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How to Reduce Holiday Stress

I always start out this time of year telling myself that I'm going to ENJOY the season, I won't schedule in so many fun things that it stops being fun, and that I won't let myself get overwhelmed by the things that don't matter (#presents). Inevitably, at some point I lose my freaking mind. I overbook myself, I watch other people on social media doing "better" things than I scheduled for us and I find myself feeling really, really crappy about the experience that I'm giving my kids and to be honest, MY OWN Holiday experience as an adult, a mom, a daughter, a sister and a human! This kind of stress is bad enough, then add in the actual time it takes to buy, wrap, bake, attend parties...it's a really hard time of year to keep it all together! And that is if no one gets sick and run down during the season, too. #ohhellno

Over the past 3 years as a health & fitness coach, I've really worked on personal development and paying attention to what matters. Controlling my thoughts, staying positive and developing a mindset that serves rather than succumbing to negativity and drama. I'm taking this mentality with me into this Holiday season because if you think about it, we could make "holiday stress" a great opportunity to teach us how to manage "any time" stress. It all starts with having our priorities straight so we are clear on what matters and what doesn't.

5 Tips for Holiday Stress Relief:

1. Write in your journal

Now is a good time to sit down, take a deep breath, and write in your journal to help you get organized and remember what the holidays are really about.

First, write down everything that needs to be handled. Even if you need to handle everything, taking the time to write it all down will help you feel less overwhelmed.

For me it looks something like:

  • November:

  • Thanksgiving (we host, it's nuts, there's a whole list for that itself)

  • kids holiday photos taken and cards ordered

  • pick a date for our family cookie swap

  • plan my birthday trip to NYC

  • buy kids outfits for Christmas and Christmas Eve

  • schedule everyone's haircuts/colors etc

  • start a list of what to buy everyone

  • December

  • Pick somewhere to watch Christmas lights go up and attend with kids

  • mail out Christmas cards

  • finish shopping

  • put up Christmas tree & plan an afternoon/evening for family time

  • Santa Polar Express

  • Cookie Swap

  • NYC trip

  • wrapping

  • baking my famous Christmas Bark & packaging it for coworkers

Then identify things that you can let go of or delegate to someone else. For example, I'll ask my husband to do the regular grocery shopping at least a few times during these months so that I can use that time to shop, organize, bake or wrap. He will also plan my birthday trip and he is usually in charge of buying 75% of the kids presents from Santa online. He does A LOT and I could never accomplish these things without him!

Now that you have written down and organized your to-do list, think to yourself, “What will be my state of ‘being’ while I’m doing all of these things? Will I be joyful or stressed, grateful or overwhelmed?” And, write a paragraph on this topic. Asking these questions is really important if you want the holidays to be something you actually enjoy. The craziness of the holidays doesn’t have to cause stress if you choose a calm and joyful way of being as you check off tasks from your to-do list.

Next, let’s get more specific. Write down how you would like certain aspects of the holidays to go. How would you like to experience cooking the holiday meal or having people over? While cooking, will you feel angry that you have to cook such a big meal, or curious and excited about making a new dish for your family? Or, while shopping, will you feel obligated or resentful that you have to buy for so many people, or grateful that you have the means to buy presents to begin with?

Next is one of my most FAVORITE things to do!! Make two columns in your journal. In one column, write the names of the people you are buying gifts for. In the second column, write what you are grateful for about this person. Leave out all the things they have or haven’t done, or what they’ve said or didn’t say – all of that ultimately doesn’t mean anything. Instead, write how they contribute positively to your life. Then take this list with you shopping so that the present you purchase is an expression of your appreciation for them. This can help you remember what the holidays are really about: celebration and gratitude for our friends and family.

2. Keep things in perspective

Rather than truly celebrating family and friends, we often get caught up in how things “look.” We worry about the holiday cards, or whether our hair and outfits look alright, or if we ordered enough pies for everyone. When you start to spiral into worry, go back to your shopping list of names and why you’re grateful for these people – does it really matter if your hair looks perfect that day?

