Guest post by: Jennifer Landis
The holidays can become synonymous with stress, anxiety and exhaustion. Additional hours don’t suddenly appear in the day to accommodate all the extra time it takes to plan, shop, cook, clean and decorate for the year’s festivities.
Each year we promise ourselves it will be different. Each year we set goals to keep our focus on what matters and not get caught up in the details. Each year, though, we still end up stressed.
This year really can be different. The secret is to begin combating holiday stress before it even shows itself. The following tips not only reduce stress, but also help prevent it in the first place.
Make a Schedule, Not a To-Do List
A common habit we have when time runs short is to create a to-do list. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a to-do list, and many people find a lot of satisfaction in crossing completed tasks off.
However, a to-do list is not a guarantee that things will get done, and for many, seeing the number of tasks awaiting them is paralyzing.
Instead, convert your to-do list to a schedule. This has several advantages.
- First, it ensures your goals for the day are attainable, and meeting goals is a stress-reliever.
- Second, a schedule for when each task is going to be completed frees your mind to be present in the moment – even in the midst of completing a task – instead of trying to figure out what you should do next or worrying if everything will be done in time.
Being present in each moment helps relieve current stress and builds up resilience for what stress may be ahead.
Plan Fewer Activities
Entering the holidays without a plan for activities can lead to dragging a tired family from one festivity to the next, driving up the stress levels for everyone involved.
Instead, be strategic about what activities you can manage using the schedule you already created. Start by adding the activities you wish to do. Find information on dates and times so each activity can be placed accurately on the schedule.
Next, add the tasks that would need to be done in order to make each activity happen. We often get excited at the idea of a fun activity and don’t stop to account for all the additional work it creates.
With the entire schedule written out, including all the tasks required to make it happen, it’s easy to see which days are overbooked. As you delete activities and the associated tasks from your schedule, you will feel a sense of relief at the stress you just saved yourself.
Above all else, keep in mind that we remember how people make us feel more than we remember what a person does. So, if you’re stressed and irritated, that’s likely what family and friends will remember about their time with you – even if you planned an amazing activity.
Look Forward to Something
The holidays can trigger depression, stress and irritability, even for those who don’t experience it at other times of the year.
One small but effective way to increase your happiness during the holidays is to look forward to something. Each night before you go to sleep, think of something you are looking forward to in the next day. It can be as simple as a cup of coffee in your favorite chair or baking a yummy dessert with your children.
If there isn’t something that comes to mind, plan something. Think about what would brighten your day, and add it to your schedule so you have something to intentionally look forward to.
You’ll find you’re more likely to wake up in a good mood, and when you start your day happy, you’re more likely to be productive and less stressed.
Take a Hike
It doesn’t have to be an actual hike, although that’s not a bad idea. The point is to leave the house – preferably alone – at least once a day.
Walking, for example, has a set rhythm that has a tranquilizing effect, so even one trip around the block can help soothe your mind.
Not only does the physical activity do wonders for lowering your stress level, it makes you unreachable, and that’s important. Some holiday stress is from feeling you’re on call for every need, desire or problem.
So, plan time on the schedule when someone else is in charge. Actually marking it down is important, even if it is only 10 minutes. Not only does this ensure you will get the needed time, it also gives you something to look forward to when times are especially hectic.
Waiting until you feel the effects of holiday stress makes it twice as hard to combat. Instead, create a plan to prevent seasonal stress and enjoy your holidays as they were meant to be.