Navigating Holiday Stress

“Stress is not what happens to us.  It’s our response to what happens, and response is something we can choose.”  –  Maureen Killoran

The holiday season is upon us.  Although I always love the winter holiday season, it comes with a double-edged sword for most.  It is such a beautiful time.  Lights, decorations, delicious food, and time with friends and family.  However, it is also energy sucking and full of stressful times.  I thought I would do some research into ways to deal with that in advance, infused with my own take on this period of time for many who struggle with the season.

What I started with, was to make a list of how I wanted to feel over the next month or so and what was important to me during this season.

How I want to feel:

  • restful
  • peaceful

What is important to me:

  • positive time with family and friends

What a short list.  Those are really the only things that are truly important to me.  I then created a list of the things that I find stressful during the same time period and how I end up feeling.

How I end up feeling:

  • anxious
  • stressed
  • exhausted

What causes those feelings:

  • making the house perfectly decorated
  • shopping during incredibly busy times
  • financial stress from overspending
  • nervousness from traveling on winter roads
  • figuring out what to buy
  • fitting in visits

The first lists are very short.  The second ones are more lengthy.  As a solution-focused type of person, I started to look at the second list and how I could lessen their impact on me.  I can definitely work on not getting so focused on making sure the house looks perfect.  It has very little impact of my goal for the season which is to have quality time with friends and family.  I am decorating slowly this year.  My husband brought out all of the decorations last week,  and so far, I have taken out my Santa collection and changed my placemats.  That is all I have done.  And it is weirdly not bothering me.  I can ease up on myself and practice pacing so I do not become anxious and exhausted.

Shopping during incredibly busy times is an easy fix.  In the world we live in now, I could really do all of my shopping online if I really wanted to.  I also do not work out of the home, so I can pick and choose when I go out and do so during slower times.  I also can make art and sew things for people for gifts.  It has two purposes.  It allows me to create which is energizing for me, and I can create personal gifts for people I care for.  I also can go to holiday vendor sales with friends to get some social interaction and some lovely gifts as well.  Creating gifts for people also makes me less stressed about overspending if I can make thoughtful gifts instead of just giving a gift card.  It also knocks off figuring out a thoughtful gift to get for people.

Another item is fitting in visits with people.  That is where my creation of boundaries needs to take over.  Some people are energizing for me to spend time with.  They are also the same people that I consider part of my tribe of individuals.  Those people, I make time for.  I spread those visits out and combine them when it works out.  Some people do not fit into that category and have to have visits scheduled when they fit into my energy capabilities.  If I overschedule, I end up being horrible company to everyone and I end up feeling like a failure over the holidays.  I try to set my schedule early and stick with it.  Much easier than trying to cram things in.  Planning for me is huge.  It alleviates a lot of stress if I plan before the season takes over and gets too crazy.

The last item on my list is travelling on winter roads.  For me, that is unavoidable.  My mom and sister live in another city and it is hugely important for me to be with them for the holidays.  My husband’s family live in a different city and it is also very important that we see them as well.  The thing I am realizing, is that with everything else on the list problem solved away, travel on the roads seems much less daunting.  That and a good set of winter tires.  We also plan to spend the night at my families so we don’t have to drive in the dark.  Planning in advance helps.

A last thing I would like to talk about is planning in rest and self-care during this season.  Put it on your agenda just like you do all of your social engagements.  I plan to schedule a designated self-care day and an unplug day once a week over the holidays.  Self-care can look like anything you want it to.  It can be getting a massage, walking in nature or watching Hallmark movies all day.  An unplug day is vital for me as well.  It allows me to not be consumed with emails, social media and things that get my mind racing.  It is needed because spending a day emailing and on the computer can be more exhausting to me than doing physical activity.  The most important thing for me to do over the holidays is to be present with people that I have carved out time for.  I want to be the best version of myself that I can be while that is happening.  I go back to my first list.  I want to be a rested peaceful person when I am spending positive time with my family and friends.

When you really break it all down, it is quite simple.  Don’t complicate this lovely time of year.  Rest, be kind to yourself and drink some eggnog.

Much love and festivities,

Christine

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