It’s supposed to be “The most wonderful time of the year”, but we all know that the holiday season can also bring undue stress. With schedules becoming more overloaded and hectic than ever before, holiday pressure becomes compounded to the point where everyone seems frazzled. And yet, we can’t seem to stop the seasonal stress! Managing overload is an ongoing process for all of us – here are a few strategies that I’ve developed over the years:
- Think carefully about your priorities. What do you most value doing this time of year? What are your traditions – and do you really enjoy them? It can be easy to do things out of obligation or just because “That’s what you do”. If you stop and identify the things you most love about the holiday season, it allows you to focus on things that are rewarding and cut out anything that isn’t necessary. There are some things that are non-negotiable parts of Christmas for me (Like having a tree) and other things that are fun, but won’t derail the holiday if they don’t happen (Like making a gingerbread house). Make sure that whatever you’re spending time on is truly important to you!
- Say “No” when necessary – even if it breaks with tradition. This is really difficult for me to do, and not just during the holidays. I don’t like letting people down, and I don’t want to miss out on anything myself. But after years of pushing myself to the breaking point, I’m slowly embracing “No”. For example, I’m known for hosting epic Halloween parties every year – a tradition that began when I was 19 and has continued to this day. But I had to take a few years off from doing it when work and health issues made it impossible for me to throw my usual shindig. It was a big disappointment to everyone – most of all, me! – but after having a break, I was able to come back with Halloween parties that were better than ever!
- Don’t be afraid of change. The one constant in life is change, and the holidays can be an emotional reminder of this. As the years go by, families grow, move around, and bring new ideas and ways of celebrating into the fold. This can often be a bone of contention, so if you’re struggling with this, one thing that is helpful is to try and focus on the new traditions that are being created rather than dwelling on how things used to be. And if you remember point #1, you can make sure that you’re still observing what matters to you – regardless of whether your siblings still want to open their presents at midnight or not.
- Accept that the season will have speedbumps no matter what – and try to see the funny side! Pies will be burnt, ornaments will break, and Uncle Steve will have too much Wassail before caroling. Accept the fact now that not everything will go to plan over the holidays – and try to laugh off the ridiculousness whenever possible!
For more ideas on managing holiday pressure, you might want to check out Molina Healthcare’s article, “Tips to Handle Stress“, which outlines more coping strategies – for the holidays, and beyond!