Anna was already exhausted. The holidays just began and she was overwhelmed by the pressures on her budget, the extra demands on the schedule, the additions of parties and celebrations, and the excessive stuff in the stores. She tried to be excited about decorating, but it felt more like a chore than a pleasure.
So instead of repeating the craziness of previous seasons, Anna decided to focus on one item per day to change. Here are the 12 things she embraced to reduce her holiday stress.
- Be present. With all the busyness of the season, it is easy to lose sight of the precious present moments by worrying about what needs to be done next. When anxiety or stress take over, memories are not properly recorded. This is why it might be difficult to recall the past. Staying aware in the present moment has the opposite effect.
- Awaken creativity. Creativity is defined as the ability to come up with new and useful ideas. Using the imagination to envision different ways of making, doing, or perceiving things can reduce stress. Some examples include a revision on a Pinterest craft, modification of a recipe, visiting new places, problem-solving, and discovering alternative activities.
- Calendar everything. A stress buster is mastery and simplification of the schedule. Everything should be calendared including periods of rest and relaxation. If it is not on the calendar, then it is not happening. Make this a golden rule with the exception of crisis or emergency situations. This will help to set appropriate work and home boundaries.
- Encourage participation. Allow each family member to choose an activity or meal that they want. No matter how young or old the person is, the gesture will be much appreciated and can reduce family tension. Allowing a spouse, assistant or children to have access to the calendars can eliminate unnecessary scheduling conflicts.
- Set boundaries. It is especially important to set boundaries with money, food, and drink during the holidays. Excess use or abuse of these items can cause unnecessary stress in future months which is likely to negatively impact others. Openly discuss the boundaries and ask for accountability. Once a boundary is set, stick with it.
- Maintain balance. With everything going on this time of year, it is easy to forget the basics. Don’t forget to exercise, eat right, get sufficient sleep, drink plenty of water, meditate/pray, and take vitamins. These things are even more important now when the routine is a bit frantic. Maintaining a balance reduces the impact of stress.
- Reset expectations. This is a good time to let go of beliefs that are limiting and not empowering. For instance, a spotless house with no repair problems might be unrealistic. Instead, do only what is absolutely needed and leave the rest for the New Year. Encourage family members to reset their own expectations as well.
- Manage lists. On the first list draft, place all of the must do’s, have to’s, and want to’s. This is not about an order for now; it is about getting as much down in writing as possible. For the second draft, eliminate any unnecessary or unrealistic items from the list. The third time prioritizes the items. Sometimes just seeing the items in writing can bring clarity and reduce tension.
- Decide once. Revisiting or reliving past decisions is exhausting. This is not the season to over-analyze each choice made this year and prior years. There will be time for contemplation later in preparation for the next year. For now, let the decisions, their consequences, and the rewards be sufficient for today.
- Stimulate senses. Interestingly enough, one of the best ways to increase relaxation and reduce the side effects of stress is to breathe in an appealing scent. Perhaps this is why the latest craze is the essential oils, scented candles, and aromatherapy. Finding a fragrance that is appealing might take some effort, but it can bring about almost instant relaxation.
- Reflective thinking. What does this season mean to you? What is important about it and who is most important? Make the answers to these questions be the intentional focus of the holidays instead of the distraction of stuff, malls, traffic, and meaningless events. Setting an intention for each day that is consistent with your goals helps to manage unnecessary stress.
- Find peace. Don’t allow tasks or people to steal the joy of the season. Be judicious of time, intentionally carving out precious moments for reflection, meditation, silence, and celebration. The holidays should be remembered as time well spent with family and friends. Keep this thought at the forefront of each day and to achieve a peaceful, not stressful, holiday season.
Anna’s efforts to reduce holiday stress worked. Instead of being more tired, she felt joyous and was able to enjoy the holidays with her family and friends.