It's the beginning of the holiday season and with the holidays comes stress. Each year we feel a mix of joy and anxiety when we approach the days before Thanksgiving.
The holidays can bring stress starting in November and go straight through until the new year. We experience a combination of stressors related to financial costs of the holidays, family coming to stay and the conflicts it may bring, and the stress of trying to have the perfect meal and holiday all together.
If you're one of those people who feel the pressure of the holidays, here are eight tips to help feel balanced, happy and stress free:
1. Remember what the holidays are really about - spending quality time with family, friends and loved ones. It's about giving love and joy to others. Watch your expectations; make sure they are realistic. We try for perfection during the holidays and we tend to forget what the holidays are really about. Remind yourself that the holidays are about being close to your loved ones while everything else come second.
2. Take care of you; during the busy holiday season we forget about ourselves. We worry so much about setting a nice table; buying and cooking the food; decorating the house; buying the presents; etc., we forget to take a time out and spend some quiet time alone. Yes it's the season of giving to others, but make sure to put yourself on your priority list and put yourself high up on the list. If we aren't feeling mentally, physically and emotional healthy, how we will be able to have a good holiday? The more time you put aside for you, the healthier and happier you will feel this holiday season.
3. Seasonal disorder - this is just another issue that can affect people during this stressful time. If you know that the cold weather and shorter days affects you and causes you to have negative moods, then do some preventive work. Talk to your doctor about options, seek counseling before the change of weather and holidays start, set up a support system to help when you're feeling down, invest in light boxes and if you can, plan a vacation to a warm destination (this will give you something to look forward to).
4. Start early - before the holiday season is in full swing, start making your things-to-do lists and start your holiday shopping early. This way, when the holidays approach you're not scrambling for presents. Buy wrapping paper, holidays cards, etc. now. Wrap your gifts as you buy them. Be proactive. Having a lot done ahead of time is a huge stress relief and then you will enjoy going out for any last minute things knowing that the bulk of it is complete.
5. Ask for help - there is no reason why you have to do everything on your own. Delegate this holiday season. Ask each person who is coming to prepare a dish or a dessert. Make your holidays not about the cooking but more about the socializing. If everyone brings a dish this will make your shopping and cooking much easier. Don't feel guilty about it. Each year have everyone make it a point to help each other so everyone can enjoy the holidays. This can also be a great way to clean up after the holidays. Delegate the clean up from the dishes to vacuuming the house. If everyone chips in, it won't be so bad.
6. Be up front financially - tell family and friends what you can and can't do early on. If you know this will be a tough financial holiday season, then recommend other options such as: buying for the kids only, a grab bag, the charity option (everyone gives to a charity - whatever they can afford) instead of a gift, play a fun game like Yankee Swap where everyone buys one gift (set a value for it), or learn from our children - homemade gifts!
7. Gratitude - this is the time of year that we should spend more time counting our blessings, remembering what we have instead of worrying about what we don't. Instead of "Keeping up with the Jones's," take a minute to appreciate the abundance of love, health, family and friends. Teach your kids about abundance. They should know that the most important things in life are the things that make us the happiest: good relationships with family and friends, a partner we can share our life with and a full schedule of social activities that involve lots of smiling and laughing.
8. Watch the signs - listen to your body. If you are noticing any of the following signs then it's time to make changes:
- Change in sleeping habits
- Change in eating habits
- Feeling irritable, moody and unhappy
- Exhaustion and fatigue
- Panic attack symptoms like dizziness, heavy chest, heart racing, headache, feeling nauseous, hot and cold flashes
- Physical signs such as headaches, stomachaches, joint pain and low immune system (catching frequent colds and illnesses).
These symptoms are all warning signs of too much stress and anxiety in our life. This is a sign to slow down and take a time out.
For more information on Diane Lang or her new book: Creating Balance & Finding Happiness, please visit her website at www.dlcounseling.com.