There is no doubt about it, Christmas and the summer holidays here in Australia are around the corner. The decorations are out in full force at your local shopping centre, the weather is getting warmer and the kids have already started a list a mile long.
Many of us want to bury our heads in the sand at this time of year - So soon? I’m not ready! Argh! The stress starts building. The fear starts rising - financial, family and having to entertain kids whilst they’re on school holidays.
As we move closed to C Day the stress begins to mount. Preparations overtake everything. Your focus is spread thin and your patience even thinner.
We don’t have to surrender to seasonal stress though! There is so much we can do to prevent this time of year becoming something to dread and despair.
Here are our top seven simple ways to deal with holiday stress:
1.Prioritise yourself over others
Even though the holidays are all about giving, we can’t give what we don’t have. You have to take care of yourself first in order to have anything left for those around you.
This is where your self-care practices come into play, as well as a healthy sleep routine; setting healthy boundaries with coworkers, family, and friends; exercising regularly; and feeding your body nutritious food (but also allow yourself the freedom to indulge occasionally).
2. Don’t forget that “no” is a complete sentence
Saying yes when you want to say no is a setup for added stress.
Family, friends and coworkers ask a lot of you this time of year, use this as an opportunity to practice doing what is right for you. Say no to at least two or three invites, and instead, take a night to yourself. It can be a stress reliever to relax and enjoy alone time.
3. Honour “good enough”
So many people strive for perfection around the holidays. Whether that’s in the kitchen, with the perfect gift or decking out the house with the best lights (remember Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation?).
Ease off the need to control and let go of your attachment to how things should be. Be open to other possibilities, become curious about what’s really in front of you rather than being judgmental; and most importantly, open your heart to what life and this holiday season have to offer.
4. Take a breathing break
Take a four-minute time-out for yourself - You can do this exercise anywhere from the bathroom to your car. Sit quietly, close your eyes and set your watch for four minutes. Breathe — deeply and consciously. Think to yourself, "Count of seven in, hold for four and slow exhale on five."
Even four minutes a couple of times a day can help to lower your blood pressure, change your brain waves, and calm your soul.
5. Limit time with difficult family members
We all have that one person in our family who pushes our buttons. If being around certain people kicks your stress and anxiety into high gear, then you need to make a plan (ahead of time) for how you’re going to manage this common holiday trigger.
The most obvious solution is to limit your time with this family member. But if staying clear is not an option, your next best strategy is to rehearse in advance how to respond to comments that set you off and focus on what you can control in your interaction with them — not on trying to control them.
6. Have a spending plan
Another major stressor for people this time of year is money. Often, people will overspend on presents, decorations and party planning and then feel huge regret once the calendar rolls over to the next year.
Instead of dealing with buyer's remorse once January hits, try setting a budget. Although it sounds too simplistic to even work, the act of sitting down and planning out what you are going to spend your money on and then sticking to it can help alleviate a lot of stress.
7. Infuse a little mindfulness into everything you do
If you are not present in the moment, not only will you miss celebrating the holidays, but you will also feel more anxious about the future.
Whether you’re stuck in line at the shops or waiting to check in at the airport, Dow says to notice three things you see, two things you hear and one thing you feel with your skin. This approach is a way to be mindful and can help take you away from the frustration and worry associated with everyday stressors.
So take a deep breath and some time for yourself and enjoy this holiday season!