I am convinced that a good amount of the stress many of us feel during this holiday season stems from 3 troublesome phrases: should, have to, and need to. I saw a Facebook post the day after Thanksgiving that went something like: “If you’re one of those people who’s already got their Christmas decorations up and cards sent, please don’t tell me.” I laughed when I read this, but could find myself relating and feeling like I was already behind. Why do we impose this type of pressure on ourselves? Who are we trying to impress? Below are 3 tips that can help you minimize holiday stress and stay sane at this time of year:
Decide in advance what you will and won’t do this year.
Take out the calendar now. If there are several events you’ve been asked to attend, decide what you can realistically do. If you find yourself saying “I should do X,” or “I need to do Y,” stop for a moment. Ask yourself, “Will this really matter a month from now, or a year from now? How important is it?” Eliminate the “shoulds” and focus instead on what matters most to you. Accept that you cannot be everywhere and please everyone. Someone might be disappointed with your “no,” but life will go on. Planning ahead now will also help you feel less harried.
Keep one tradition that is most meaningful to you.
Fill in the blank: “It wouldn’t be the holidays without ____.” What is that one treasure for you?
Is it a family recipe that’s been handed down through the years? Attending a candlelight church service? Taking one big family photo every year? An afternoon of serving at a homeless shelter? Visiting the sick or caroling at a nursing home? A cookie exchange party? A “secret snowflake” gift exchange with family members?
Take a day or night off from shopping, cooking or wrapping gifts. Give the kids some downtime too. If there is something you truly enjoy – watching a movie, your early morning run, enjoying a cup of coffee in solitude – now is not the time to eliminate those activities! Try to maintain some routines that keep you mentally and physically healthy. You won’t enjoy the season if you’re feeling run down. Lastly, if it’s been a really challenging year, know that additional stress, grief and loss can also impact the level of energy you have during this season. Be gentle with yourself, and try not to over-schedule.
Remember that the holidays are a season. Can’t see everyone as you’d like in the 6 weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year? Plan a gathering for early or mid-January. I can’t think of a better cure for the winter blahs.
-What’s your plan for minimizing holiday stress? Is there one thing you’ll do differently (or not do) this year, in order to end the holiday season and the year feeling filled instead of depleted?–
This article is intended for general education purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional counseling or medical care. If the holidays have you feeling sad, lonely, or stressed out, let The Stone Foundation offer you the support you need. Call us at 410-296-2004.
Elicia McIntyre, a licensed clinical social worker, and graduate of Smith College School for Social Work, has 15 years’ experience providing counseling to adults, children, and families in the Baltimore-Washington metro area. She has helped clients navigate life transitions, depression, anxiety, and relationship difficulties. Elicia helps couples foster healthy connections among family members and increase emotional intimacy. She has spent the past 3 years traveling nationally and overseas, providing education and intervention to military service members and their families on communication, stress management, and building healthy relationships.