As we begin December and the whirl of the holiday season, we may find that our schedules are full, our wallets are light, and our hearts are overflowing with joy. For some, however, holidays bring anxiety, stress and depression. For most of us, holidays are a mix of all these things. We are challenged by overspending, overscheduling, overeating and under-sleeping. To top it off, we set our expectations even higher during the holiday season. Why do we do this to ourselves? (Or let others do it to us?) What are we trying to live up to?
Here are some ideas to lessen stress and enjoy the holidays more:
Set priorities. Decide on the most important ways to spend your time and money. Make a list of action steps to keep you on track.
Simplify your schedule. It’s ok to say no. Sometimes it’s a blessing when activities overlap… you have to choose. It’s ok to say no even if activities don’t overlap. Even if you can make all the events, it doesn’t mean you should.
Ask for help. When guests come for dinner, ask them to bring a side dish. Buy prepared foods instead of making everything from scratch.
Spend less. Shorten your gift list if you can, ask them what they want… and consider shopping early on online to avoid the rush. Be sure to stick to your gift budget.
Take care of yourself. Avoid overeating. Too much fat and alcohol can leave you feeling sluggish and irritable. Balance your holiday indulgences with low-fat meals high in vegetables, fruit and grains. Get some exercise. In addition to releasing pent up tension and leaving us re-energized, exercise helps fend off the extra pounds that often creep on this time of year. Make it a priority by getting 10-20 minute bursts of activity.
Get enough sleep. Although it sounds simple, American’s are notorious for neglecting this basic need. The truth is, you’ll be twice as productive if you are well rested.
Take time for yourself. What is something YOU really enjoy? Take a walk with your family or read a favorite Christmas story. Get some quiet time. Have “whisper hour”. Turn off the TV and the news for a week and let the silence bring you peace. Find your calm.
Laugh it up. Spend time with family and friends who make you laugh. Laughter can be quite contagious. Learning to laugh at yourself will help you to be more light-hearted about your own situations. Watch your stress fade away.
Practice gratitude. Noticing and giving thanks for the positive aspects of life is linked with improved mental and physical health. Keep a gratitude journal and write down the good things that happen each day. Or take time during family meals to share things you are thankful for. This will help you focus on the positive.
Perhaps these tips can help you find ways to lessen your stress this holiday season. Maybe these strategies can become habits and carry over into the new year and make it a less stressful year.