The holiday season is upon us bringing with it cool winter air, treats galore, maybe a bit more online shopping than previous years, and that comraderie that seems to infect everyone, making people smile more readily (the smiles may just be hidden under masks right now, but they’re there!).
But, there’s a darker side to the holidays with the seasonal stress that can sometimes take over, robbing you of that holiday giddiness and joy. The current year may even add more stress than usual if you or family members were affected by Covid-19 losses. Maybe this year feels a little more daunting than past holidays, and you’d rather just skip it.
Stress happens. Burdens are a part of life. But, how you handle it all is on you. Holidays don’t have to filled with stress. Manage the stress—don’t let it manage you.
Oof, this is a hard one for so many people. Saying, “No” brings with it feelings of guilt and even selfishness. It’s ok to be selfish, though—you, and everyone else around you, need it. Giving yourself permission to say “No” to people allows you to take care of you—the more you fill your bucket, the more you have to give to others. If you wear yourself out by saying “Yes” to everything and everyone, you’ll find the stress levels rising; the anger mounting; and your energy dropping. You are one person, and you can only do so much. If anyone gets upset by your creation of boundaries, that’s on them and something they need to explore. Not you. Boundaries are a necessary part of any healthy, balanced life.
Perfection is Over-Rated
You aren’t perfect. There, I said it. No one is. Life is messy—embrace it! Holiday turkey might be over-done. The wrapping job on your present to your mother might look a mess. Maybe your gingerbread men look more like gingerbread blobs. Kids might throw up on the carpet when you were trying to get ready for a dinner. Life happens, and we just have to laugh at it. Let. It. Go. The more you stress about perfection, the more pressure you pile on; the higher you have to fall if things don’t go right; and the more stress you create. Step back from the idea of making everything perfect and just make it real.
Ask for Help
You aren’t alone. Don’t feel like you have to do everything on your own. Swallow your pride and reach out to friends and family. Maybe asking for help even takes the form of swinging by the grocery store to pick out a pre-made holiday treat to take to your in-laws for dinner, rather than having slaved over one at home in-between work and taking care of the kids and the thousand other things. Reach out to someone and share the load.
Carve out time for yourself—do something that fills your bucket. Go for a walk; schedule a massage; go scream into a pillow—whatever makes you feel a little less stressed and a lot more at ease and relaxed. This is similar to saying “No.” Embrace a little ‘selfishness.’ By filling your bucket, you have more to pour out for others (and more desire to).
Along with perfection, it may be time to let go of traditions that just don’t work right now. So much has changed in our society this year. Maybe there was a job loss, or things are just tighter, or, especially sad, you lost a loved one. This might be a challenging year for you. If you find yourself feeling more and more stressed out about hanging on to a tradition this time of year, examine it closely. It may be time to let go of that specific tradition—and build something new. Maybe instead of gifts this year, your family makes something for each other. Maybe you have a picnic on the living room floor together instead of a full-blown, multi-course holiday meal. Build something new and make this the most special holiday season yet.
Most importantly, remember what the season is about—family. It’s not about arguing over who should have gotten that last parking space; or why the new toy that your child is wanting isn’t on the shelves; or who’s standing too close to you. Create experiences—give calls rather than gifts. When you feel the stress mounting, take a big inhale, hold it for three, and then slowly release. Do this as many times as needed. Just breathe. And remind yourself of what’s important in life. Breathe in the joy. Exhale the stress. You’ve got this—and remember, you aren’t alone.