Many believe the holidays to be a time of joy, laughter, and good food. But, so often the reality is that you’re overwhelmed, tired, and extremely on edge. In order to successfully navigate your holiday to-do list, try these 8 steps:
- Take a deep breath in and out. Repeat as needed. As stressful circumstances pop up (family conflict, extra bills, bad weather), remember to take a moment for yourself to just breathe deeply. Count in through your nose to 5 and out through your mouth to 5.
- Consider your values. What matters most to you this time of year? Getting your shopping done early? Spending time with certain friends or families? Certain religious or spiritual observations or rituals? Whatever it is, be sure to keep your focus on the main things you value.
- Consider what must get done versus what “should” get done. Maybe your house does not need to look like a spread from Home and Garden, or your gifts do not need to resemble individual works of art. Figure out which things you are hoping to get to that are really just extra sources of stress, and agree to let them go.
- Plan. Look at your calendar. Which weeks are the busiest and when do you have time to address cards or buy gifts or help out in the community? Write down possible days on which to accomplish various activities and what you will do each day to reach your goals. Also, consider delegating some of your tasks to friends and family who can help.
- Talk with your loved ones. Maybe your partner’s favorite part of the holidays is watching a movie with you on New Year’s Eve. Maybe you have a fun tradition with a friend or your kids. Prioritize and plan for those things your loved ones hold especially dear this time of year.
- Set boundaries as needed. In order to preserve your sanity, you will have to say “no” to certain demands. Perhaps you’ll need to plan to see different friends or family members on different days or weeks. Maybe you usually host a holiday, but a new job or baby is making it difficult to do so. Give yourself the flexibility you need to do what’s best for you.
- Practice gratitude. Even in the messy moments of life (wine on the carpet again?), there is always something to be grateful for: food to eat, a place to gather, people with whom to share your life. Share your thankful spirit with those around you.
- Remember that nothing is perfect. No holiday meal, family event, or season will be picturesque and devoid of spills, tears, or melted candles. But, in the end, it is how we overcome difficult circumstances and support one other through hard times that truly matters.
–Dr. Lorna Jansen specializes in treating children, adolescents, and families. She helps clients manage stress, deal with relationship issues, and also offers academic coaching.