Are you already stressing about the holidays? It’s no wonder since Christmas decorations were up in August! Back in the days before the internet, before a hundred shopping stores within 20 miles, and being inundated with advertising before Halloween, we used to have an actual holiday season. Many of us looked forward to the few weeks of hustle and bustle before the holidays. We knew when to put the decorations up and Christmas came after Thanksgiving. The festive music, the Salvation Army bell ringers, the smell of fresh gingerbread cookies, and seeing people out shopping with actual smiles on their faces. And for me the first snowfall was a sign of cozy nights to come by the fire and a hot cocoa after a day of shopping.
What the heck happened? Well a lot. Life got busier we’re doing more at work, and then there are endless responsibilities at home. Crowded parking lots, long lines, overbooked calendars, kid concerts, family in town, less money, less time, overspending, and overindulging can get to all of us. There are more ways to shop, and more ways to hear about how to shop!
There’s nothing wrong with a good sale or finding that perfect gift but the pressure and stress of the holidays can be overwhelming at times. If you could alleviate some of that tension or anxiety it would be a great thing for you and and good thing for everyone around you.
Tips on how to manage your stress and reduce that holiday anxiety
- See stress for what it is. The first step is to admit you have it! Viewing normal life events as uncontrollable, personal attacks “wires” you to produce more and more cortisol, drive up your blood pressure, and jeopardize your health. But seeing normal life events as — well, normal — enables your body to “come down” from stressful situations more quickly and stop the vicious stress cycle before it gets out of control.
- Eat, drink, and be merry — within reason. The holidays are meant for celebration, not overindulgence.
- Exercise for your sanity’s sake. When the stress seems overwhelming, take an exercise break. Just 30 minutes a day — a brisk walk alone or with your dog, a run on the treadmill, or strength training — gives you a powerful tool to fend off stress. Exercise not only helps you manage weight and is good for your body, but it can help you de-stress and clear your mind. And with a clear mind, you can make better decisions about what’s good for you this holiday season.
- Rein in the shopping. Instead of searching out the latest gadget or this year’s “must have” toy…stop: you don’t have to add to the national debt or indulge everyone’s whim. Limit your gift-giving to an important few. Stay home and shop on the Internet. Or go to the mall at the least busy times. Better yet, give the gift that everyone treasures: time. Plan a family vacation, treat friends to dinner, take a little one to a favorite museum. Memories are not found in things, but in the time you spend with those you care about most.
- Give unto others. Smile at a store clerk, donate food and clothing, help at the homeless shelter, wrap presents for children who would otherwise have none. Take the focus off yourself and put the spotlight on someone else. Caring for another bonds you to humanity in a way like no other—and keeps your feet on the ground. Pay it forward.
- Get the attitude of gratitude. Make a list of everything you’re grateful for and add to it every day. It doesn’t have to be big, just meaningful. Holding a puppy or kitten, seeing a stellar sunset, giving someone a hand, keeping your sanity — just be thankful for the opportunity to live!
- Make it real. Even though Hollywood and Madison Avenue might wish it to be so, Christmas is not about creating the perfect family holiday. It’s about enjoying what’s here and now. Keep expectations real, and don’t try to solve long-simmering issues at the family dinner. Allow your gathering to have its own life—whatever that may be.
- Take time for yourself. Taking care of yourself helps you to take better care of others in your life. Go for a walk or take time out to read or listen to your favorite music. By slowing down you will actually have more energy to accomplish your goals. Go get that massage or facial that you keep putting off. You always look better on the outside when you feel better on the inside.