7 Steps For Managing Your Holiday Stress
From shopping and entertaining to budgeting and attending parties and celebrations, the holiday season is usually filled with stress and chaos. You want everything to be perfect — and memorable — filled with comfort and joy. But the truth is that your to-do list can seem never-ending, crowds and long lines test your patience, you dread going into debt (and maybe seeing a few of your least favorite relatives), and fear that your festivities will be a flop.
While we talk a lot about avoiding stress, it’s clear to see that this is easier said than done. Instead, author, NLP master, hypnotherapist, and life coach Peggy Caruso, explains that making our holidays merry and bright is more about managing our stress, especially by increasing the amount of quality time spent with family and friends this holiday season.
“You are your stress. And one of the key things to remember is that what you are is going into [those around you],” explained Caruso. “Of course it is easier to be negative — it’s an easier emotion. Being positive takes dedication, gratitude, calmness of mind, and motivation.” It may sound hard, but it’s the better choice — for you, your child, your guests, and everyone around you. And between all of the frenzy and festivity, it is possible to have a holiday that’s less hectic, more happy, and definitely more healthy!
To help lessen the strain of the season, Caruso outlined seven easy methods for tackling tension and emotional pressure, and exchanging holiday mayhem for merriment:
1. Make a choice to focus on the meaning of the holidays. “Focus on what the holidays really mean to you,” urges Caruso. This may mean creating a new way of thinking. Stressed about gifting? As the holiday draws nearer, we all can fall prey to anxiety about finding the perfect present for everyone on our list, but Caruso implores us not to put too much pressure into it. “Think about the person, not the financial part of it,” she offers. “Choose gifts that are more about being together. Those gifts are much more meaningful.” Not only does this help you to be a smarter shopper, but it helps to remind you of the real reasons for the season.
2. Make a difference. Whether it is for your family, for your community, or just for you, find a way to hone in on your gratitude. Being grateful for your blessings cancels out negative thoughts and worries, and helps you to remember all the things that are good in your life. This thankfulness could take the form of helping the less fortunate, making an effort to get along with estranged family, or even just savoring good experiences like a child’s smile, a beautiful day, or the blessing of good health. When you start feeling stressed, spend a few minutes thinking back over these moments to remind yourself what really matters.
3. Have boundaries. If you are the host this year (or even the guest, because being the visitor can cause stress of an entirely different variety), put some pause on your pressure to always be the best. Set boundaries for yourself and learn to recognize — and vocalize — when too much is too much. “Allow yourself to fail; Make things more about your family,” says Caruso, and less about making things perfect. *And an added tip in this social media crazed world… learn to let go of any ‘fear of missing out’ you may experience when you see photos posted to online sharing sites.
4. Learn to say NO. Saying yes when you know that you should be saying no can create feelings of resentment and overwhelm. Be honest with your friends and family — and yourself — and help them to understand that you can’t be everywhere, do everything, and please everyone. If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t say no to an event or family obligation, look for other activities that you can remove from your schedule to minimize your stress.
5. Take 15 minutes to half an hour each morning to meditate. Caruso, who works with children and adults, says she often meets people who are new to meditation. To start, she suggests finding a recording (Oprah and Deepak Chopra have great ones that she suggests for beginners) that starts with soothing words and then fades into music. “This is a great way to shut your mind off when it starts to wander,” she says.
Alternately, “breathing techniques go hand in hand with calmness of mind.”
6. Do less, but enjoy more. Slow down. Take five minutes and focus on being acutely aware of yourself and your surroundings. Enjoy the texture and taste of each bite. Really lean in and savor a hug of greeting. Choose judiciously between social events, and make time for only those that really lift your spirits. When you spend time in the moment and focus on your senses, you should feel less tense. And above all, laugh. A good belly laugh doesn’t just lighten your mental load, it also lowers cortisol (your body’s stress hormone) and boosts endorphins, which help your mood.
7. Let go of traditions – or explore new ones. Try not to hold fast to old family traditions, or at least attempt to create new ones that cause less anxiety. Traditions create complications for next generations, and may also unnecessarily create stress for them. Instead, allow yourself to go with the flow, avoid absorbing any negativity around you, and redirect your stresses into moments of positive thinking.