In spite of its promises of joy and good cheer, the holiday season often brings with it an array of mixed feelings. Anxiety, stress, discontent, and sadness are just a few of the negative side effects that hide in the tinsel and glitter of the season. Homes are overcrowded with family, bank accounts are stretched too thin, and obligations fill up the calendar making it very easy to succumb to stress and anxiety–which then steal our joy and make the holidays a season we dread rather than one we look forward to.
Enough is enough! This month of celebration and family time is one that we should be able to enjoy, regardless of what it may look like.
Here are a few idea to help you let go of the holiday stress, maintain your serenity, and be part of the solution this season:
1. Take care of yourself.
During the holidays, it’s very tempting to let go of the things we do throughout the rest of the year. We stop going to the gym, sleep less, overload our schedules, eat food that isn’t good for us and do all kinds of other things we would never do at any other time of year. We end up exhausted, grumpy, and generally unpleasant to be around. When you find yourself getting overwhelmed or discontent, do something to take care of yourself. Go work out. Make a list of the things you are grateful for that day. Spend some time reading or listening to soothing music. Say no to that party you’re dreading, or yes to the one you want to attend but haven’t made time for. Get outdoors and enjoy some fresh air. Meditate. Whatever it is that makes you feel loved and cared for, do that. Taking care of your mind and body helps avoid the burnout that makes the holidays difficult to bear.
2. Don’t overextend.
This goes for your time, your finances, your mental preparedness, and any other resource you can think of. Don’t compete with other families for the most extravagant gifts or merry parties. The holidays look different for everyone and the best gift you can give yourself and your family is a peaceful home. Don’t add to the strain of the season by overspending or engaging in situations with a lot of stress. Protect your peace of mind. Your loved ones will thank you for it.
3. Connect with others.
A great part about the holidays is the opportunity to spend time with people you love. Use that time wisely! Turn off the television and play games. Meet a friend for coffee. Make time to connect with your partner or spouse. Involve your children in baking, cleaning, and anything else that needs to be done. Get creative with how you connect!
4. Say no.
If we are honest, many of us would admit that every invitation comes with its own measure of pressure. Remember that no is a complete sentence. You don’t need elaborate explanations for your absence from social or family events. If it’s not something you can do without sacrificing your peace of mind, you can–and should–say no.
5. Have compassion.
The holidays are a difficult time for many people. It can be hard to reconcile expectations with reality and let others enjoy the season however they see fit. When someone is behaving badly, remember that it most likely has nothing to do with you. Their feelings stem from their own stress and expectations. You can be kind and loving, but you cannot fix their feelings. The best thing you can do is have compassion for them and be an example of peace and kindness throughout the season. This also means you need to have compassion on yourself. If you’re struggling with anxiety or sadness, acknowledge your feelings and be kind to yourself. If these emotions are too big to cope with, don’t hesitate to get help. Counseling, therapy, or even just a sympathetic ear can do wonders in lifting your burden.
6. Stay focused.
This one is really important. It requires that you ignore all the expectations of family members, the advertisements that tell you what your holidays should look like, the preconceptions about celebrations, and, most importantly, the expectations you have for the season. Staying focused means staying in the moment. Don’t lose precious time comparing your holidays to whatever expectations you have. Be present with your family and friends. If they’re stressed, let them be stressed, but don’t allow their feelings to dictate yours. You get to decide how you respond to stress and conflict. You get to be the one who doesn’t compare, but rather enjoys every moment. You get to be the one who shows your family how to celebrate the season with gratitude and love. Don’t miss out on the incredible moments waiting for you this season!
Regardless of what your life looks like this holiday season, you can find joy and serenity in the moment. Focus on what you have rather than what you want. Surround yourself with people you love. Do something every day to take care of yourself. Know that you are not alone in feeling overwhelmed. Go easy on yourself and take it one moment at a time. You may find all kinds of joy that you never expected.