It's that time of year again. Big puffy jackets are now necessary and it takes 25 minutes to get kids out the door. The radio is playing non-stop holiday music and the stores are packed full of deal seekers. If you're anything like me, this season can be delightful. I'm talking holiday lights folks. I'm all about the pretty lights! But it can also be overwhelming. I thought it might be helpful to share 7 ways to beat holiday stress:
1. Do not go broke attempting to buy gifts for every person you know. As a therapist and a human on this planet, I know that finances can be a large source of stress. The holiday season has become a commercialized way to pressure us into gift giving and ultimately a way to attack our sense of selves. Have you ever caught yourself thinking, "Well if I don't give so and so a gift, they'll feel left out or feel like I don't love them." Since when does love equal extravagant gifts? If you feel like being generous go for it but don't do so at the expense of your sanity or your financial stability.
2. Don't put undue pressure on yourself to be "jolly" all the time. No one should be expected to be happy, joyful, and excited all of the time. The holiday season is not an exception to that rule. It's okay to still have emotional swings during this time. It's okay to prioritize yourself and your needs. If that means stepping away from the family card game for 20 minutes because you're feeling overwhelmed, then do it!
3. In that same vein, don't expect others to be as excited as you may be about this time of year. Remember we all have varying experiences that influence the lens in which we view things, including this season.
4. Realize that some things are out of your control. I know, I know, this is a hard one for me too! We obsess and worry about every little detail and think that will make everything perfect, it won't and no one will care that it isn't perfect. Things like weather, traffic, or other people are examples of things we simply cannot control. Instead of stressing over these things, give yourself permission to let go.
5. There are things you can control. Your boundaries, your mental processing, your behavioral responses to stress, and your mindfulness are just a few things you can control. By focusing on what you can control, you become not only less stressed overall but you become more empowered!
6. Use your 5 senses when you're feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Don't laugh at me just let, let me explain. Find a quiet place (you can do this even in a crowded room) and take some deep breathes. Then notice a color in the room. How many things in the room can you find that are that color? How about smell? Do you smell aunt Sandy's burned fruit cake? Can you smell apple pie or pine needles? Take a minute and really focus on how that smell makes you feel. Find something to touch, like the Christmas tree. Find something to taste, like a holiday cookie. Find something to listen to, the kids running around and laughing. Spend 1 or 2 minutes really focusing on each sense. This will have a physiological change on your body. It will lower your heart rate, increase your blood flow and lower your blood pressure. This can reduce your feeling of being overwhelmed, panicked or anxious. Give it a try.
7. Ask for some help! It's okay to realize that you might just need someone to help you get through the holidays. It could be asking a significant other to remind you to prioritize yourself or maybe you and a sibling strike up an alliance. That might mean you finally make that counseling appointment you've been putting off.
Remember that this season doesn't last forever but good solid self-care can be a skill that can help you for a lifetime. Give some of these tips a try!