“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”
…And potentially one of the most stressful.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Despite how we may feel, we do have control. Much of our stress this time of year is self-inflicted. We get caught up in traditions and traditional patterns that sometimes lead to burnout instead of intended merriment.
If you’re already hyperventilating over ‘everything you have to do’ I suggest a proactive shift in approach…
Here are a few stress management techniques to help:
Step outside the hype
This isn’t about ignoring the magic of the season, but rather about removing yourself from the ’hype’ of it all so you can enjoy it.
Hype is created – like the commercial Christmas hype that’s been pumped into the air since before Thanksgiving. Hype – if we allow it – pulls us into its slipstream and takes us for a ride. We can avoid going too far, however, if we develop an awareness.
For example, think of Duty Free shopping at the airport. For a limited time we have access to a wonderland of anything and everything we might suddenly want, need or have to have. There’s a hype to shop and buy, but it soon passes once we’ve boarded the plane.
Until boarding we have the choice to shop and buy under pressure, or relax calmly with a coffee instead.
Approach the holidays the same way. Recognise it’s a limited time that passes through the year, and that you can choose to do as much or as little as you like without getting swept away in the hype.
Minimise the aftermath
No one heads into the holidays seeking out the aftermath of stress, overindulgence, or overspending. Much the same way one doesn’t head into Friday night seeking the best Saturday hangover one can muster.
As we considered in the point above, the holidays will come and go. The question is, how do you want to feel after the mince pies, streamers and confetti are cleared?
Do you want to be reeling from excess and exhaustion? Or relaxed, recharged and ready for the year ahead?
It’s absolutely possible to fully enjoy the season in moderation.
Indulge and enjoy by all means, but also keep your sights on how you’d you like to feel in the aftermath. Let that be your beacon as you navigate your way through the holiday whirlwind.
Choose your activities wisely
Resist the urge to RSVP to every invite coming down the lane. Be selective. Screen each one to make sure it meets a set criteria before you accept.
Ask a few screening questions:
- Would I be truly excited to attend this event? Or could I take it or leave it?
- Would I only attend because I feel obligated?
- Would I only attend because I’m free that night and hate to say no?
- If I accept, will I already be thinking of ways to get out of it?
We don’t like to turn down an invitation, and in all fairness we never know who we might meet or what opportunity there my be as a result. Just be sure you’re saying yes for the right reasons.
If the invite doesn’t meet your criteria, decline graciously. Thank the host for the lovely invite and for thinking of you, but explain you’re overcommitted.
Be vigilant in your planning. Be kind to your future self by guarding gaps in your schedule for recovery time. A party every night might sound like fun, but it doesn’t mean you’ll have the energy for it.
Choose wisely and you’ll have more energy for the activities that will bring you genuine cheer.
Lower the expectations
Are you trying to do too much? Ask if those extra commitments are infusing you with the spirit of the season or draining your energy instead.
Whether you’re trying to live up to your own expectations or those you feel are expected of you, have an honest assessment.
If your efforts are leaving you frazzled and run down, ask yourself: Would anyone notice if I didn’t do this? What’s the worst thing that would happen if we simply made different plans or arrangements this year? If the thought of taking on less, or doing things differently fills you with relief, then there’s your answer. Let yourself off the hook.
Avoid comparing yourself and your efforts to others. For all you know they’re more stressed than you. Focus on your own game. Decide what is important, meaningful and joyful for you and don’t succumb to the pressure to do any differently.
Redefine your expectations and liberate yourself this holiday.
Remember to breathe
Take a deep breath, in fact take several. A few minutes practicing mindfulness every day can help you keep calm and anchored.
Start your day this way, even five to ten minutes will work wonders. When you feel the pressures inching in as the day progresses, cordon off another five minutes for yourself to restore calm and focus.
Remember, you do have control. A proactive change in approach can help ease the stresses of the holidays …and keep us sane to enjoy the this time of the year.
For more tips on beating holiday stress, see my post from the archives How To Stay Organised And Sane During The Holidays.
What other stress management techniques do you use to keep yourself sane during the holidays?