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Mother/daughter smiling at holiday dinner table

Tips on How to Reduce Stress This Holiday Season

Holidays are extra stressful times because we try to cram too much into too short of time period AND many of us have way too high of expectations. So to have a less stressful experience this holiday season here are some basic tips to follow.

Attitude Is Everything

First, what is your set point attitude? Are you starting each day with an “attitude of gratitude?” Are you approaching the season with a glass half full perspective? Most of us can find a few things that are working right in our lives, no matter how small. Silver linings exist, we just might have to make the effort to look for them. Never underestimate the power that having a grateful attitude can have on creating a positive experience even during times of stress.

Second, if you are a perfectionist by nature and are prone to having high expectations, then you need to catch yourself when your perfectionism is causing too much extra stress, not just on you but on others around you. Perfectionism adds a layer of unnecessary stress so don’t be that person. Try to be more realistic on what you put on your schedule (we’ll cover scheduling later) and take other people’s comfort level into consideration. Not everyone has the time, energy or desire to spend hours decorating, shopping, cooking/baking, wrapping presents, socializing, or volunteering. What makes for an enjoyable and memorable holiday for one person is not necessarily the same for someone else. Be willing to scale back a bit, don’t overcommit and ask others what they would prefer. Make having fun what is most important and not that everything had to be perfect. Recognize what you can control, like you own attitude and actions, and what you can’t control, like the weather and other people’s choices.

Third, holidays can bring up lots of emotions so notice what you are emotionally feeling, especially if it’s on the negative side. Are you feeling sad, guilty, hurt, depressed, anxious, alone or any other negative emotion. Do you know why? Are old memories surfacing? Are you trying to recreate a past holiday experience and not allowing the present time to be what it is? Are you causing yourself emotional pain because of your own attitude? Don’t wait for others to give you something to make the holidays fun and memorable. The holidays are about giving, sharing and being there for others. The best way to overcome a negative emotion is by recognizing when your own ego might be getting the best of you and then take the focus off your pity party attitude then look for ways to be of service to others.

Prioritize and Schedule

First thing to do is to ask yourself what is your favorite part of the holiday season. Is it the social aspect of being with friends and family? Is it the cooking and baking of holiday food? Is it listening to and singing holiday music or watching movies or seeing performances? Is it the spiritual experience of going to religious services and special events? Is it shopping and wrapping presents and giving gifts? Ask yourself what is it about the holidays that makes it fun and memorable and special for you then come up with a budget then look over your calendar and prioritize those things into your schedule. Learn to say no to those things that don’t give you the experience you want or take you outside your budget.

Next, when you’ve got your budget and your calendar mapped out with those activities and events that you want to do or attend then start making lists to help you be more organized. Shopping lists, check lists and writing down what you’re going to do on what day helps minimize the stress of having all the extra stuff on your plate. Our mental and emotional bandwidth can only handle so much. Get all those “have to’s” out of your head and onto paper and you’ll feel much more relaxed and ready to enjoy working through your lists

And last, but certainly not least, don’t forget to prioritize your self care and do things during the holiday season that you know are good for you like eating healthy, (except for the occasional special event binge) exercising and getting enough rest. Instead of putting on your Christmas gift wish a tangible, disposable item such as the latest high tech gadget, ask for gift certificates for a massage, a gym membership, house cleaning service, a restaurant, a mani-pedi, or any kind of service that pampers you or helps you look or feel better. Who wants to start off a new year looking exhausted, heavier and feeling lousy. Wouldn’t it be nice to start the new year with some appointments on your January calendar that you can look forward to that actually extend the holiday experience.

So this holiday season get in touch with what the holidays really mean to you and put more effort into those aspects of the holiday so when you look back you’ll have fond memories. Try slowing down now and then so you can be in the moment and fully enjoy what the season is all about – family, friends, giving, sharing, laughing, rejoicing and being grateful and joyful for all that we have.

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