December Sanity Retreat

I’m sitting here listening to the Nutcracker Suite, since it is the start of December. And I can’t help think of “Trepak” as a metaphor for the holiday season – lots of fun but a total whirlwind, leaving you dizzy and exhausted at the end. I’m so thankful to be part of the December Sanity Retreat in order to keep it real. I’ll hit you with the main ideas and explain in detail below:

Do less

*write down a to-do list and cross of half of it in order to stay happy


*maintain your health: do less and enjoy more!


*keep holiday receipts in a designated folder, pay bills early and avoid debt, and choose volunteer work over material things for a feel-good holiday boost

I. Do less

It’s been a bit of a relief to celebrate Christmas in Japan these past two years because my “to-do” list is drastically shortened. This is because it isn’t so much a to-do list as a “things I feel obligated to do list”. For my family’s first gluten-free Christmas a few years ago, I went nuts creating every single dish gluten-free so no one would feel deprived. I think I got three hours of sleep one night because I had to make gluten-free cinnamon rolls but also go out and see some high school friends that I hadn’t connected with in a while. The next morning I was feeling so tired and under-appreciated that I was near tears. The cinnamon rolls weren’t necessary, since I had already made stew, cookies, Swedish meatballs, appetizers, bar cookies, and it wasn’t even Christmas Eve dinner yet. But I felt obligated to do as much as possible, even though I had read excellent advice about writing a to-do list and then crossing off half in order to stay realistic. I just couldn’t bring myself to “deprive” anyone of a “normal” Christmas, when really what I was depriving my family of was a happy, healthy Kate who could enjoy the holiday season.

II. De-stress

I don’t want to be the person who talks about their health conditions all the time, because there is more to life than defining yourself by your illness. However, health is the most important thing and I’ve been reminded of that very physically going into the holiday season this November. It’s easier to maintain good health then to fall of the track and have to crawl back. So I’m grateful that I have a chance to do this post as it will not only keep me accountable but reinforce the crucial yet often ignored idea that you should do what is best for you and ignore the perfect Pinterest boards and commercials where people have it all together. Nobody has it together when they are living by someone else’s standards and needs.

III. De-clutter

Tips for everybody, thanks to the wisdom of my mom

1. Keep a separate file folder for gift receipts. My mom has an expandable folder with each person’s name on it for our immediate family, and then groups for extended family, friends, associates, etc.

2. PAY YOUR BILLS EARLY. Get it out of the way in December, and plan ahead for January. Keep an eye on finances to avoid the negative energy of debt.

3. Get rid of one thing per day, either large or small. It doesn’t have to be a total reorganization of house or pantry (in fact DON’T do that). But it takes less then 2 minutes to clear something that is cluttering your life and blocking good energy.

Check out this great post by Marc & Angel: 30 Simple Ways to Simplify Your Life. “Learn to ask for help” and “Resign from a commitment you’re not passionate about” really resonated with me.

My goals:  How I’m going to do less, de-stress, and de-clutter this December ~

Material things:

Gifts will be handmade or from local sellers and Etsy. I’ll continue my pledge to de-clutter one thing from my life every day, large or small (see #24). I totally agree with Carrie’s philosophy over at Ginger Lemon Girl on holiday materialism.


Taking my supplements on a consistent basis so I have balanced mood, energy, and stress levels. Realizing that holiday treats aren’t going to work for me this Christmas while I heal. I’ll create new ways to celebrate and mark the occasion other than sweets (see below on volunteering). I’ll stay on track with the auto-immune paleo protocol by keeping up with my healing journal 6 days per week.

Social Convention: 

This one is probably the hardest. Even though I am in Japan, there are still holiday parties, extra-curricular events, and things I feel obligated to do in general. And I will say no. Even though it is considered rude or impolite, I’m not going to spend my weekends or free time doing things that stress me out or feel like work rather than enjoyment. This includes obligatory parties and all that other “fun” stuff. I often enjoy myself more with quiet moments at home, cooking with loved ones in the kitchen, or watching Elf as a family or in the classroom with students. Maybe I’m a homebody, but it works for me and I’m happy doing it. Doing less helps me enjoy everything more. 

Finding Fulfillment:

The most important thing…there were a few Christmases that had hollow moments as we all went through transitions in my family. It helped when my baby brother was born because we got to go through the magic of Santa Claus again. And while there will be messages that wax ad nauseum about the meaning of Christmas, the message has no meaning unless you practice it. I love giving gifts all year round, and when I was a teenager I went on huge shopping sprees to donate to Toys for Tots. It was so much fun, and now my dad and younger brother have carried on the tradition. I’m happy that Jake is learning about the different circumstances of others and thinking about something other then presents for himself. But I’ve never had a more fulfilling, magical moment as when I volunteered at an orphanage in Japan that held a Christmas party. I was so happy it brought me to tears, and recalling the memory even a year later has me ballooning with joy.

Each Christmas, I will participate in some sort of volunteer work.

Last year was the orphanage, this year it will be a hospital ward where the children are long-term residents. I know I’ll have an incredible time and find a new way to celebrate Christmas when I can’t be at home with my family. Volunteering is so special because you are given the most incredible gift – the opportunity to help others. There is an indescribable feeling in watching a person’s face light up and knowing you played a part in that. (*I just got back from volunteering at a children’s cancer ward at a nearby hospital. I was happy, a little sad, grateful, and proud to have brought some light to the faces of beautiful & courageous children and their parents. It was truly a blessing.)

I’m hoping you all have the chance to receive the gift of self-care and a volunteer spirit this holiday season.

* I do celebrate Christmas, but of course I don’t want to exclude friends who celebrate other religions and holidays. Luckily, human kindness, love for a stranger, self-love, and volunteerism know no boundaries. Take care and Happy December!

Find more sanity this December with our hosts! Cheryl of Gluten Free Goodness has the kick-off post:

December 1st – Valerie at City Life Eats: Sleep, Move, Dance, & Stretch

December 8th – you’re already here, good job!

December 15th – Cheryl of Gluten Free Goodness

December 22nd – Iris of the Daily Dietribe

December 29th – Carrie of Ginger Lemon Girl