The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and happiness, but often the season creates more stress on your already stressed-out life.
There’s the long list of to-do’s, gift buying, party planning, wrapping presents, travel hassles, and often, family dynamics that can be challenging. It can all feel overwhelming and, well, stressful!
So try not to let the busiest time of the year bring your spirits down and your blood pressure up. Here are 4 tips to help you survive holiday stress, foster self-care, and learn to “dance” with the hectic holiday hustle.
1. Don’t take on too much.
During the holiday season, there seems to be more demands on your time than at any other time of the year. Between the parties, running around shopping and family functions, it can be hard to find any free time to tackle your to-do list, yet alone relax and unwind.
Resist not getting swept up in the “shoulds” or “expectations” during the holidays. You don’t have to accept every invitation that comes your way– it’s OK to say no if you need to. First and foremost, take care of your needs and be honest with others. People who truly care about you will understand when you need to say no to their invitation.
2. Take time for yourself.
When things are hectic, it’s necessary to recognize potential stressors and take care of yourself during this time. Sometimes you just need a break to be alone and decompress. It’s OK. No matter how much you love your family and friends, everyone needs a time out now and then.
Whenever you get stressed out, anxious or feel overwhelmed, take quick breaks to calm yourself down. Go outside and soak up some nature: go for a walk in a park, hug a tree, pick up some shells on the beach or pebbles on a trail. It will rejuvenate you and you will be more productive.
Never feel guilty about taking care of your own needs. Self care is not selfish—you need to take care of yourself to help take care of others.
3. Breathe mindfully.
Mindfulness is a type of breathing that involves focusing your mind on the present and being aware of your thoughts in the now, without judging yourself (or thinking you are incapable of meditating.)
It is helpful to use a small clock or timer and just start with just 5-10 minutes. Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit. Take a deep breath from the belly for a count of 8. Hold the breath for 6-8 counts, then exhale 8 counts through the nose.
Become aware of your breathing, focusing on the sensation of air moving in and out of your body as you breathe. Feel your belly rise and fall, the air enter your nostrils and leave your mouth. Pay attention to the way each breath changes and is different.
Try to put aside all thoughts of the past and the future and stay in the present. When thoughts come come and go, don’t ignore or suppress them, but simply acknowledge them and use your breathing as an anchor.
If you find your mind wandering, just observe it without judging, and simply return to your breathing. Remember not to be hard on yourself if this happens. It takes a little practice, but it will calm you down quickly.
4. Remember the reason for the season.
With the frantic pace, often we get caught up in the commercialism of the holidays and forget the real reason we celebrate Christmas. And even though Santa Claus, Elf on a Shelf and decorating are fun, it’s easy to lose sight of the most important, simple things in life: your family and loved ones, friends and your health.
If you feel frazzled, just remember to have an “attitude of gratitude“ and focus on all the good things in your life. You can always name at least 5 things you are grateful for at any time. This can quickly shift you out of a “bah humbug” mood.
Learning to dance with the holiday hustle, otherwise known as “go with the flow,” will allow you to enjoy this time as stress-free as possible. Remember, it’s fine to say “no” to invitations or extra obligations. Take stock of what is most important to you and what you are grateful for. Reserve time for yourself and the people who mean the most to you. Nurture yourself with nature– hug your Christmas tree and smell the wonderful bouquet of pine. Have fun, smile often, and of course, remember to breathe!