(because no holiday is stress free) Thanksgiving is in less than one week, which means the December holidays are around the corner. For some, the holidays can be an enjoyable time to see family, friends, and participate in traditions that they have grown to love year after year. For others, particularly if there has been a big change or loss in life, the holidays may feel confusing, empty, and stressful. Either way, one thing that does not get enough attention during the holiday season is focusing on you! Self-care is one of the first things to go during a busy holiday season, although if you can honor your self-care, you will reduced stress while celebrating your holidays. Here are 8 steps towards a reduced stress holiday.
What do you want to do? Many clients tell me they have never asked themselves this question! Have you? What do you want to do on the holidays or during the holiday season? Do you want to spend your Christmas driving to several relatives’ homes, sitting down for your second meal of the day when you are already thinking about how much time it takes you to get to your next destination? Do you want to spend your time baking for the school bake sale or waiting in lines at the stores for the perfect gift? This may come as a surprise, but you do not have to! You deserve to spend the holiday season however you would like.
Did you over-do it last year? (or the year before?) Do you find yourself drained after the holidays wondering how you agreed to so many commitments at once? Do you wonder every year how this happened again? People agree to several commitments throughout the holiday season (which thanks to retail starts much earlier) ranging from seeing family and friends, volunteering, bake sales, committees at work, potlucks, and I am sure you can name at least 5 more commitments here. Take a breath, return to the first question, and ask yourself how you want to spend your holiday season. The next step may be even harder, but you can do it!
Set a boundary! Once you identify how it is you want to spend your holidays and what you want to commit to or pass on, you will have to set a boundary. Often people shy away from boundary setting because even the word boundary has a bad rep. Maybe you do not want to hurt someone’s feelings or it is a hard decision to make and you have certain feelings about it. Although, you may anticipate the response to be much different (and often more negative) than the response actually is. Also, setting a boundary is a positive thing. It shows you know your limits and are taking care of yourself so that you are able to do all that other fun stuff. Plus, maybe you are inspiring others in your life to do the same.
Use clear communication! Some boundaries might be easier, but others might involve some prep time. If possible, speak in person or over the phone (Skip the texting)! Identify your intention as you are preparing to set a limit. Don’t get caught up in the story as often this loses your audience and can create misunderstandings. You want your message to be heard in the way you intend it to, so use “I statements.” Once you set your boundary, you may have to work on keeping the boundary. Remind yourself of what you want to do and your intention and stick to it!
Carve out time for yourself! After all this hard work in determining what you want and setting boundaries, you deserve some time for yourself! What do you like to do to entertain yourself? Do you have hobbies such as reading or writing? Do you like to meditate or go for a hike? Binge watching a new series on netflix? Making hot chocolate and watching the Polar Express? This is a short list, but there is always something you can do for yourself.
Get moving! Gobble Wobble, Turkey Trot, Jingle Bells – All of these 5Ks are advertised around the holiday not just because they have cute and catchy names. Exercise and moving your body is good for you! Figure out how you like to move your body and get your endorphins going. Maybe running or walking isn’t your thing, but how about yoga, zumba, or just a few quick body exercises at home? Exercise is proven to improve your mood and reduce stress, which we all need during the holiday season.
Slow it back down! Did you read my post last month on Mindfulness? Try to slow things down and be in the present to enjoy the holiday season. Some meaningful mindfulness exercises that can be enjoyable around the holidays are kindness, recognizing accomplishments, breathing, and connecting with others.
Re-set your expectations! Instead of having such high expectations of pleasing everyone throughout the holidays, recognize that this is not possible. Instead, if you notice yourself experiencing emotions such as guilt, sadness, or blame try to replace it with self-compassion. Try to understand a little bit more about where you are coming from. Validate your feelings and honor them. If you try to introduce self-compassion in your life and make it part of your self-care routine, you will notice reduced stress. As I said above, no holiday season is completely stress free, but you have the control to reduce the stress and enjoy the holiday season in the way that you want to!