Have you finished your Christmas shopping?
How many holiday parties and events will you be attending?
Will “that person” be there?!?!? (The one you really don’t like.)
Have you found that new perfect cookie recipe to add to your collection to make this year?
Holiday Stress and our Brain.
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . . It’s the hap-happiest season of all.” That’s how the song goes, right? But is it? The end-of-year holidays are certainly a happy time for most of us, but the stress of the season puts many of us on such an edge that we wish it would all just go away.
“The holidays are filled with both joy and stress,”
Sixty-two percent of people describe their stress level as “very or somewhat” elevated during the holidays, while only 10 percent reported no stress during the season.
With holiday stress, our brains often go into overdrive. Over time, a high level of demand can decrease memory, halt production of new brain cells, and cause existing brain cells to die.
What Causes Holiday Stress?
There are many factors, including unrealistic expectations, financial pressures, and excessive commitments can cause stress and anxiety at holiday time. The whirlwind of gift giving, overload of marketing / advertising, holiday parties and activities which begin right after Halloween, and go through Thanksgiving, and continue through the end of the year is insane! Some of the consequences of poorly managed holiday stress can lead to headaches, excessive drinking, overeating, and insomnia.
During the holidays, we often experience too much of a good thing. Too many activities, even if they are fun activities, can lead to holiday stress and leave us feeling frazzled, rather than fulfilled. Eating, drinking, and spending too much, can cause a lasting stress of dealing with longer term consequences (such as debt, embarrassing behavior) We need to focus on doing things in moderation.
Make a Plan.
Who are you shopping for? Set a budget. Consider shopping online. Gift cards are great! What foods will you be making?
It’s time to put things on your calendar. Pace yourself. Do what you can ahead of time. Delegate! Let others help tackle the to do list!
Focus on the Big Picture.
Think ahead a little, envision what the holidays mean to you. What do you want them to be like? What is important? Time with family? Attending your Christmas Eve service? Family traditions? Giving gifts? Christmas day? What is it for you?
Let minor annoyances and little problems fall to the wayside and keep focused on the big picture. Don’t let yourself get caught up in the minutia that can overwhelm, or even drain you, of your joy! Find gratitude in what you HAVE and done, instead of dwelling on those little annoying things that may not really matter.
This may be easier said than done. But being mindful about staying focused as you go into the holiday season can help let a few things roll off your back.
Keep it Simple.
Don’t set your expectations so high that you set yourself up for disappointment. Focus on what really matters most, and don’t get caught up in all the holiday craziness and the unrealistic expectations of perfection. Is it really necessary to make every cookie recipe that you have ever made, again this year? What about participating in, or hosting a cookie exchange?
Do all your recipes need to be made from scratch? Perhaps you can look for ways to simplify recipes. Learn, and use, time saving tricks. Buy pre-cut veggies. Doctor up pre-made chicken salad to make it “special”. Start with pre made cookie dough / pie shells. Rather than being busy in the kitchen while the guests are visiting, do what you can ahead of time, so you can enjoy your events. Maybe give a few things up to lighten up your load a little. You local grocery stores have tons of grab and go items. You can put them on your own platter, light a candle, and perhaps have a beverage! Bam! This leads to…
Don’t’ be a Perfectionist.
What gives you the most stress during the holidays? The baking? The gift buying? Gift wrapping? Christmas cards? Decorating? Attending the parties? Maybe this is the year to drop, or modify, the most stressful thing! What would happen? The holidays will come and go whether or not you do that very stressful thing, in that very stressful way that you do it!!
What will really be remembered? The biggest and best decorations? The perfectly wrapped gift? The sparkling clean counter tops? Not at all. It’s the moments and memories.
And remember…There will be bumps in the road. Don’t let them ruin your mood. ?
Again…Turn down the lights and light some candles. It’s OK to cut back here and there.
Make memories with family and friends. Give more experiences, less gifts.
More often than not, giving the gift of time spent together, and special experiences, are more meaningful than a wrapped gift. A girl’s day out, a holiday show, or a special breakfast may be more meaningful than a purchased gift. Bake together, use aprons and take pictures. You could visit the Magic Tree! Perhaps this will begin a new tradition.
De-Clutter! Having less clutter reduces your stress.
Remember those less fortunate. Perhaps gathering up donations for Goodwill, where some may be doing their Christmas shopping. It’s a win-win!
Find ways to help someone in need. Help serve or cook a meal. Volunteer. There are plenty of organizations who need volunteers. Include your friends and family. The good times with loved ones will be the memory makers.
Learn to Say “NO.”
Repeat after me… “NO.”
Did you say it?
It’s easy to feel obligated to say yes to everything you’re invited to during the holidays. Of course, you want to spend time and celebrate with as many friends and family as you can, but is it realistic to try to? Probably not. You may have to be selective and say no to some invitations. It’s ok to say no. You don’t have to attend every event that comes along!
Keep some unplanned days on that calendar to breathe and give you some wiggle room or down time. Sometimes it’s best to choose quality time over quantity.
Remember…It’s ok to ask for help. You can delegate tasks to others. You CAN say no.
Take Time to Relax.
Schedule time for yourself. Actually, put it on your calendar! Take time to rest and rejuvenate your soul. Stop and take a few deep breaths. Be healthy. Eat healthy, stretch, move! Take a morning walk to clear your head. Unwind…read a book, listen to music, take a hot bath, exercise, pamper yourself a little. Find the Calm and hold on to it for a while. Carve out time on a regular basis to take care of YOU. Put it on our calendar now, before it gets filled. Then YOU can tackle what needs to be done with a better frame of mind. You will be better able to enjoy the moments of the holiday season without getting stressed about the little, or not so important things.
This is my favorite! Having a sense of humor is one of the best ways to manage stress. Keeping a good perspective whenever possible helps keep stress levels down. Find humor in things that go wrong, and allow yourself to laugh, rather than dwelling on them. Give yourself permission to forget mistakes. Focus on the things that go right. There are always more things that go right than go wrong.
Have a good laugh! It’s hard to stay stressed when you’re laughing. Laugh and let it go!!
Remember the Reason for the Season.
So don’t try to do everything. Whittle down that to-do list. Ask for help, delegate tasks to others. You can say no. You CAN enjoy the holiday season with little to no stress. After all, YOU are the one who decides what you do and what you do not do- and what your attitude will be. Choose wisely. This could be the best, stress-less holiday season ever!
Wishing you a Joyful, Stress Free Holiday season!