The holidays are here – also known as “the most wonderful time of the year!” A time to catch up with friends and loved ones, decorate the house, host parties, bake cookies, shop ‘til we drop, attend concerts and church events, and often much, much more.
Unfortunately, the busyness of all this wonderful time can also be draining.
The good news is that we know it will be busy, so we can plan ahead to give ourselves the regular and extra self-care we may need in order to enjoy all the fun and festivities … and maybe turn a few invitations down.
Here are seven tips I hope you’ll embrace this season so you can stress less and enjoy the holidays more.
1. Acknowledge the busy-ness of the time of year.
For many, holiday fun and festivities can also be a very stressful time of the year. Remember, not all stress is bad. Stress does increase performance, but only up to a point. Stress management is the key to coping effectively and getting through holiday stress.
2. Courageously practice saying “no” and give yourself permission for self-care.
Remember, you and your time, money, and emotional/psychological/social needs matter and are important. Our culture tends to encourage exhaustion with a “keep going, keep working, keep giving” mindset – these are the kinds of messages that drain us during the holidays. It takes courage to buck the trend and exercise your “NO” muscle. When we take care of ourselves, we have more to give, and we give out of fullness, not exhaustion.
3. Take moments for yourself every day.
It can feel selfish to take time to relax. Yet good stress management requires daily intentional down time. And when we give to ourselves, we have more to give to others. Set aside time (it can be just 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes) to reflect, pray, relax, take a walk, read, do nothing, even watch Netflix (but contain the binge watching to avoid losing track of your time – I know, I know, it is so tempting).
Make room every morning and evening for daily quiet time. Reflecting on our place in this world is very powerful and can motivate us to give and connect with others.
4. Savor the season …
There are so many sights, sounds, smells and tastes to enjoy this time of year. The good news? You have full permission to enjoy them completely! Research suggests that focusing our attention in this way (also known as mindfulness) helps us to truly relax.
5. …But be sure to prioritize eating healthy, getting enough sleep and exercising.
It’s tempting to fill up on cookies and treats during the holiday season, sacrifice sleep to take on more holiday projects and festivities, and ditch your regular workout routine. However, these three activities are foundational to your ability to manage the holiday stress. So see tip number two and remember to take the very best care of YOU!
6. Moderate your expectations.
Yes, as mentioned above, healthy living includes moderating eating and drinking. However, also think about moderating your expectations of the season and yourself. Striving for perfection is exhausting! Instead, strive for “good enough” instead of stressing out to create the “perfect” holiday tree, meal, gift experience, etc.
Also, think about moderating your use of electronic devices. Favorite social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are wonderful ways of connecting to others. At the same time, we compare ourselves to all of the perceived “perfection” posted by others and deceive ourselves into feeling like we aren’t good enough.
7. Connect with others.
Remember that the real purpose of the holidays is to connect with your loved ones, your friends and God. As human beings, we need to love and be loved. So as you’re making your holiday plans, focus on how your activities can help you make emotional connections. The more intimacy we have, the more resilient we are.
Dr. Ronald J. De Vries, PhD is a Fully Licensed Psychologist working at the Pine Rest Kalamazoo Clinic. He works with adults and adolescents. His primary areas of expertise include depression (mood disorders), anxiety disorders, relationship issues, grief and loss, forgiveness, shame and guilt, recovery issues related to substance abuse, and adoption/foster families.