Holidays are supposed to be synonymous with joy, but they also tend to be synonymous with stress. The time seems to feel like everything speeds up, there are more events and people who require your attention. The to-do lists seem to get out of control and emotions start to flare. But on the flip side of it all, the stockings are hung, the cups are full, the scenes are painted so pretty. It can be a lot to take in.
How many of the following situations are you dealing with this holiday season?
- Too many family members to fit in your house
- Last minute changes to who is hosting/cooking
- Family members who don’t honor your requests for healthier foods
- The relative who always seems to start something in the middle of dinner
- Grandparents who drown your kids in excessive gifts, after you’ve asked them to just give one thing
- The gluten-free guest + the vegan + the Paleo chick + the recovering alcoholic – all at one meal
- Too many office parties, sweets, and snacks – especially the candy bowl at the reception desk
- Financial pressures re: gift-giving, competing, or one-upping
- Feeling like you need to identify unique gifts, and you’re coming up with nothing
- Lack of time to deal with shopping, wrapping, cooking, and prepping
- Fear of weight gain
- Actual weight gain
- Getting derailed from your health plan
- Juggling illness with all the extra holiday expectations
- Driving long distances to be with family
- Wishing you had a significant other or family to share the time with
- Working through the season because you’re in retail or hospitality
- Expectations of picture-perfect parties and goodies
- Depression flare-ups
- Ungrateful family members or friends
- Coordinating a secret Santa or group gift
- Standing in line at the post office
That’s a pretty big list, and it’s just the things I thought of in a few minutes! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, join the crowd. We tend to put so much pressure on ourselves to pull together families who are separated or don’t really get along, and make them have “an experience.” Pinterest fills our brains with clever crafts, artful décor, and inspired food. But none of us are Martha Stewart. We’ve got day jobs, cranky spouses, kids with special needs, coworkers who take bogus sick days, and champagne tastes with beer budgets!
Here are some strategies for dramatically decreasing your holiday stress load:
- Eliminate the tasks you hate. Let’s be real. No one needs another holiday newsletter or a plate of assorted homemade cookies. No one. Unless it’s your mom or your grandfather, and you’re much better off taking time to sit down and visit with them in-person or on the phone. Make them a healthy meal while you’re at it.
- Say “no thanks” as often as you say, “yes please.” Dreading the Friday night cocktail gathering? Don’t want to do the cookie exchange? Sick to death of the ornament swap? Want nothing more than to stay home on Christmas Eve in your pajamas, watching sappy movies? Make it happen. Saying yes too often just breeds resentment. Once you’ve said no, people will move on.
- Schedule regular workouts. They will reduce stress and help you balance out the extra treats that you enjoy during the season.
- Take time off. The more stressed and pressured you feel, the more you need a time out. Ideally, one that involves a half-hour walk with headphones and pleasant music, or 20 minutes of meditation. If you haven’t already downloaded the Insight Timer app, do it now. But if all you can do is hide in your car in the back of the parking lot in the five minutes before you have to pick someone up from school or the airport, take that.
- Shop mid-week. If you can manage the time off from work, take an extra day or week sometime during the season. This is especially valuable if you’re the one who does the bulk of the holiday shopping. Going on a Tuesday is so much less stressful than trying to do it on a weekend. And plan now to be finished at least a week early, so you’ve got breathing room. And this is a must if you’re hitting a big box store!
- Consolidate gift-giving. Take the emphasis off of perfection and excess. Give everyone books, fruit-of-the-month club packs, a bottle of wine (okay, not the kids!), personalized sweatshirts, etc. This will help simplify your life, decrease chances of offending someone, and allow you to focus on what’s truly important – the time together. It really is true that it’s the thought that matters.
- Let me help you. No, I won’t do your shopping for you, or address your holiday cards, but…
Stay tuned to my private Facebook page, PCOS Psychology, where I’ll be dropping in helpful hints all month. I also check in every day and answer questions personally. And when you sign up for my mailing list, you’ll be the first to know about a brand new program I’ll be offering in January, designed to eliminate stress and enable you to mindfully enjoy life while getting motivated to make the changes you want in the new year.