Stress is stress really, but for some reason "holiday stress" seems to weigh heavier than most. Maybe it's all the Hallmark movies making us think we can have a sparkly holiday where it all works out and the girl gets the guy....
If you think about it, we could make “holiday stress” a great opportunity to teach us how to manage “any time” stress. A great place to start is having our priorities straight so you’re clear on what matters and what doesn’t. I made this video for Macaroni Kid Clarksville to help local Mama's find some tips to reduce stress this holiday season. I pray you find it helpful too!
5 Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress:
1. Journal It 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 3 things you're grateful for. What you focus on expands and the more you can externalize your gratitude the more you will find things to be grateful for. Gratitude and stress can't live together.
Second, write down everything that needs to be handled. I call this the Brain Dump. Just write, don't edit yourself, just get everything out of your head. Then identify things that you can let go of or delegate to someone else. Even if you need to handle everything, taking the time to write it all down will help you feel less overwhelmed.
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 busyness 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?
Now, 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. Move Everyday It's SO easy to get overwhelmed during the holiday season and usually the first thing to go is the workout, right? I mean isn't that something you can just take care of in January? NOOOO The exercise is what helps you remain sane. It can be a walk with your family, a class at the gym OR (my personal favorite) a 20 minute workout in your living room. My crew is SO excited for the newest program launch Transform :20. Exercise produces endorphins and endorphins keep us from ending up on the next episode of S
4. Nutrient Dense Food MOST I know I said exercise is the first to go, but I take that back... it's nutrient dense food. It's socially acceptable to eat cookies for 3 meals a day and exist on Peppermint Mochas. If we can keep our 80/20 mindset through the holiday season we'll be less stressed this season AND maybe not end up January 1st in a bigger pants size. Excess sugar has negative effects on your mindset and throughout the body, excess sugar is harmful. Even a single instance of elevated glucose in the bloodstream can be harmful to the brain, resulting in slowed cognitive function and deficits in memory and attention. Sugar also affects mood. AND it suppresses the immune system, leading to increased illness in an already busy season... Mama ain't got time to be sick. If you focus on nutrient dense foods first and most you'll survive the season with more grace and less stress. My favorite way to add in nutrient dense food is with my superfood smoothie in the morning.
4. Learn to say “no” 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 so many amazing opportunities 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.” You’re not a victim, you don’t owe anything, so don’t disempower yourself. If you don’t like having 50 people over every Hanukkah, 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, once again. Am I saying that changing a pattern is easy? Of course not, but you must always remember that your life is under your control.
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.
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 true honoring of each other, peace, joy, and well-being. I hope this was helpful, thank you.