The holidays are upon us and instead of leisurely sipping eggnog around the fireplace, we find ourselves in a frenzy trying to get all too many things done in anticipation of that one perfect, albeit elusive holiday moment.
Despite expectations, holidays are a time when many of us end up so stressed and overworked, the joy is completely lost. Nonetheless, the holidays really should be about family, friends, renewal, and even fun.
As we all know, achieving any dream is not magic, it is mostly hard work. It is worth it though, otherwise we wouldn’t go at it so hard year after year. A little bit of balance and planning can go a long way toward de-stressing the holidays and making at least some of those holiday dreams a reality. Here are some tactics to help you deal with the pressures of the holiday season.
Prioritize, organize and simplify. Sit down and think about your goals. What do you really want out of the holidays? What do you need? What does your family want and need? Don’t make assumptions. Talk about it. Needs and expectations change as children grow and family networks variously shrink and expand. Disgruntled family members mean stress for all.
Establish your budget realistically and conservatively. There is pressure from every direction to overspend during the holidays. But spending now with the knowledge you will still be paying it off this time next year can zap every bit of the joy out of the season. Be realistic and be honest. Set your budget and stick to it. Despite what advertisers want you to think, the reason for the season is not to spend as much money as possible.
Schedule your Time.
Be just as realistic about your time as you are about your money. Cooking big meals may not be practical. Use convenience foods or pre-cooked options to round out your holiday table. Don’t be afraid to ask others to pitch in. Do your shopping online instead of at the mall, and have the gifts delivered. Realistically decide which invitations you will accept and which ones you will not. Discuss priorities openly with friends and family members. Reevaluate and reduce you commitments to bring them in line with manageable reality.
Remember to Relax.
It is easy to forget your everyday good habits during holidays. The stress and frenzy of the season can quickly take its toll. None of us want to be that horrible relative who always manages to spoil the fun for everyone else. Be consciously aware of your stress and fatigue levels. Take a deep breath before you fly off the handle. Learning to keep your cool not only helps reduce the harmful effects of excess stress on your mind and body, it will also help keep stress levels down for all those around you and everybody will be more relaxed and have more fun.
Experts everywhere acknowledge the value of good aerobic exercise in stress reduction and well being. We all know this fact, but often forget it during holidays. Don’t. Even if it is only for a few minutes at a time, incorporate physical exercise into your day. Spend a few minutes on your exer-cycle. Take a quick walk. Take the stairs. Is there dancing at the holiday party? Join the fun. It’s good for you. Get the idea? Holiday or no, make grabbing opportunities for exercise a regular part of your everyday routine.
Watch What you Eat.
Good nutrition is for good health and every day feel-goods. It is easy to load up on junk during holidays, especially when you may not have time for real meals and then face lavish party spreads. The whole process wreaks havoc with your waistline and your health. You slow down, and your disease resistance is compromised. As a result, you can end up run down and sick right in the middle of the festivities. Despite endless yummy temptations, you do need to make certain your body is properly nourished. Grab a piece of fruit instead of dipping into that candy bowl and at the very least remember your vitamins.
Watch your Alcohol Consumption.
Food is not the only holiday temptation. Be aware of your alcohol limit and drink responsibly. A season of festivities can be draining in more than one way. Pace yourself, especially if you have a round of parties to attend. Even a couple drinks can reduce your energy level the next day, and if you have a heavy schedule, you may want to go pass on the alcohol altogether. You can count on a hangover spoiling the next day completely, and if you have plans with others, it may be more than your own day that is spoiled. Needless to say, if you are an alcoholic, holidays are not the time to skip AA meetings.
Get Adequate Rest.
Sometimes easier said than done, since the holidays can be a true frenzy. There are gifts to buy and wrap, cards to send, parties to attend, parties to throw, houses to clean, meals to cook and in the middle of all this, most of us still have jobs to do, kids to take care of and families that need our attention. Just thinking about it can make you tired, but fatigue and overwork impair judgment, and shorten tempers. It will wear you out physically and emotionally. And the lovely holiday you were working so hard to create can be dashed by hurt feelings exacerbated by stress induced snipping. Don’t be ashamed to take a nap. And don’t be ashamed to admit that you need one. Quiet relaxing moments may need to be scheduled. They are essential to your well-being and to a happy holiday season.
Practice Realistic Acceptance.
In all this welter of do’s and don’ts, realize there are some things (and people) you will never be able to change. You will be a lot calmer if you can realistically accept, what is unchangeable. Holiday get-togethers are not the place to vent over past wrongs.
Emotional Well Being.
Attend to your emotional needs. For many reasons holiday occasions often reopen old wounds. We all experience loss in our lives, and the season can make a recent divorce or death in the family seem unbearable. Take active measures to take care of yourself. Go to your place of worship. Attend to your spirituality. Although it may sound quaint today, attending a religious service can be very healing. Beyond that, talk about what bothers you. Vent your rage. If for whatever reason, you cannot talk about it to a friend or family member, get a therapist or call a telephone counseling line. There is a free one in most cities. Keeping a journal is one of the oldest forms of therapy, and it too is free. Attending to your emotional needs does not mean spilling your guts at the holiday table, it means finding a safe place for support and using it when needed.
Make Peace with Yourself.
This is not a luxury, it t is a necessity. Time-honored methods of nourishing body and soul include; prayer, yoga, meditation, Tai Chi and devotions. On a daily basis, it is one of the best things you can do to maintain both your serenity and your sanity. Even if you only have a few minutes to do it, make peace with yourself every day.
Remember, no matter what day you celebrate, the holiday season is indeed a season. Prepare to take care of yourself throughout. Schedule time to exercise and relax each day, even if it is only for a few brief moments. Be aware of other’s needs as well. Be especially aware if anyone close to you has suffered a great loss in the recent past. In many ways the holidays, which are widely heralded as times of great joy, are also times of great sorrow. That too can be overwhelming. Take deep relaxing breaths when you feel emotions rising or tempers flaring. Above all, do not take everything personally. Realize that under stress (and yes the holidays are stressful) people often say things they normally would not. Do not let them get to you and you will all feel better for it. Take care of yourself and the ones you love.
Have a peaceful stress free holiday.
Regina Pickett Garson edits and publishes Magic Stream www.magicstream.org -- which is among the earliest online self-help and wellness resources. She teaches at Virginia College in Huntsville, Alabama.