The holidays really are the best of times and the worst of times. Our tidings of comfort and joy can so easily be devoured by the insatiable stress to do it all, be it all, and buy it all.
And that stress is nothing to ho, ho, ho about, either. It increases your risk of illness and even death. One study, , suggested holiday stress and overindulgence help explain the soaring rate of fatal heart attacks in December and January.
Yet it is possible to survive the holiday frenzy without feeling frantic — if you know how. With the holidays just around the corner, it’s time to plan how you are going to keep your stress at bay for the holiday season.
Stress often gets much more intense in the season of holiday joy and good will.
Planning now around the holiday triggers for stress will make for a much more enjoyable season. The key is to plan now to minimize the stress level as much as possible.
These are some of the pitfalls of the season, with suggestions to minimize the stress.
1. Make a plan
Creating an action plan can help to relieve stress. Write down all of the things you need to do so that you can prioritize the things that are most important. You will also be less likely to forget something if you have a list. If you have a list for holiday shopping, you will also tend to spend less, if you stick to the plan.
2. Practice Self Care
With such a huge focus during the holidays on giving, it can be easy to forget to give back to yourself. Taking care of yourself will improve your mood and make it easier for you to take care of others. Set aside some time to do things you enjoy. To be your most loving self you must fill your cup first and then you will have plenty to give out to everyone else that you love.
3. Practice Acceptance
The holidays could bring up thoughts and memories of the following:
- What’s changed. The holidays can highlight everything that’s changed in your life — a divorce, a death in the family, a son who’s making his first trip back home after starting college. Any of these can really unsettle you and add holiday stress.
- What’s stayed the same. For others, it’s the monotonous sameness of family holiday gatherings that depresses them — the same faces, the same jokes, the same food on the same china plates.
Acceptance keeps things as they are NOW in focus. If we do this, then the history of whatever happened on previous holidays is in perspective.
4. Practice Compassion
Compassion allows us to remain open hearted. And we become more open when we are accepting of the past and see things as they are. We need to take a moment to meditate on how each of us is more similar than we are different. As we do that, we can walk in the other persons shoes and become more compassionate.
Every family has old patterns. Practicing compassion allows us to recognize how triggers are from past reactions, and not current situations. We need to stop, breathe and pause, so that we aren’t being triggered by a past event and not something happening in the now. We all want happiness, so if we can see the situation from the other persons perspective, we can react less hostilely.
5. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude has the power to change our perspective on everything. It changes our mindset to what is good in our life and avoids what is not. List 5 things every morning during the season that you are grateful for and let the rest go. This way our minds are filled with what is actually important and allow us to remain joyful.
Practicing gratitude lowers our stress, and it’s a win, win, win. Let others in your life know how grateful you are for them. Stress sets limits on when we are trying to do too much, when we are overspending our budget, when we are doing things that we don’t want to do. Learn to say no and to be grateful for the things that we want to do that bring us joy.
6. Prioritize Your Wellness
- Remember to eat the rainbow, and to continue making the majority of your food plant food.
- Breathe, I use the Dr. Andrew Weil 4-7-8 breathing exercise. You can look it up on YouTube and do it with Dr. Weil. It takes 3 minutes to do 4 rounds.
- Get enough sleep, at least 7 continuous hours.
- Move every day, stay limber
- Get outdoors and walk, even if only for 15 minutes.
- Don’t drink too much. Limit yourself to one drink per occasion. You will enjoy your company and you will feel much better the next morning.
- No drugs
- Don’t overeat. Blue zones emphasize to only eat until you are 80% full
- Eat a healthy snack and keep an emergency pack close so that you don’t get so hungry you begin to make dumb choices or eat quickly until eating too much catches up with you.
- If you get “overpeopled” carve out a little slice of time for yourself to be alone. It could be a hot bath, or your walk, but something that rejuvenates you.
7. Honor Loved Ones You Have Lost
If you have lost a loved one this year, then make sure you take a moment to honor them. You can do this by yourself, or you can do this as a family. This has been an unusual year, so honoring people who have passed is more important than ever.
It may be difficult to celebrate the holiday season if you’ve lost someone dear to you or distance makes it difficult to spend time together.
Spend this holiday season reflecting on special memories and how you will honor the person you lost by doing something meaningful in their honor. I like to write a note to my loved one that is gone and have a ceremony and then burn the note to release it into the universe. The ceremony helps me feel closer to the person I have lost and am missing. And I release the sadness so that I can return to the festivities of the season.
If you’re unable to spend physical time with loved ones, stay closely in touch virtually. There are so many ways to remain close even if we are socially isolating. Take selfies and share them, sing Christmas carols on a zoom call. Assign readings to family members and read holiday books together on line. Get together and tell family stories. Have a holiday dinner where everyone in the family makes the same meal, set your conference call up onto your TV set and eat it together. Play holiday games together. Play secret Santa on a zoom call. Open presents together on a call. Stay close to the people you love whether they are with you in person or virtually.
This holiday will make for great new experiences and stories for many years to come.
These tips will allow you to remain joyful, cheerful and filled with love throughout the season.