Don’t Let Holiday Stress Get You Down
Amber Erickson Gabbey
The holidays are a stressful time for many of us, despite our best efforts to keep it simple and stress-free. Thanksgiving to New Years is often go-go-go. From holiday parties, shopping, and wrapping gifts to working extra hours in preparation for days off; traveling, packing, and cooking, December is busy. Add to that some winter weather days and the extra mental effort to plan everything and you’ve got a recipe for stress and exhaustion.
To help combat some of this stress, here is a list of simple ideas to keep you on the right track. Rather than entering the holidays stressed or sick, the goal is to stay calm, stay healthy and be able to enjoy the holidays, whatever you have planned.
• Say No: Try extra hard this month to avoid taking on too much. Let go of the desire to please or be accommodating. When someone asks you to do something, to work for them, to host a gathering, to cook for the whole family, etc., tell them you need to think about it. Take a day to consider the request and respond honestly. If you think it’ll be too much, say so. It’s not your responsibility to please everyone, especially if it is a cost to your health and sanity.
• Exercise: One of the most important pieces of advice, and probably the most difficult, is to try to maintain your routine. It’s easy to think you’re too busy to exercise, but the opposite is actually true. Taking an hour can boost your productivity the rest of the day. Plan exercise into your day, even if it’s just a simple walk over lunch. If you currently practice yoga, meditation or other stress-reducing activities, work extra hard to continue those through the season. If you’re having trouble committing, enlist the help of family and friends. Tell your significant other to help get you out of the house for a hike or some skiing and use the time to reconnect, spend time together and breathe. Your to-do list will still be there when you get back and most likely you’ll feel more motivated to tackle what you need.
• Eat Healthily: Just as with exercise, during stressful times you need to be at your best. While you might crave sweets and refined carbohydrates, eating them will only make you feel worse. Eating healthy, nutritious foods will keep you energized and help ward off illness. But allow yourself some freedoms too. Attempt to make good choices most of the time, but don’t stress about treating yourself at parties or other holiday outings.
• Sleep: Just as with exercise and food choices, sleep is super important. Attempt to maintain your regular sleep schedule and make sure you are getting enough rest. If you feel exhausted, stop and rest. If you feel tired, go to bed. It’s normal to stay up late trying to get more done, but you need to weigh the cost carefully. Doing this night after night will lead to illness, fatigue and exhaustion.
• Ask for Help: No matter how awesome, organized and efficient you are, it is impossible to do it all. You might try in earnest, but your health and happiness are likely to suffer. Figure out where you can delegate. Ask your kids or significant other to pitch in where you trust them to. (Some of us have control issues!) Often people don’t know you’re overwhelmed, especially if you work to hide it. Be honest with yourself and acknowledge where you need help. Allow yourself to receive help. Trying to do too much and internalizing the frustration that comes with that is not healthy and you’ll only end up tired and cranky.
• Plan Ahead: Part of dealing with all the stuff the holidays bring is to plan ahead. If you have a tendency to get high-strung around the holidays, try to do some stuff early. Don’t wait until the last minute to shop. Wrap presents as you buy them. Pre-make foods where you can. Be careful about getting too attached to your lists. Prioritize so if you don’t get to it all, at least you’ve done the most important things. And remember that many things are only important to you and if they don’t get done, no one will notice.
• Simplify your Plans: Set yourself up for low-stress success this holiday season, making sure you don’t over-schedule yourself. Keep things simple. Rather than making a home-made five-course dinner by yourself, do a potluck or make it three courses. It’s common for us over-achievers to aim super high, but it’s just not necessary. The extra work that requires is often not worth the cost. Keep it simple and set realistic expectations.
• Pick Your Battles: Emotions often run high during stressful times. Rather than fighting with your mom or yelling at your kids, write down the things that are bothering you. Revisit those things the next day and determine which are important enough to discuss with the person and which can be let go. Take care of yourself and pick your battles wisely. Enter conversations (or arguments) with a sense of patience and calm.
Doing these things can help you stay grounded this holiday season, which will help you face the season with relaxation and calm rather than stress and tension. May your holidays be filled with love, beauty, appreciation, and simplicity.