Your 16-Tip Guide: Beat the Stress, Relax, and Recharge Making the Holidays Work for You

Your 16-Tip Guide: Beat the Stress, Relax, and Recharge Making the Holidays Work for You

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Tis the season of overwhelm.  Let’s face it. The holidays can be a roller coaster end to the year.  You happily anticipate this time for its celebration and break from the day to day grind.  On the one hand, the holidays offers you time for festivities, gatherings, and downtime away from work.  But the pressure of getting things done (meals, gifts, family gatherings) and expectations can also stress you out.   It’s enough to feel a little bit like the Grinch!  By January, after a whirlwind several weeks, you aren’t sure whether you truly were able to put that ‘joy’ into the holidays.  

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 of year so you can arrive to January feeling rested, de-stressed, and happy with your holiday celebration.  Even if you get swept up into the holiday plans, there are plenty things you can do to design your holiday to work 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

Start with this question:  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 holiday season.  Write these intentions out and then think about how you can work to ensure your intentions happen.   You can have your own special relationship with this season,

Tip #2:  Find the joy by practicing gratitude

The holidays are a very good time to focus on where you feel most grateful.  Unfortunately, the holidays can do a great job of magnifying what we don’t have.   In many ways, this is a sad time of year for many people.  Take special care around this time to remind yourself 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 holidays can be a very good time to reconnect with family and friends.  And yet, sometimes we are in the same room with someone but aren’t really ‘together.’ Seek opportunities to have that special connection with someone.  Create a little one-to-one time with a treasured family member or friend.  Schedule a coffee or a movie date.  This can do wonders for your spirit.

Tip #4:  Give back to 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 add a lot of other thing to our plate.   We do more shopping, cooking, traveling too. 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

Are there 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 very few work days.  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.

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Stress Less

Tip #8:  Don’t sweat the small stuff

Let’s face it.  As much as we see picture perfect holiday cards, commercials, and advertising, this time of the year is not perfect. We’ve all experienced those family dinners that do not resemble a Hallmark card.   This is the time to worry less about those details that drive us crazy and focus on what matters most.   Look at your plate and ask yourself whether it’s really important to create those handmade ornaments.  Do you truly need to get that holiday card out in the mail? You offered to make  

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.   See if you can be less reactive and notice when you are triggered.  Avoid getting 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.

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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 blocking it off.  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.  Catch a movie.  This is your time to recharge.

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.

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