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Lighting candles in a basket of evergreens and ornaments can help with holiday stress management.

In this post...

Introduction to Holiday Stress Management

In this blog, I want to share some ideas and strategies for Holiday Stress Management.

Over the past (almost!) 67 years, I’ve experienced a fair amount of holiday-related stress, overwhelm, and personal meltdowns (to which Mr. G.Q. can attest). After reflection, I have realized that much of the stress and negative aspects of the holidays have been self-induced. As a woman who enjoys holiday decorating, shopping for special gifts, wrapping presents, preparing delicious meals, and cookie baking, truly, I have DEFINITELY felt overwhelmed by the sheer bulk of activities. For my family and friends who know me, I love to do it all! I think it’s okay to do all these things but I think I think my new overarching strategy needs to be, do whatever makes me happy (at the time, on that day) and then do whatever else I have time for.

My significant others will be shocked to hear this! But as I said above, much of the stress I have experienced in holidays past has been due to my attitude that I’ve always managed to pull it all off, so why change that? Well, because at the end of the day, I want to focus on the fun along the way. I don’t want to miss a second of that! Sometimes “doing it all” is just too much!

My front hall bench decorated with a red plaid throw, wrapped presents, and Christmas pillows.  And garden boots filled with holiday greenery.

Does that mean I will give up my pretty tables, delicious food, pretty packages? Maybe. As you probably know, I am a serious planner and list maker. Will I stop that? Nope. The lists calm me down. BUT, my attitude is changing…

Christmas stockings hung by the fire under a white light lit mantel,

How Do I Overcome Holiday Stress?

I think the best way to overcome holiday stress is by taking the time early in the season to decide what YOU want to feel and experience during the holidays. So often we as mothers, wives, grandmothers, and friends, try and do so much on behalf of others that we run out of energy and have none left to take care of ourselves. We get stressed because we’re tired. We overeat because it’s hard to make time for meal planning due to all of the events. We don’t exercise or meditate during the holidays because we don’t feel we have the time.

But to have the best holidays we need to prioritize our well-being.

Which brings me to my list of strategies for holiday stress management:

My Tips for Holiday Stress Management

  1. Start unwinding from the day by 7:00 PM. That means no emails after 7, as well as no phone peeking after 9 at the latest. Keep your phone in a charger outside of the bedroom! It’s too stimulating! I keep mine on my bathroom vanity with the ringer turned off so I can still use it as an alarm.
  2. Write tomorrow’s to-do list. Don’t worry if you forget something. Just check your calendars and make a list of items you need to do. Don’t worry about how much is on the list. See Point 12 below.
  3. Put the list on your bedside table. Then if you awaken with another thing to do, you can jot it down and return to sleep.
  4. Establish a nighttime ritual. This involves a hot bath, lots of lotion afterward, soft jammies, and comfy sheets. I can’t tolerate fragrances, so I light unscented votive candles right along my bathtub ledge. (Steps 1-4 are all part of tips for self-care to reduce stress all year round.)
  5. Turn the heat down to 70 degrees until I awaken the next day. Cooler temperatures make for deeper sleep.
  6. Get more sleep. I plan from now on, (it’s December 8), to get into bed by 10:00 PM. Then I will read until 11:00 PM. Reading to reduce stress is very relaxing. And then, lights out!
  7. If I can’t fall asleep or if I awaken in the night and can’t fall back asleep within 20 minutes, I’ll get up, drink water, and watch a low-key Hallmark movie. I will watch this in the great room (not the bedroom) until I get sleepy enough to fall back asleep. Or I’ll watch a funny movie as a way of showing myself how laughter reduces stress and facilitates better sleep. If all this fails, I might try a few relaxing yoga poses like child’s pose. Yoga to reduce stress of all kinds can be very therapeutic during the holidays.
  8. For meditation, the App I use is Insight Timer. This is a free App but it has both free and paid meditations. The free meditation I successfully use is Michael Macintosh’s “Deep Sleep in Meditation”. It’s 25 minutes in length, and I rarely hear the ending as I am usually back asleep.
  9. Sleep until at least 7:00 AM.
  10. When I awaken, I don’t look at my phone until I meditate for 15 minutes or make a list (on paper) of the positive things in my life for 5 minutes. I know you’re thinking this chick’s “nuts” with this idea. But by training yourself to meditate first or make a “list of positive aspects” (on paper), you’re setting the tone for a successful, happy day. I know you might be thinking this is just too “woo woo” for you, and that you would rather hit the snooze button than get up to “meditate”. However, I am learning that this step is critical to my goal of having as much fun as possible. As well as not missing out because I’m “too busy” with holiday preparations.
  11. Meet a friend for a walk and a cup of coffee to feel happier and maybe to hear their strategies. I often call a friend while going for a walk (even if they’re in a different time zone) so we can both walk and talk. The walk goes by so quickly, and I feel connected to my friend! I definitely get in more than 10,000 steps on most friend phone calls! Win-win!
  12. Now go back over last night’s “to-do” list. Circle the absolute “must do’s”. These are the things that MUST BE DONE TODAY! But, do your best to be realistic (think, “do less…”) about what needs to be done today. And then delegate! Ask your spouse if they can pick up the dry cleaning or dinner. Tell your teenager that you need them to walk the dog after school, set the table, and take out the trash before dinner. Why? Because you cannot and should not do it all!!! Holiday stress management is a learned set of ideas.
  13. Now reread the list and see which other things resonate with you (today) and see that by accomplishing those things, you would feel relieved and possibly happier. Do your best to do those things OR find a “workaround” that would accomplish that. For example, if the task was to create a Christmas menu, consider picking two or three things that you plan to make (maybe with help from your family members), and then figure out where you can order the rest. We mothers/women/caregivers, try to do TOO MUCH! But we may be overlooking resources that are “hiding in plain sight”. During a calm moment, ask your family what things are important to them for the upcoming event. Then ask them what they are lukewarm on. Cross off the lukewarm stuff and ask for their help on the rest. Ask if they want to prepare an item and/or pick it up from a local merchant. You might be surprised at their ideas and input.
  14. Enjoy this day as much as possible. It truly is the only day that matters. Yesterday is already gone, and tomorrow never really comes.

Conclusion to Holiday Stress Management

I hope this post has been helpful or at least thought-provoking. Please let me know your thoughts and suggestions for holiday stress management in the comments below. I would LOVE more ideas! Or email me @jmarshallmd@ameritech.net.

Happy Holidays Lovely Readers!!!

XO,

Dr. Julie

PS Here are a few more posts for you to enjoy:

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