I’m not saying to show up to your holiday events in your pajamas, but by choosing what you focus on, you can allow whether a certain situation will create stress or joy within you. Are you going to focus on whether your outfit looks perfect or focus on the joy you experience with your cousin who you haven’t seen in a while? You have a choice. Consciously choosing gratitude and joy will create positive situations and bring you closer to those you love.

And, if you’ve mastered this level of focused decision-making during the holidays, you can easily apply it throughout the year when there are less distractions.

3. Consider the past

Here is another topic to write about in your journal: What are the memories that get stirred up during the holidays? Which memories create a clenching in the pit of your stomach, or a fear-based emotion, or that feeling of “here we go again.” What creates that in you? The bad memories are in the PAST. Leave them there! If you want things to be better, focus on TODAY and how this year can be better. Do the negative emotions really matter in the grand scheme of things? Get some perspective.

And then consider whether you should communicate with someone so that this pattern doesn’t happen again, or just let it go. In either case, make that change internally to change that pattern. Do it now before it’s too late and suddenly it’s Christmas Eve and the same situation occurs. Also, write down enjoyable holiday memories and prioritize doing those activities again this year.

4. Learn to say “no”

THIS IS MY MO! I'm a pro at saying no to something that doesn't work for me and my family!

If you have always lived the holidays with great stress, but have not done anything about it (as if the outside world will suddenly shift for you and make it all good), then nothing will change because at the end of the day nothing and nobody makes you feel in any way other than how you choose to feel, what you choose to allow in your field. That is very important to remember.

Because there are so many challenges, the holidays present an opportunity to take control of your life and to empower yourself. Let’s say you’ve cooked the turkey for your family for 30 years but never enjoyed the task, this is your opportunity to finally say NO! If you don’t like having 50 people over every Christmas Eve, but you allow it to happen because you’re not willing to experience the consequences of saying no, then you are allowing resentment to exist in you. This won't be easy but you have to realize that your happiness and your life is under YOUR control! Maybe changing something THIS year will be hard and difficult conversations will have to be had, but think about all the stress and negative emotions you will be avoiding for all of the years to come if you change it now!

If spending quality time with your husband and children during the holidays is important to you, then make the time. Be more organized about the shopping, start way ahead as opposed to waiting to the last minute. Choose the events that you want to attend, and say no to the rest. Be empowered in what you are deciding to celebrate this year.

5. Make it a holiday for YOU

It is crucial for your well-being to learn what is important to you, and to prioritize these things during the chaotic holiday season. It’s important to be very real and honest about the things that you never enjoy doing and yet, you still do them over and over again. You allow these situations to destroy your peace every single year. Why would you do that? What would happen if you just stopped doing the things/obligations that you didn't enjoy? Make the holidays something different this year; make it a holiday for you, for how you feel. Throughout the whole season, try to actually celebrate by having the courage to eliminate that which is not important to you.

Try it and do your best not to feel obligated. If you feel guilty, engage with that experience with compassion and kindness for yourself. Remember, everybody is caught in the whirlwind of the holidays and the guilt of it all. We are all doing the best we can, so it’s nobody’s fault. But, you are in charge of what this holiday season could be for you and your family.

So, I invite you to be in a state of celebration for yourself this holiday season! In your journal, write: “What if this holiday was exactly what I wanted it to be. What would that look like? What if I had the courage to sit down with my family and discuss what we wanted to do and what we did not want to do this year?” Wouldn’t that be nice?

With these intentional actions – which are ultimately actions of love for yourself and the people who are important to you – you can make this year a true celebration, a true holiday, a truly fun-filled season of excitement & well-being. Remember, WHEN MOM IS GOOD, EVERYONE IS GOOD!

jennifer

A Healthy Hot Mess by Jennifer Stawarz

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