The holidays are here, whether we are ready or not. It seems like the year just started, but it is almost over. The holidays, while they can be wonderful, are tremendously stressful. Don’t let them be – there are things that you can do to put the joy back in the holidays and keep your sanity.
NOTE: I also want to say at the outset that if you suffer from depression, please talk to someone – a friend, a family member, a coworker, or anyone that you trust.
- Eat healthy meals before going to parties.
- Moderate your caffeine and alcohol intake – too much of either will leave you feeling bad later, and also dehydrate you.
- Get enough sleep. Go to bed earlier than normal at least once a week.
- Evaluate any “obligations” that you are facing. Just because you have done something in the past doesn’t mean you have to continue.
- Family can be stressful. It is important to spend time with people that you ENJOY, family or not. Also, recognize that old patterns reappear under stress, so be aware of that in interactions with family.
- Say “No” – and mean it. Remember that NO can be a complete sentence – you don’t have to explain.
- Take short breaks to fit in a walk or other forms of exercise. Not only will it help with possible weight gain over the holiday, it is an excellent stress reliever.
- Watch how much you spend, to avoid making the start of the new year a more stressful one.
- Make sure your routine stays the same, or as close as possible. Keeping a regular routine makes rest/sleep easier, and also helps keep you in balance.
- If you have stress management techniques that you use in other circumstances, pull them out and use them. Find what works for you and stick with it!
- Prioritize. Look at your activities and do what is most important to you. Don’t worry if less important things don’t get done.
- Take a time out for yourself – away from noise, stimulation, and things that need to be done. They will still be there in five, ten, fifteen minutes.
- Relax and be present in the moment – not worrying about the future, not worrying about what happened in the past. Enjoy the family around you. Enjoy the smells of the holiday. Enjoy the sounds of the holiday.
- Simplify. Cut your to-do list in half. Send fewer cards. Exchange fewer gifts. Say NO to a few occasions.
- Stay flexible; things can change at the drop of a hat so be ready to change.
- If you have too much to do, delegate. Ask for help from those around you. You do the best you can; remember that.
- Don’t bake six types of cookies if two will do!
- Laugh. Hang on to your sense of humor and take care of it. Look for the funny in life – there is plenty of it out there. Find some funny websites and look at them first thing in the morning, or any time you need a giggle.
- Let go of the “ideal” Christmas and enjoy the one around you.
- Do non-materialistic things with friends and family.
- Be aware of your breaking point and step back before you reach it. Step away and take a break. Avoid those things that push you close to your breaking point, even if it is family. There is nothing wrong with taking care of yourself.
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Chose your battles; ask yourself, “Is this worth a fight?”
- Keep expectations realistic. Don’t look for a Brady Bunch Christmas if your family tends to be more boisterous.
If you get stressed, stop and ask yourself, “Is it worth this? Am I doing this to myself? Is there something that I can do to make this fun again?”
I have been thinking about this a lot recently. I have got to find a way to make my holidays less stressful. There are so many sources of stress these days: commercialization of holidays, work (or lack thereof),
- Focus on what is important and let the little things slide. I know this isn’t easy. I’m still working on this myself, but I realized over Thanksgiving that it was much more important that I got to see my 90+ year old grandmother and that she got to see my young children than the fact that everyone in the family is harping on the job situation for my husband and how I should fix it. I’ve been trying to focus on her joy rather than the negatives and the stress.
- Draw boundaries where necessary. Sometimes people don’t realize that they are offending or bothering you. You may need to let them know as gently as possible – or you may have to be blunt.
- Get away from the situation if you can. Sometimes you simply need a break from the situation. Step back for a little while. Do something that relaxes you. Come back to the situation when you are calmer and can deal with it rationally or calmly.
- Do something nice for yourself. Soak in the tub. Get a pedicure. Find a quiet spot and read your favorite book for 10-15 minutes. Talk to someone else about the stress or ask for some assistance, depending on what is stressing you. Get away from all of the activity for a little while; find some quiet time. Get up 15 minutes before everyone else so that you can get a quiet, slower start to the day. Go to bed 15 minutes early for some peace and quiet. Try meditating for 15 minutes before bed.
- Cut back on holiday activities. I know that if you travel somewhere for the holidays many people probably want to see you, but you can overextend yourself easily. Try to arrange a get-together in one place of as many people as possible to avoid having to drive around through your entire visit. And know your limits – simply say “No, I’m afraid I can’t make it over this time. I’m sorry but we’ll have to visit next time.”
I really think that holidays should be less about stress and driving around and seeing absolutely everybody and more about really enjoying the time you have with the people you do get to see. If you spend more time in the car than you do visiting with people, you are going to be stressed.
I realized this holiday that I really have to look at what I’m doing wrong. This was the most stressful holiday I’ve ever had. I enjoyed very little of it and there has to be something I can do to avoid a repeat of it. The things I listed above are some ideas I’ve had about my own experiences. I also realized that I set myself up for some of my stress; I tried too hard to please everybody and neglected my own needs. That has got to change for the next visit. Take some time to look at what you didn’t like about the last holiday and think about what you can do to improve it.
You can’t eliminate all stress from your life, but you can learn to manage it. Some stresses are good, like weddings, the birth of a baby, promotions, and some are bad, like layoffs, divorces, deaths, and so on. Symptoms of stress include anxiety, feeling scared, irritability, and moodiness. You can also become forgetful, have trouble concentrating or focusing, and have low self-esteem. Behaviors include stuttering and other speech problems, changing eating patterns (either losing your appetite or overeating), grinding your teeth, increased use of alcohol or drugs, and crying for no apparent reason.There are some things you can do to manage the amount of stress in your life. For example, time management can be an issue. If you are perpetually running late to things, that can be stressful – particularly if you get to work late on a regular basis. Most bosses don’t appreciate that. You can adjust your schedule in ways that make it possible to get to work in a timely fashion:
- Go to bed 15 minutes earlier and get up 15 minutes earlier.
- Lay out your clothes the night before.
- Be sure that everything you need to take with you is in one place the night before.
Pay attention to what stresses you. Do you get stressed in traffic? If so, why? Is it because you are running late? If it is, look at ways to adjust your schedule – or ways you can manage your time better in the morning. Are you stressed by a crying child? Are you just overtired? Can you call someone to help you and give you a break? Put the child down somewhere safe, like a crib, for 10 minutes and take a small break. Are you stressed about a big project? Break it down into smaller steps, then break those down into smaller steps and continue this process until you have manageable steps to follow to finish the project.
Look for ways to strengthen your physical reserves. Be sure to get a good night’s sleep as often as you can. Go to bed earlier and go to bed at the same time every night; you should find that you feel better if you stick to a routine. Get exercise as many days a week as you can; a recent study found that even 30 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week helps. Eat healthy meals; you’ll feel better if you avoid fast food and junk food as much as possible. Watch your caffeine intake; it can increase nervousness and cause irritability. Don’t forget to laugh – watch a funny movie, read a funny book, watch comedians…laughter can be very helpful. In addition, try keeping a journal or just writing out what you are feeling or going through; you don’t even need to keep it if you don’t want to do so. Sometimes the simple act of writing it out will relieve stress.
Some resources online: