Behold the cute axolotl! Did you know that behind that ever-present smile lies one of the most complex genomes ever decoded? Or that axolotls can regenerate their limbs, tails, and various organs? These large amphibians are not only cute—they also offer a master class in resilience, grit, optimism, and adaptability, as we outline in The Little Book of Axolotl Wisdom.   

Little Book of Axolotl Wisdom

Being more axolotl can help you year-round, but incorporating axolotl axioms into your world ahead of any forthcoming festivities or family time will ensure a safer, saner, and sunnier holiday season. Read on for details.

Set Boundaries

In the wild, many animals possess wonderful, if freaky, defense mechanisms. The slow loris, for example, produces flesh-rotting venom from a gland in its armpit. Alas, neither axolotls nor humans have such cool features. Instead, we need to make do with our backbone.

It’s your backbone that enables you to set boundaries. The holidays are a time of excess, and we want to say “yes” to everything. But sometimes saying “no” is the right thing to do. Declining some invites or opportunities means you’ll be able to fully enjoy whatever you do accept.

Same deal with certain kinds of questions. When Aunt Gladys asks when you’re going to give up your dream of acting and “get a real job,” or when Grandpa Beauford wants to argue about “Bidenflation,” you’re well within your rights to state your boundaries in as polite a way as possible, then shift the convo to neutral ground: “Thanks for asking—I don’t want to get into that right now, though. Hey, did you see Steve Martin and Martin Short on SNL? Talk about national treasures . . . ”

Get Good Sleep

Never underestimate the impact of jet lag, bedding down in an unfamiliar place, or even returning to your childhood haunt on your sleep—and never underestimate the impact of poor sleep on your mood. Axolotls spend their days snuggling into mud, nestling in vegetation, or otherwise doing what they can to chill out and avoid predators. You need a similar period to rest and recharge. Practice good sleep hygiene by avoiding caffeine, stashing screens in another room, and trying to go to bed and get up at the same time every day (ideally 7–9 hours apart).

Give Generously

Studies have shown that people who give money away feel wealthier, regardless of the size of their bank accounts. The National Autonomous University of Mexico recently launched a fundraising campaign, AdoptAxolotl, to raise money to protect native axolotl habitat. If you have any extra cash this season, consider donating to a cause you care about. No coin to spare? Donate your time and talents. Axolotls, of course, don’t have cash, or graphic design skills, or the ability to collect trash, so we humans have to pitch in and give in whatever ways we can. 

Exercise for Short, Intense Bursts

As anyone who keeps axolotls as pets knows, most of the time, they’re content to drift or scooch along the bottom of their habitats. Yet, when necessary, axolotls can dart away at up to 10 miles per hour. Such a short burst of exercise has been shown to have great benefits for humans. Just two minutes of intense physical activity per day—for a total of 15 minutes per week—helps reduce your risk of cancer, lower instances of heart disease, and increase longevity. In addition, exercising for up to 30 minutes has been shown to combat anxiety and depression, both of which tend to flare up around the holidays.   

Axolotl Wisdom

Have an Exit Strategy

Social life feels more awkward these days because it is more awkward. Early in the pandemic, small talk went the way of handshakes and toilet paper. Having an exit strategy can make potentially awkward situations less awkward. Give yourself an hour at the office party, or three days with your family. When the allotted time is up, say your thanks, bump elbows (if that’s still your thing), and move on. 

Know Your Needs

Axolotl needs are fairly simple: calm, clear water and a supply of their favorite foods, preferably insects. Knowing your needs means figuring out how to be the best you, whether that’s FaceTiming every day with your therapist or painting tiny scenes on your nails. As you plan for the holidays and beyond, consider what you need to be your best, then do what it takes to ensure those needs are met. 

Jessica Allen writes about food, culture, travel, parenting, and New York City, where she lives. She’s also the author of The Magic of Astrology and The Great American Read: The Book of Books.