You’ve just started to buy presents, you still haven’t gone out to get a Christmas tree and your work schedule is not cooperating with the personal demands of the season. Between decorating, parties, gift giving, card writing and traveling, the holidays have somehow become synonymous with stress.
Knowing how stress can affect the brain and the body, I encourage you all to take time this season to slow down and simplify your holidays.
Here are my quick tips for making the holidays less stressful:
- Be sure to take time out for you this season. Enjoy a quiet warm bath with candlelight and aroma therapy as a time out gift to yourself. Schedule a massage and a pedicure at the end of the week.
- Instead of rushing around trying to find the perfect gifts to buy, make gifts for friends and relatives with the recipients in mind. For example, make a batch of Aunt Sally’s favorite peanut butter cookies or make jams and preserves for your friend Karen who loves to cook.
- If you do go to the mall for gift shopping, give yourself enough time to shop at a slow pace, or use the opportunity to walk a few times around the mall to get some exercise, which we often tend to not get as much of during the winter months. Or, my personal favorite is to let my fingers do the shopping by using catalogs to purchase holiday gifts.
- Breathe. Whenever you start to feel overwhelmed by the To Do’s of the season, stop where you are and take deep breaths in and out. The benefits of simple breath exercises are incredible.
- Make the most of time with family and ask your family elders to share stories about holidays from their youth. Life is a collection of memories, and while technology can store countless photos, few things can compare to the time honored tradition of stories handed down between generations to make you slow down and appreciate the past and present.
- If the thought of addressing holiday cards in December stresses you out, consider outsourcing this task. There are companies that will choose your holiday cards, address them and mail them for you with just a few clicks on the computer. If that’s too impersonal for you, consider sending New Year’s cards after the busiest weeks are over, when you can also benefit from holiday discounts.
- Let go of unrealistic expectations when it comes to other people’s behavior. We often place additional high expectations on friends, family, co-workers and even strangers during the holidays. We expect people to be constantly cheerful and to act as we think they should act. Remember that we don’t know what struggles other people may be enduring, and we can neither possess nor control anyone.
- Each morning, write a gratitude list consisting of five things you are grateful for that day. Reflecting on what we have helps us release some of those unrealistic expectations that revolve around the things in life that do not really matter as much.
By simplifying your life and managing expectations during this time of the year, you can focus on what is really important: family, community, compassion and togetherness. By taking the focus off of the hustle, bustle and the commercialism of the holidays, we help reduce the stress in our lives, and learn to enjoy a stress-free holiday season that is full of meaning and memories.