Rewind to October 31st, and journey with me into my local liquor store. I ask the man inside where I can find their assortment of pumpkin beer. He informs me that they’re all out and the Christmas beer is in already. Whaaaat? First of all, Christmas beer?? Second of all, on October 31st? I just stumbled out of the store, sans pumpkin beer, dumbfounded.
The truth is, the holidays are coming. We’re reminded of this every time we walk into a store. For some, this is the best news ever. For others, the thought of the approaching holidays is like your very own catapult into a state of frenzied stress. Yet, you don’t want it to be that way and every year you tell yourself, “I’m not going to get stressed out. I’m going to enjoy the holidays this year. I really am.” But then the party invites start arriving, the extended family announces they’re coming, and Pinterest invades your computer to steal your joy with the countless perfect lookin,g but time-sucking ideas. Before you know it, you’re drowning once again in a pool of stress, and it’s not even December yet.
I wouldn’t be writing about this if I wasn’t at all familiar with holiday stress, so when I offer up these tips, please know, I AM A WORK IN PROGRESS too. These are simply a few thoughts that have helped us to better navigate the holidays with intentionality, meaning, and connection:
Pause, reflect, and be present
This is easier said than done, believe me, I know. But I hold onto this little phrase like a lost puppy during the holidays, repeating it just about every day throughout the season. Sometimes just a good pause is all we need to reset ourselves.
Identify your stressors
What takes you down during the holidays? What things historically cause you the most stress? – overscheduling, to-do list, money, family, loss/grief, conflicting traditions etc… Identifying your stressors makes it easier to navigate them or better yet, remove them altogether.
Communicate those stressors with someone close to you
Having someone know what your stressors are, creates a space for you to turn to that person mid-December and let them know you’re freaking out. It also invites some accountability for you. This proves particularly helpful if, say, your stressor is that you spend too much money during the holidays. Your loving friend can walk your booty back to Target when you tell her you just went on a spending binge.
Identify your go-to stress relievers
I call this, “back pocket stress relief.” For me it often involves a candle, a breath, and a prayer. For you it may be a bath, a massage, or a glass of wine with a friend. Whatever helps you feel a bit more relaxed in the midst of stress, identify it and have it ready to go this holiday season.
Know what you value during the holiday season
Discuss hopes, expectations, and schedule with family
I am talking about calling a family meeting to give everyone an opportunity to weigh in on this. What is most important to them? To you? For example, if rest is important to you, perhaps avoid scheduling anything extra during December, like dentist appointments or meetings. My kids REALLY love to bake with me, so we set aside a special day where we turn on Christmas music, make hot cocoa, and bake all day long.
Prioritize time and money according to values
Set boundaries that align with your values. For example, if sending out holiday cards isn’t a huge value to you and it is both a time and money drain, it might be time to ask, “do I really need to send out cards this year? Are there other ways to connect with people that would better utilize my time and money?”
Identify your expectations for family time, especially time with extended family
Which expectations might be unrealistic or need adjusting, or letting go of all together? Who do you need to communicate those expectations with? Communication of these expectations is key.
Know your tendencies and triggers when you’re with extended family
Know what pushes your buttons with family. Preparing yourself for how you want to respond helps you to avoid getting sucked into behaviors and patterns that would otherwise leave you feeling disappointed or angry.
Create a space for connection to happen
If you’re going from one holiday activity to the next, you might miss out on those moments of connection with your people that organically grow out of a quiet or unscheduled space. Maybe this looks like committing to have dinner as a family each night or perhaps it’s limiting weekend commitments during December. Maybe it’s scheduling an intentional moms night out amidst the busyness, because you know you will need that
wine connection, with your girlfriends.
Where do you need to let go of your desire or need for perfection?
Striving for perfection kills our ability to enjoy the present moment. Need I say more?
Experience the holidays through the eyes of your child
When we pause long enough to experience the wonder and excitement that our children feel, it puts things into perspective for us. It allows us to let go of the unimportant things and/or the need for perfection. For kids, your presence is perfect.
What are your biggest stressors? What helps you to say goodbye to stress and hello to meaning during the holiday season?