4 Ways To Reduce Stress During the Holidays
The holidays… they are AWESOME and, of course, incredibly stressful. Our fond memories come from a time when we didn’t have to do any of the work and got all of the rewards. ….Ahhhh childhood, why did you leave me? ….. Then adulthood somehow set in and suddenly Bob Rivers 12 Pains of Christmas was a much better reflection of our experience than the classic 12 Days of Christmas. With the parties to go to, schedules to juggle, finances to manage, and visits from our crazy in-laws it is no wonder many of us experience an increased need to partake in stress relieving activities.
Here are four ways to keep your stress and trips to the liquor cabinet at a minimum.
First, Manage Your Expectations
Expectations are the root of all evil, or at least, of stress. We feel stress when things don’t go the way we want them to go. We expect that there won’t be traffic and then we end up in a bumper to bumper traffic jam. We expect our souffle will rise but instead it implodes. Stress occurs because what we thought was going to happen and our reality don’t match. To reduce stress you either have to 1. change your expectations or 2 change your reality. Expectations are easier to change especially when you lower your bar for success right on down to the floor. Yes, I know this is counter to all the self-help books you’ve read this year but seriously, lower your expectations to meet your reality and it will seriously reduce the stress you feel. This will also allow you to be present in that moment.
2. Keep Your Focus on the Spirit
The holidays are a time of great coming together for many cultures. It is a time we truly celebrate what matters to us before beginning the new year. What truly matters to most people is being able to spend time with family and friends, unless you are a kid, in which case it is all about Santa and the gifts. Adults don’t care if the brownies are Little Debbies and the chicken is overcooked; they just want to hang out. When you feel yourself getting stressed, take a step back and ask ‘What is really important here?’ and focus on that one thing with the power of a laser beam and let everything else go.
3. Schedule Time Alone to Organize
The holidays involve a bunch of moving parts and people. There are events, concerts, meals to plan, last minute gifts to buy, dogs to leave at the kennel, etc… Set aside one or two hours – yes hours – get yourself all comfy and cozy, pour yourself a glass of wine and write it all down. If you are a mom, you may need to lock yourself in the bathroom because that maybe the only private space in your house. What dishes do you need to have prepared? What presents are left to be bought? Who is visiting and when are they leaving? Doing this allows you to mentally preview and prepare everything. Is it all going to go the way you plan? Absolutely not, which is why we started with managing expectations first. However, if you do this, you’ve just increased the odds of things happening smoothly in your favor.
4. Communicate Plans and Expectations Early and Often
Jesus brought 12 people on board to help him and you should ask for help too. The holidays are busy and we all have a limited amount of RAM space. People, especially those closest to you, forget things. Use Google Calendar or some other device to track events and lists. Tell people specifically what you want from them for instance: “Kids I want you to set the table and sit down with us for dinner. After we are done you are free to go outside and play with your toys.” “Honey, please make sure everyone has drinks while they are here.” “Sam please make sure the dog is in the backroom when Grandma arrives.” This is akin to the warnings you gave your children when it was time to leave the park. Remember those? “Haley, we will leave in 5 minutes.” This is the same concept. Clear directions with many reminders helps set expectations. If those expectations and your reality meet you now have no stress and every reason to be merry.
The bottom line: be joyful, be merry and be bright. If you are happy, the people around you will be too.