We typically refer to the holiday season as the most wonderful time of the year.
But is that true for you? If it is, I am happy for you.
But if it’s not, you are definitely not alone!
Statistically-speaking, it appears that for a good three months, including the time before and after the holidays, our stress level is at its worst for the majority of us.
Further, seasonal depression abounds during the holiday season. Many additional financial strains, extra work demands for end-of-the-year deadlines, and dealings with family members challenge our ability to stay positive, present and calm.
Not to mention, many of us have to rise to the occasion of having a “wonderful life” when our reality is not congruent with the commercials and holiday shows that bombard us. Many of us are divorced, single parents. Some of us live thousands of miles away from home. And others are adjusting to life without loved ones who are no longer here.
Between the extra expenses, gifts, travel, decorations, dinner parties, loneliness, distractions of our normal routine, long lines, loss, divorces, extra traffic, dealing with family, and oh-so-many expectations are you surprised we suffer from holiday stress?
It does not matter whether the holiday is Hanukah, Christmas, or Diwali. The extra load the holidays place on our already-full plates often exceeds our capacity to rise to the occasion without taking our bodies out of whack.
However, there is a magical gift to be found in the holidays and in the rest of our life. If the script that was passed on to us is causing us exhaustion, anxiety, pressure, and strain, it is 100% within our control to change it!
We are the creators of our reality and we can re-write any part of our story to make it more balanced, sustainable, jolly, and bright!
Here are nineteen suggestions to consider in re-writing your holiday story, in order to savor the festivities without burning out.
Upgrade your mindset
1. How we celebrate Christmas as we grow older can change.
The holiday tale you were handed as part of your family history includes a myriad of family traditions that perhaps are not realistic today.
If you want to write a new holiday story that fits your current reality, you can start by choosing a new theme. Then you can determine the plot, the protagonists, the roles, and the dialogue that work for you. Here are some suggestions for a new story with a happier ending:
2. Set your own standards, expectations, and what “good enough” looks like for you. Don’t try to keep up with traditions that are unrealistic based on your life’s circumstances.
3. Focus only on what you can control.
4. Enjoy the journey without being distracted by worries about the result.
5. Strive for balance as opposed to perfection.
6. Explore ways you can turn to-do list items into opportunities for connection. My lovely friend Steph role-modeled this beautifully when she hosted a Friendsgiving soiree this year. Everybody contributed to a lovely meal, and part of the joy was decorating her Christmas tree together. What a great way to enjoy the moment and take the decorating chore off her to-do list!
Prioritize and plan ahead
7. Set a budget without being afraid of being a Scrooge.
You may know of the character, Scrooge, from the story The Christmas Carol. He was miserly and selfish. But you can set limits and still be generous.
After all, how generous we are with our time, energy, and money hinges on the love and thought we place into things and not the quantity.
What if you avoid over-spending, as well as the overwhelming lines and exhaustion of holiday shopping, by creating gifts for your dearest ones?
You can spend time with your children decorating useful everyday things, like coffee mugs for example. Or you can play some holiday music by the fire while reviewing your photos from the past year. Select your favorite photos of adventures you shared with family and friends. You can then order prints of those photos, place them in frames, and turn them into wonderful gifts.
8. Don’t let the Grinch steal your Christmas.
You may remember the Grinch, Dr. Seuss’s mean-tempered character, who was so irritated by the holiday festivities that he decided to destroy Christmas.
When you lose yourself in an attempt to please everyone and surpass everybody else’s expectations, guess what happens! You burnout. The typical symptoms of burnout— exhaustion, irritability, insomnia, and ineffectiveness—can turn the nicest of us into the Grinch! What good is staying up all night to prepare the perfect holiday gathering if you are so snappish and irritable that you cannot enjoy it?
Do you remember the last time you gave up sleep, wholesome nutrition, or your little healthful rituals to rise to the unrealistic expectations of your family, friends, or work?
How did that feel in your body and spirit?
The truth is, it is impossible to be the perfect mother, daughter, cook, and executive all at the same time. It is imperative that we take control of our priorities by being mindful of what is important to our well-being!
To avoid burning out this holiday season, incorporate the following when setting your holiday priorities.
