Holidays and stress seem to go hand in hand.
Do you find yourself wondering how it can possibly be Thanksgiving already? We seem to say the same thing every November. From here until the end of the year, the days move at warp speed. We struggle with feeling like there just isn’t enough – enough time, money, patience, and sleep. It’s easy for the holidays to feel more like a burden than a treat.
Holiday stress relief is possible!
This year I surveyed my trusted advisers and colleagues to gather their best tips for dealing with holiday stress.
- Don’t feel pressured to buy a gift for everyone. It’s easy to get carried away with holiday gift buying either because you’re caught up in the moment or you’re buying out of obligation. In order to avoid the January credit card blues, Norine Vander Hooven, LCSW suggests dividing your gift list into three categories: those you feel it’s important to buy for (such as your children), those you feel obligated to buy for (such as your boss), and those you just enjoy buying for (such as your best friend). Decide on a total amount for your gift giving budget and use these categories to help you divide your budget appropriately.
- Don’t forget about you! The holidays are about giving and doing for others, but not at the expense of your own health and well-being. We all know that we can’t help others or even enjoy the holidays when we’re burnt out and exhausted. Dr. Jennifer Huggins recommends that you don’t short-change yourself in your holiday plans. “Use this holiday time to take care of yourself and do activities that are healing to your soul such as healthy meals, a massage, going on a hike, meditating, or starting a new healthy habit,” says Huggins.
- Truly enjoy your time off from work. Dr. Maelisa Hall has some helpful tips to help you manage the extra work that naturally comes at the start and end of any vacation. Hall coaches her clients to “plan ahead when taking time off from work so you can truly enjoy it. Getting to the office an hour early one day of your last work week might be worth it. Be realistic about what projects you can get done, considering holiday parties and coworkers taking time off, as well. Lastly, plan time on your first day back to catch up on emails and communicate with people so you’re up to speed. Then you can enjoy your vacation without worrying about work.”
- Stay connected. Your relationship needs ‘nourishment’, too; you can’t just put it on autopilot until January. Relationship coach Robyn D’Angelo, LMFT suggests using your three daily mealtimes as reminders to check-in and connect with your spouse or partner. “Each morning, take 30 seconds before you hop out of bed, touch one another lovingly, look into one another’s eyes and say one kind thing (something as simple as ‘we got this’ works well), kiss and go do your thing. Make it a point to connect again at lunch-time (even by text message) and again at dinner-time….Listen to one another attentively, make kind physical contact whenever possible.”
- Embrace imperfection. My favorite tip is to remember that holidays don’t have to be perfect to be fun, meaningful, and memorable. In fact, sometimes the most memorable holidays are the least perfect of all. Staying flexible and letting go of perfectionism at the holidays allows you to relax and focus on what really matters.
- Just say “No”. “You have the power and the choice to say no to any event,” Erika Labuzan-Lopez, LMFT, LPC “Just because you’re invited to something does not mean you have to go, especially if said event is going to cause undue stress and anxiety. Look at your list of possible parties or gatherings and choose to attend the ones that will bring you joy. You can also have the freedom to attend events in a way that feels good to you. You can come for the dinner but leave before opening presents…There’s no need to make decisions purely out of obligation.”
- Set a positive intention. Alicia Taverner, LMFT recommends setting intentions about how you want to feel and who you want to connect with before heading out to holiday gatherings. “Thinking, ‘It would be nice if I felt joy at the company Christmas party,’ is different than thinking, ‘I intend to feel joy at the company Christmas party’. Write your intentions on post-it notes or set them up as messages that pop up on your calendar before you head out to an event. Then, when you hear a negative comment, or receive an ugly sweater from Aunt Marge, your intention of connection or gratitude will shine through, and you will get through that interaction more gracefully than if you hadn’t set forth a positive intention.”
7 Expert tips for managing holiday stress: set a budget and organize your spending accordingly, take care of yourself, plan ahead in order to enjoy your time off from work, stay connected to your partner, embrace imperfection, say “no” when you need to, and set a positive intention. Whether you decide to implement all or some of these strategies, I hope you find something useful to help you manage your holiday stress and relax and enjoy yourself.
© 2016 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.
Photo by Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net