It’s that time of year when you want beat the stress, confront overwhelm, and actually sit back and enjoy the holidays. But face it. The holidays can be a roller coaster of a month. You’ll get excited then stressed and then excited again. Or perhaps you might feel a little blue this time of year. And then after several intense weeks of shopping, parties, family gatherings, and travel, it all ends on January 2 during the darkest days of the year. And then? It’s back to the daily grind. No wonder this time of year all makes us go a little crazy!
Wouldn’t you love to ditch the stress and instead take in a little more joy?
I’ve pulled together a guide to help you through this time so you can come out in early January feeling better than last year. Even if you feel swept up into the holidays, there are things you can do to design your time around what works best for you.
Here are 16 Tips to Beat the Stress, Learn to Relax, and Truly Enjoy the Holiday Season in your way.
Embrace what you love about the holidays
Tip #1: Focus on what’s really important
What do you really want to do during the holiday season? It is easy to get swept up in what we think should do or what others think. Make a list of what you want to do and what you want to get out of the holidays (write it out!) and then make to plan to implement. Remember you can have your own special relationship with this season,
Tip #2: Find the joy and practice gratitude
It can be easy to focus on what you don’t have. Sometimes, the holidays can magnify those aspects of your life that let you down. If you’ve lost someone you love, the holidays can be especially hard. Focusing on where you are grateful will remind you what’s going well. And the science shows it will help you feel better. Here are some tips for how to practice gratitude.
Tip #3: Connect with people in a meaningful way
The reason we can get so excited about the holidays is because we yearn to connect with family and friends. Seek opportunities to have that special connection even if just for a few minutes. You might find that a little one-to-one time with a treasured family member or friend can do wonders for your spirit.
Tip #4: Give back to someone else
If you are feeling a little bit like a Grinch around the holiday period, focus on someone else. Helping others can lift your mood and help put your own struggles into perspective. And take this beyond gift giving! Do someone else a favor. Help someone who feels overwhelmed. Be there for someone who needs you. Finally, consider volunteering. There are a lot of different charities and causes that have efforts to help the season feel merrier to the less fortunate.
Keep it simple
Tip #5: DO less – enjoy more
December is often a crammed month. We work hard to meet end-of-the-year deadlines but then we also shop, cook, prepare, travel, and more. Take a close look at your schedule. Deliberately plan to do less. Cramming too much in isn’t going to make you feel better. Simple schedules will allow you be more present and in the moment.
Tip #6: “Unschedule” what you don’t like about the holidays
Rhere could be are a few things you’d just assume avoid during the holidays. Do you find yourself dreading holiday parties? Would do you anything to avoid holiday stopping? Is there a family event you’d just assume skip? Consider what options you have to unschedule what really drains you over the holidays. If something is unavoidable, see how you can make the experience better.
Tip #7: Say No When It’s Too Much
This is the season where there is often too much on your plate. In truth, you have a three-week month. And during that time you have work, gift giving, family time, traveling, and usually a few more obligations than what is normally on your schedule. There is temptation to say yes and yes and yes. If you are a people pleaser you are really going to overwhelm yourself. Note when you are over-committing and over-scheduling and give yourself an out to preserve your sanity.
Tip #8: Don’t sweat the small stuff
Let’s face it. Things are most likely not going to be perfect. We’ve all experienced those family dinners that do not resemble a Hallmark card. More often than not, the idea of Christmas morning is more enticing than what actually happens. If your house is a little cluttered (and company is about to arrive), consider letting that go. If the food isn’t perfect, remember you aren’t Martha Stewart. If the gift you gave your mom what you basically gave her last year, give it a laugh. Unless you have a personal assistant, some things will be sub-par.
Tip #9: Pick your Battles
Being close to family over the holidays can bring out the best and the worst in us. When we get with our families – our parents and siblings – we sometimes revert to our childhood roles. Togetherness can mean family starts to rub each other the wrong way. Work to be less reactive and notice when you are triggered. It is more often than not worth be drawn into recycled arguments and discussions that only leave everyone feeling depleted,
Tip #10: Stress less about the gifts
There is so much pressure to give gifts and then even more pressure to find that perfect gift. In the end, (most) people don’t remember what you even give. And the financial pressure can be tough. The Grinch in you might sometimes wants to throw out gift-giving all together! If gift giving is something you are committed to, find ways to make the practice less stressful. Here are some intentional things you can do to make give-giving less stressful and more enjoyable:
- Set a spending budget: Your bank account needn’t be drained because of the holidays. Be clear in what you want to spend and then commit to limit your spending to the budget.
- Create some fun around shopping: See if you can buffer the shopping madness with making the process more enjoyable for you.
- Plan Ahead: As busy as it is, see if you can plan ahead with your gift giving so you aren’t in a mad rush at the last minute. The up front investment will make the difference.
Tip #11: Set boundaries
With so much family and friend time over the holidays, you can find yourself in situations where you are having an unwanted conversation or being pressured to do something that is against your better judgment. Remember that you can draw a line (even with family) and not return to old patterns. Just because you did something before doesn’t mean you need to do it again.
Tip #12: Manage expectations
Somehow, each year, we think we’ll stay ahead of the curve. December might start slowly enough but before you know it, you have only a week before Christmas and you are rushing around. Remember that December is really a three week month at best. Check in with yourself about what you expect
Use the holidays for a little self-care
Tip #13: Schedule time for you
The holidays are often over scheduled. It is often a lot of togetherness that can be wearing. Deliberately make time for yourself by scheduling it. And then be sure to protect that time as if it were an appointment. You don’t even need a lot of time to recharge. Take a walk. Grab a cup of coffee and read the paper.
Tip #14: Get exercise
When it’s cold outside and there are holiday parties with lots of sugary foods, the last thing you might think about is exercise. Except this is the one time of year when exercise can help you elevate your mood and cope with stress. Exercise can stimulate endorphins which trigger positive feelings. A brisk walk can do wonders.
Tip #15: Find a little light
Remember, December is one of the darkest months of the year. Those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) will want to ease the impact of darkness with a little more time spent outdoor or near a window. Be sure to spend a little time outdoors to get some sun.
Use this time to reflect and look ahead
Tip #16: Get excited about what the new year can bring
When January hits, there is something called Post Holiday Syndrome. Did you know about this? You’ve probably felt it. When all of the activity and energy around the holidays ends, there is a big let down. Facing the daily grind against can feel like a huge let down. Maybe you want to use this time to set new year resolutions so you reset and think about where you can reinvest during the new year. But if you are someone who hates new year’s resolutions the holiday period can be a great time to think about shifts in your life that matter to you.