The holidays are upon us and so is holiday stress! Beating holiday stress is a skill that does not come easily but I think (I hope!) I’ve mastered it. I’ve always been one to embrace this time of year. I love the decorations, the get togethers, the food, the gifts. Did I mention the food? Even still, I get stressed and overwhelmed with spinning all of the plates. School for Jack gets super busy around this time of year, work gets busier with everyone trying to cram stuff in before year-end and MC’s work and travel ramps up in the slide to the New Year. So how do I keep it all together, get everything done AND find time to enjoy? I have 4 simple tricks that I use each year.
- Break things down into manageable chunks: When I focus on EVERYTHING I can feel my stress level rise. However, when I plot out what needs to be done when and only focus on the NOW and what has to be done in the present I can cope much better. For example, holiday cards! I haven’t given up on sending out cards. I believe in and look forward to the gesture. But there’s no reason that has to be left to the last minute. Lots of the online card brands run sales around Thanksgiving so I use photos we took over the summer and make my cards early. I can still mail them whenever I want but at least they’re in hand, ready to go and OUT OF THE WAY before December.
- Outsource wherever and whenever possible: During chaotic times I tend to try to control more and hold on to things more tightly. In a very random, non-holiday way I learned to outsource. Jack was struggling with his homework and reading a few years ago and I asked the head of his school how I could better help him with his work. Her answer was simple, “Outsource!” Her point was as a parent I brought my expectations and my desire for my son to well into our homework time, which created unnecessary friction. During the holidays we women have been trained by our mothers, by the media that we need to do it all…and we don’t. We keep our outsourcing simple: we get our return address added to our holiday card envelopes, we pay extra for Amazon to wrap our gifts and we pay Jack’s sitter a little extra to stuff our cards, label them, stamp them and mail them. Fortunately, we can work these costs into our budget and when you compare the small cost to the increased stress and angst of having to do these tasks and the downstream effects of stress on our emotional and physical well-being, it’s worth it!
- Leave it until January: For every to do, invite and prospective plan that comes our way this time of year I ask myself if it can wait until January. Let’s face it, January is a boring month. It’s cold, it’s dark, everyone is worn out from the prior 6 weeks. Why not infuse some fun into the weeks after the holidays? It gives us something to look forward to once the tree is taken down and the decorations are put away. And the we get the added bonus of really focusing on what we’re doing because we’re not distracted by a million other things.
- Stay mindful that the holidays are not an excuse to (FILL IN THE BLANK): Just because it’s a time of celebration it’s not an excuse to give up on the discipline of every day life. I try to maintain my diet, fitness and sleep routine as much as I can. In fact, I try to exercise a little more to help build up my resistance to that extra cookie or glass of champagne. Nothing is more depressing that finding myself in the January doldrums with a bloated belly and a couple of pounds to lose. I definitely indulge, but I pick my moments…like our Christmas Eve Feast of Seven Fishes. It comes but once a year, so I have to go big!
I hope you’re all as ready as I am to ring in the fun! Share your tips and tricks for staying sane in the comments!