9. Put yourself on top of your priority list!
10. Plan ahead how you will spend your time, your money, and your energy.
11. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
12. Nurture your body.
Don’t let the holiday over-burden your need for rest in between sprints. A short 15-minute walk can be a great way to de-stress. There is a great sense of peace in the sound of the wind whistling through the trees and the extra blood pumping through your blood when you gift yourself with a few minutes of activity in nature. Not to mention, research has revealed that even short amounts of daily exercise activate the same brain circuits as anti-depressants do.
13. Nurture your mind. If extra contact with relatives, which takes you out of your zen, is on the menu during the holidays, purposely infuse positive activities in between visiting with them. This can include committing to a guided meditation before you go to sleep, listening to an uplifting podcast on the way to work, or simply planning to spend more time with people who uplift your spirits.
14. Enjoy the moment. Resist the urge to let your mind wander to stressful thoughts. Although this is easier said than done, training your attention to stay in the present moment is an incredible practice. Its benefits go beyond being a popular fad. Keeping your attention in the now has many physiological and psychological benefits. Some of those benefits are blood pressure reduction, increased optimism, and even growth in regions of your brain that are associated with inner strengths, like improved concentration and problem-solving.
Dare to be you and do things differently
15. Let Rudolph show you the joy of being different .
Do you remember the story of Rudolph, one of Santa’s reindeer, who was shunned by the other reindeer because he had a bright, red nose? But then the light of his nose saved Christmas as he guided Santa’s sleigh on a foggy night.
The stress to conform can increase during the holidays. Once upon a time we lived in small communities with family structures that had defined roles and plenty of support available. Today, the pace of life is very different with many single-parent households, moms in executive roles, and family members geographically spread around the nation or the world.
High demands are placed on us during the holidays. It takes courage to defy the familial norms and traditions. Choosing how you want your life to be during the holiday season means you have the opportunity to create new traditions that are aligned with who you are today.
Here are some additional things to keep in mind as you become a holiday tradition pioneer:
16. Align traditions with your interests.
What traditions are linked to what gives you joy? For example, I discovered that volunteering for a cause I am passionate about is a fantastic new holiday tradition with many benefits. It gives me the opportunity to savor my connectedness to the whole, spend wholesome time with my daughter, and deepen my sense of gratitude for our blessings.
17. Master the art of saying no. We have associated a negative connotation to saying no to things that take us off-kilter. But whether you kindly decline to attend one more holiday affair or to host your negative relative for ten days, consider what you are saying yes to when you say no. Perhaps you are saying yes to peace of mind, centeredness, and a better night’s sleep!
18. Choose the definition of the greatest gift.
Beyond over-indulging, over-spending, forced family time, and endless to-do lists, the spirit of the holidays is really about pausing and opening the door to love.
The greatest gift we can all give to ourselves, our families, and the world we live in is taking back the reins of what is 100% within our control. We can choose all the ingredients and the small steps to take to create the life and the holiday season we love.
During this time, give yourself the space to reflect on what you need to continue, to stop, and to start doing in the coming year. You can use the following prompts to reflect.
o What activities, choices, and people brought you happiness this last year?
o How does your current self-care ritual feel? How do you nurture your body and soul? What more do you need?
o What are some of the biggest pearls of wisdom you gathered this year and what would you like to do differently in the new year?
By pausing, reflecting, and choosing what you will do to move toward what you truly love, you can not only design a peaceful holiday, but a more satisfying life.
19. Remember what a wonderful life looks like to you.
Our busy lives, in and out of the holiday season, don’t always provide us with the opportunity to reflect on what truly makes life wonderful.
I know from personal experience how draining, stressful, and unfulfilling losing ourselves in all the things we “should be” doing can be.
Meeting a never-ending list of others’ expectations and standards obscures the wonder of life and deprives us of the joy that we all deserve.
But we can use this holiday season as the catalyst for positive change.
- Decide which parts of our history we want to bring forth into the present moment.
- Dare to incorporate new traditions that serve us well.
- Elevate our self-care and honor our limits.
- Prioritize and plan how we use our energy to honor what is important to us.
And then, the miracle happens. A door opens to a truly wonderful life. We feel calmer, more grounded, and can shed a tear for a special someone we miss yet smile at the glistening shine of a fresh snowflake.
And that is when we not only enjoy the festivities in the present moment, but we become a beacon of light for our families, our colleagues, and the collective whole.
May you have a wonderful, joyful, and peaceful holiday season!