No doubt about it: the holidays can be stressful. Here in Nebraska, the weather gets cold and snowy. The schedule gets full with decorating and programs and gatherings and shopping and wrapping and baking and. . . the list goes on. I find it hard sometimes to create time and space to actually enjoy the holiday season.
Health.com has some great tips for beating holiday stress. Here are some things I do to keep the stress level low at holiday time. Full disclosure: Some of these I’m really good at, but mostly I’m still working on it!
1. Take time to make a plan – It only takes 15-30 minutes to get all of those “things to do” on a piece of paper. If I don’t, they occupy my brain space and prevent me from focusing on the reason for the season. I’m old school, so I write everything on my wall calendar. It helps to know where I need to be and when. Bonus: My family can easily see it, too! It also helps to know where my spaces are. (More on that later!) I also make a gift buying list and a budget that I keep in my purse. I hear smart phones are great for such things. Whatever means you use – take time to make a plan you can see.
2. Baby steps – I’m not a marathon shopper or decorator or baker. I can do the holidays all in one fell swoop, but I get pretty “grinchy” when I do. The let-down after the adrenaline rush leaves me feeling exhausted and spent – and not in a good way. So, I don’t shop, bake, decorate or wrap for more than two hours at a time. That’s my limit. Yours may be more, or it may be less. But it’s okay to do the holidays a little at a time.
3. Let go of perfection – This one is hard for me; I want to be Wonder Woman. I want to do it all with excellence and look good doing it. I want to find the “perfect” gift for each and every person on my list. I want the house to look like Martha Stewart’s. I want to bake 20 varieties of cookies that would win awards on the Food Network. I want the family gatherings to look like the Hallmark commercials. It’s all smoke and mirrors people! All that stuff we see on TV and in magazines? It. Is. Not. Real. No one’s life is perfect. Ever. Letting go of unrealistic expectations allows room for me to experience the holidays as they really are – flawed, but beautiful and life-giving.
4. Delegate – Many hands make light work. Let your family participate in the holiday preparations. Is someone a great gift giver? Ask them for ideas. Does someone love shopping? Give them a few of the items on your list to pick up for you. Wrapping? Let the kids do it. Delegating also helps me with #3.
5. Take space when you can - Keep your regular massage or spa appointment (you have one, right?!?). Let your Licensed Massage Therapist or Esthetician care for and nurture you. You need it. Can’t find an hour to get away? Take five minutes (I know you have 5 minutes!) to breathe deeply or just sit quietly. It makes a world of difference. I end most nights in December in my living room with only the tree lights and a cup of hot cocoa. I give thanks. I reflect. Sometimes, I’m so brain dead, I think of nothing. But taking those few minutes keeps it all in perspective. And I sleep better.
What about you? What do you do to help manage holiday stress?