6 Tips to Manage Stress and Achieve Holiday Bliss
I love the holidays.
The crisp air, the excitement of family gatherings and making memories with my kids. It all seems so perfect and Norman Rockwell-esque in my head and then…reality sets in and I’m thinking about making gift lists, planning what I will bring to those family gatherings, shopping and wrapping presents, the crowds in the stores, shipping times for ordering online and on…and on…and on. It’s stressful! And all I really want to do is slow down and enjoy the season and all of the wonderful things it brings.
Now, I’m a planner. I like to have a step-by-step plan all laid out and I like to check things off my list…kind of like Santa. But as hard as I try, I always seem to get behind and that makes for late nights and little sleep and one cranky mama. Definitely NOT Norman Rockwell.
I’ve decided this year is going to be different. So I’ve put together a list of 6 tips to help me and you both have a great holiday season with a lot less stress and a lot more joy. Let’s get to it!
It’s OK to say No
What?! Who said? I know. It’s SO hard to say no, isn’t it? Especially at the holidays when you want to make time for everyone in your life. But sometimes, you just have to say no. It doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad friend. It means you’re in control of your time and you’re sticking to your plan and your priorities like a boss.
If a friend, neighbor, co-worker, etc. catches you off guard to schedule a get-together you hadn’t planned on, it’s OK to say no…at least for now. Let her know you’d love to but you’ve already got plans and would love to catch up after the holidays when both your schedules free up a bit. Then follow up and set a date. She will understand! Wouldn’t you?
And while we’re at it, don’t try to get to every holiday activity offered in your area. This time of year, there are so many fun activities going on, it’s tempting to try to squeeze it all in, but don’t. You’re just asking for crazy stress-out time if you do. Instead, pick your favorites and put those on the calendar as must-do’s. If you later find you have time to add to your calendar, go ahead and do it. Just remember, you don’t have to do ALL the holiday things to have a great holiday.
This is the crazy planner in me coming out, but if you plan your to-do list ahead of time, and make notes about when you’d like to have certain things done, you will stay on track and are WAY more likely to actually accomplish most, if not all, of what is on your list.
Start with the non-negotiables like “Christmas Day at home” or “Christmas dinner with the in-laws.” Things you know for sure will happen on a certain day at a certain time. Then add in your to-do’s to get ready for those things. For instance, if I know I want to have all my shopping done by December 15th (this is never me by the way, I’m always doing last-minute shopping), I would put on the calendar “Finish Shopping” on the 15th. Then, to make that happen, I’ll go backwards and mark another day as “Halfway done with shopping” and I’ll put a “Start Shopping” date on the calendar also. You can change this to whatever works for you, but you get the idea. This type of plan allows me to see how far along I should be by what date and most importantly, stay on track so I don’t run out of time and have a meltdown.
It might help to first make a list of all the things you have to/need to/want to do during the holiday season, then weed out the non-essentials. This helps you prioritize. Then you can add all the really important stuff to your calendar so you don’t miss a beat. Boom.
This is a tough one. It always seems like there’s more holiday than money to cover it all. Whatever your budget is, you need to prioritize and stick to it! You will be far less stressed if you’re not worrying about money on top of everything else.
Start by making a list of all your holiday gift recipients. Then put a dollar amount next to each person for the amount you’d ideally like to spend (don’t forget about gift exchanges at work/church, neighbors, your mail carrier and your furry family members if you plan to buy for them). When you get to the end, add it all up. If you’ve exceeded your budget, go back and adjust the amounts and, if needed, remove some people (or maybe those furry friends?).
The last few years I have used an app called Gift List. I LOVE this for planning and completing my shopping. I can put in my budget for each person, make an individual shopping list and as I buy things, I cross them off and my remaining budget is adjusted. You can also mark when the gifts are wrapped to make sure you don’t forget anything.
Anyone else stash gifts in “great hiding places” then forget about them?
Another thing to remember when it comes to your budget is that it’s not just about the gifts. There will likely be additional grocery expenses for special meals, a new dress for a holiday party, or maybe you have a kiddo who needs new shoes for those family photos. Make a list of these items also and determine a set amount to spend in advance so there are no money surprises to knock you off your game.
I know what you’re thinking…yeah right! Who can find quiet time in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season? YOU can. The thing is, you have to make it a priority.
This will be different for everyone. Some people might only need 5 minutes once a week. Some might need 5 minutes once a day and others might need 5 minutes once an hour. You have to figure out what’s right for you, but the trick is to put it on the calendar and stick to it! If you write it down, you’re more likely to make it a priority.
You deserve a few minutes to yourself just to just breathe and relax and ENJOY the season. Try sitting down somewhere quiet where you can be alone with your thoughts even if only for a few minutes. Relax. Take some deep breaths. Heck, put some Christmas music on! If you absolutely have to do some planning during this time, go ahead and do it. The point is to get away for just a moment to reflect on and congratulate yourself for all the awesome things you’ve already accomplished and remember what the season is really about to avoid unnecessary stress.
Let go of perfectionism
I’m a perfectionist so this is really hard for me. Sometimes I think “If it’s not going to be perfect, why do anything at all?” Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? But to my internal monologue it seems to make sense.
So, I am making a commitment this holiday season to let go of my perfectionist expectations. I will remember that the holidays are not about me (not just me anyway), it’s not about projecting the perfect image to others on social media and it’s OK to be “good enough” rather than perfect. Wow. I feel so much better just getting it out of my head.
The thing is, by taking the weight of being perfect off my shoulders, and adjusting my expectations, I know I will be able to let go of unrealistic expectations and focus on what’s really important to me during the holidays – making memories with my family.
Indulge in moderation
As you may have seen from my other posts, my family and I are working on making healthier food choices. Both in the quality of food we eat and the kinds of food we eat. Think low carb. My daughter is a Type 1 diabetic and we don’t treat her any different when it comes to food. When we eat dinner, we eat the same foods and we believe low-carb is a healthy lifestyle for all of us.
Now, just to quickly debunk a diabetes myth, Type 1 diabetics CAN eat sugar. They can eat as much sugar as they want as long as they treat with insulin. So rest assured, if you ever see a diabetic indulging in a sweet treat – YES! They can have that. And it’s very likely that it’s a rare treat for them, so no judging, please.
Now, back to my point. When we have healthy habits and stick to them, especially when it’s really hard to do so (like at the holidays), we feel so good! There are many days I’d like to eat ice cream for dinner but instead I choose a protein and some veggies instead. Sure, I’d rather have the ice cream, but after I eat my scrumptious meal…and I’m not ravenously hungry…I’m glad I went with the good-for-me grub.
So this holiday season, don’t leave your healthy habits in the dust. If you’ve been working out or sticking to a healthy meal plan, make it a priority to stay on track most of the time. It’s perfectly OK to indulge on those special occasions. And you SHOULD indulge to keep yourself from feeling deprived or like you’re missing out. Confession time…on very rare occasions I do eat that ice cream for dinner. So what?! I get back on track the next day. It’s a marathon not a sprint, amiright?
These are my top tips for beating holiday stress this year. Whether you decide to implement all of them or none, I hope you do take time to slow down even for just a minute to reflect on a year well lived and enjoy the season with those you love most. Remember, today is the only today you’ll ever have. Focus on what is really important and the rest will fall in line. Many blessings this holiday season!