Welcome to the season of stress! It’s time to buy the gifts and prepare the feasts. There are cookies to bake, a house to clean and decorate, and even more invitations and obligations. We have to roast the turkey and hang the lighted icicles. From late November all the way through to New Years Day, our to-do lists are completely out of control. All of us, especially women who are often called on to be the managers of this busy holiday season, feel overwhelmed, stressed and not particularly joyful. But how do you slow down and enjoy the beauty of the season when there is soooo much to do?
Here are eight tips to help you take care of yourself and actually enjoy the beauty of the season. Unlike some writers, I don’t suggest that you “simplify by choosing just one color to decorate the whole house” or “make holiday decorations from old pallets, straws and fresh cranberries you picked yourself. ” Who has time for that? Instead consider these questions and make intentional choices about what you and your family will say yes to this holiday season.
1. Take a moment to consider what task/event/activity/person in your holiday is the most crazy-making. What (or who) is guaranteed to send you right over the edge? Baking four different pies so everyone has their favorite? (Been there. Done that.) Spending days at the crowded shopping mall or hours online looking for the best deal? Listening to the political rants of Uncle Ernie at the dinner table? Figure out that crazy maker and ditch it this year. Plan ahead and choose not to participate in the crazy. Buy the pies at a local bakery. Shop minimally or not at all (see #3). Head for the kid’s table or help in the kitchen when Uncle holds forth. The holiday will go on.
2. Ask what matters. Ask yourself. Ask your family what they enjoy. What are the events you love attending – that touch your heart and soul? What small touches matter more than the time consuming search for perfection? What matters – and even more – what doesn’t? Be satisfied with good enough. Years ago, my family stated that they actually liked the canned cranberry sauce better than homemade and that frozen rolls were just as good under the gravy. And that way I had time to join in – watching the parade on Thanksgiving and joining in the family board games. That’s what matters.
3. If money is a stressor - and for most people it is one of the biggest - have the talk now. Talk to your spouse, your family, yourself. Set a real budget and create a game plan. Find local freebies – a walk through a decorated downtown, a hike to find holly for decorating. Declare it a $10 Christmas with no presents that cost more than ten dollars. Or a “presents for children only” Christmas. Or a shopping free holiday. One year, because of some difficult circumstances, a friend arrived at our home on Christmas Eve to spend a couple of nights with us. Obviously, there was no time for shopping, so I wrapped a couple of my favorite books and re-gifted a scarf that wasn’t my style or color but would look wonderful on my friend. Be creative. Give time instead of gifts. Most of us have something we are good at (baking, gardening, plumbing, wood working, cleaning, music). Make up a ticket and offer your services for a present or even better offer to teach someone a new skill. You could have a lot of fun and end up without the holiday debt hangover.
4. Say no. Get a big red “NO” button and keep it on your desk. Just because it’s happening doesn’t mean that you have to go. Be intentional. Make choices about where you choose to spend your time and money. Give yourself permission or power or whatever you need to say no to the things you don’t enjoy. Sometimes you even need to say no to something you usually enjoy – if it’s the fifth event of the week and you’re just plain tired. It’s okay to say no, stay home, have a cup of cocoa and put your feet up.
5. Ask for help. Let someone else do the work. Counter intuitive to #2 but if Uncle Joe has to have the triple layer chocolate cake for your holiday dinner, find a local bakery and just buy the thing. You don’t even have to tell him! Find a friend and swap chores. You like to clean up the yard and hang outdoor lights. She likes to bake. Offer a trade. Enlist family members. Shared work usually ends in shared joy and laughter.
6. Make like REI and #OptOutside. There’s nothing like a walk outdoors, whether it’s a hike in the mountains or a walk to see the neighborhood lights, to help you breathe and de-stress. Plan some outdoor activities to disconnect from the commercial overload and find the peace nature provides. Get outside and play.
7. Practice gratitude. Remember that much of the stress of our holidays comes from abundance – something many people in our world do not know. As we painfully watch and worry over the difficulties in our global world, remember that we have so much to be grateful for. Most of us live in homes with heat and plenty of hot clean running water. Our refrigerators are full to overflowing with more than we need. Be grateful for each moment, for each shared joy, for each simple cup of tea.
8. Practice authentic giving. Not just for your family but for the world. Instead of giving another wool sweater as a gift, contribute to a cause your loved one cares about. Give to a local food bank and then take some time to educate yourself on the causes and culture of poverty in your area. Spend an hour with your children picking up litter and trash in your neighborhood. Take your old towels to an animal shelter Assess what changes you can make to be part of the solution to the problems our world faces.
Make self-care and authentic giving a priority this year and allow yourself to experience the full joy of the holiday season. What other tips would you offer to de-stress and de-commercialize this holiday season? Share them with us here or on our facebook page.
Anita Flowers is a Board Certified career and life coach at Blue Sage Career Strategies. A little different than most life coaches, Anita’s background in clinical psychology and years of experience as a counselor gives her a rich understanding of human development and family dynamics. Her work history includes 13 years working with an international business company and 12 years doing individual and family counseling as well as career counseling. This blend of counseling and business experience gives Anita a unique perspective on the world of work and life. Anita works with people literally all over the world to help them discover a life and career they love. Contact Anita here to get started on your new career and life!