Holidays: Increase the Spirit, Not the Stress

Holidays: Increase the Spirit, Not the Stress

11/20/18 Laura Gibbons

Holidays are supposed to be a time of joy. But sometimes it can bring stress and feelings of loss. To reduce stress and increase the spirit, here are some tips to enjoy the holiday season.

Don’t sweat the small stuff & set realistic expectations
Holiday stress can be caused by unrealistic expectations. Forget what a perfect holiday is “supposed” to be like. Life isn’t like a magazine pictorial — it’s more messy, disorganized, and full of surprises. Instead of focusing on real or imaginary shortcomings, break out a notebook and list one thing you are proud of and one thing you are grateful for each day during the holiday season. Put this under a refrigerator magnet to remind you what is actually important this holiday season and use it as a pick-me-up year-round.

List your biggest stressors. How many can you discard or ask for help?
Are all the greeting cards you send a “must”? If not, can you stop sending so many or do an e-card? Or instead, take the opportunity to catch up with loved ones by calling everyone on your “heart list.” Some of your stressors may involve family visitors for holidays, which means extra shopping, food prep, and even more cleaning, laundry, and associated house work. You don’t have to do it alone. Ask others to pitch in this year.

Keep a regular schedule
Big disruptions compound stress. Grab your calendar now and list holiday tasks that you can fit into your existing routine. Make just one big task your priority for each day. Start early and pace yourself. Don’t let the day before a holiday event be a crisis.

Combine things you enjoy with tasks you dread.
If you need to clean, turn on some great music with energetic, upbeat songs that you can listen to as you work. Cut a deal with your significant other: “You take the kids away; I’ll prepare the house for guests.” You’ll be more productive and also have the opportunity to take a short break in peace and quiet if you need it—when you need it.

Set priorities
Did you miss a holiday event last year because you were double booked? Do you know what activities are actually important to your family? Seek to trim down what is no longer a priority this holiday season. A family meeting to gather ideas can work, and chances are activities you thought everyone still wanted are no longer of interest. The idea here is to plan a few “non-negotiable” events for yourself and your loved ones and cut out the ones that may not hold as much value anymore.

Create special traditions
Set aside time to watch your favorite holiday movie, listen to holiday music, bake holiday cookies, trim the tree, or drive through the neighborhood to see the lights. Create traditions that you look forward to each year and that make special holiday memories. Holiday traditions can bring joy and peace to otherwise a busy holiday season.

Fight the blues
If the holidays are a sad time of year because of difficult memories or because a loved one can’t be there, then discover a personal intervention strategy. Volunteering for a local charity – adopting a family, working in a soup kitchen, or visiting a nursing home or shelter – is an interactive experience, and those who have tried it claim it works to lift one’s mood. You will feel empowered and more positive, and the experience of helping others anchors you to a memory that lasts. And if you are feeling the blues, remember not to isolate yourself. Plan activities that you will enjoy and that gets you out of the house and around people.

Take care of yourself
What improves your mood—exercise, positive affirmations, alone time? During the year, have you been promising to do something for yourself, but keep putting it off? Do it. The holiday season is a perfect time to reaffirm your love, not only for those you care about but also for yourself.

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