load, it’s OK to decide to survive instead of thrive. But take note of what’s going on that pounds you into the ground. Then get your calendar out, and make a date with yourself next summer to make a different plan for December 2019.

I honestly believe this bears repeating: don’t let anyone else take control of 12% of your life. Even if December is more hectic than you’d like, you do not have to surrender unconditionally to other people’s demands for how you spend (all of) your time.

Obviously I’d love to read your comments for how you retain some sanity during silly season. If you’d like to reach out to me privately for moral support, contact me here.

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4 Comment

  1. Reply
    December 8, 2018 at 6:50 am

    Hi Pauline – Just found the comment you left on my blog this time last year…how silly is that? Enjoying catching up on them, though. One thing that has helped me a lot in dealing with Thanksgiving and Christmas is making lists and keeping them in a Holidays file on my computer. No longer do I need to figure out the shopping list for Thanksgiving. I have a basic list for Christmas emails and cards. I look through my emails for the year and update the list. Some people who used to get cards now get emails; some who got emails are now just part of the crowd on Facebook. I try to make an electronic image – used to be silly things drawn on Paint, then photos of my village during a one-off snow storm, something individual. I’ve now got about a dozen of them and I cycle through if I can’t think of a new idea or am too stressed to be creative. Those lists have really saved me over the years.

    1. Reply
      December 8, 2018 at 3:38 pm

      Shelley: Yes! Checklists can be so helpful. I’d hate to travel without mine and you’re right, a few Christmas reminders are wonderful too.

  2. Reply
    Jean | Delightful Repast
    December 11, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    Pauline, I know so many people who hate the silly season more than they enjoy it and who continue to ‘lather, rinse, repeat’ year after year anyway. To those people I would say, Get off the merry-go-round. As you said, it’s at least a month, often 6 to 8 weeks, and, well, you did the math!

    1. Reply
      December 12, 2018 at 7:17 am

      Jean, I only generally say this privately, but I often wish Christmas was celebrated every other year. I feel like every 24 months would be about right for all that the festivities involve!

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