5 Tips That Can Reduce Holiday Stress this Season
The holiday season is upon us and so too comes our visions of sipping hot chocolate in front of a blazing fireplace while listening to the yuletide crooning of Bing Crosby dreaming of a white Christmas. But just as quickly as those visions appear they vanish; overridden by the enormous stressors we impose on ourselves, all in an effort to create the perfect Currier and Ives holiday experience for our family and friends.
The holidays should be an enjoyable time for everyone, but unfortunately, they have become one of the most stressful times of the year for many. In trying to create the perfect holiday experience, we sabotage it with our lofty expectations of not only ourselves but from others.
I’ve come up with 5 tips that will help calm those stressors and ideally allow you to fall asleep at night with “visions of sugar plums dancing in your head.”
Tip # 1: Plan and Plan Some More
With the holidays being another layer of stress to your already full plate, it can be challenging to find the time for even the smallest of additional tasks, so the potential for psychological stress is high during this season. When we don’t give ourselves enough time to plan and prepare for a particular event, situation, or encounter we become overwhelmed. Commit to planning and preparing — even if it feels awkward or uncomfortable.
How to Plan:
- Use technology. Create a Google Calendar and share it with your family. Print it out and post it in an area everyone will see it. This way everyone can track who is doing what and when. It is also a great visual that will help you see how much you’re putting on yourself and your family and also where your commitments are.
- Do it together. During the holidays, studies show women are more likely to be burdened with the responsibility of the planning and preparations. Do yourself a huge favor and sit down with team members and partners to talk through upcoming festivities. If you usually don’t participate in the planning, take some of the stress off those who do and ask what you can do to help.
Tip # 2: 50/10 rule
When making arrangements and scheduling commitments, most people set themselves up for stress by scheduling too closely. To reinforce this bad habit, dental teams are trained and encouraged to fill the schedule to the maximum, filling every five-minute increment. This only compounds the stress levels, making it difficult for team members to focus and work to their highest level of efficiency.
During the holidays, observe the 50/10 rule: Of every 60 minutes, only schedule 50. This allows room for recovery from stress, builds in safeguards for feeling overwhelmed, allows time for accidents or interruptions, and gives you an opportunity to plan your next steps.
Tip # 3: Stop, Drop and Rest
To avert and avoid pitfalls the holidays can bring, make sure to stop the chaos, take some time to drop everything, and rest. Too often we are accustomed to pushing our bodies, so our awareness of when we are physically worn down becomes skewed. Be proactive and stop, drop, and rest.
At the office, follow these tips:
- Observe lunch every day. The team will be more productive for it.
- Close your eyes and listen to music. Classical is most efficient to achieve a resting state.
- Take a long bathroom break, splash some water on your face, and set a soothing intention.
- Before you leave each night, take 10 minutes to put your feet up in your own op chair. This lets the body recover from a busy day, and gets it prepared for the transition into family life.
- When you are at home, try these tips:
- Make relaxing activities part of the festivities (watching the kids play video games, enjoy a holiday movie together).
- Cook only four out of the seven nights, relying on leftovers and “jump up” nights (jump up and get what ever you want to make for yourself) for the others.
- Trigger the senses with dimmed lighting, soft music, lit candles, and comfortable clothes.
Tip # 4: Don’t cross the line
During the holidays, you should not cross several lines. Crossing these, or even walking along their edge, heightens your stress levels and brings us to your first line: your stress threshold.
Your stress threshold is where you snap. It is the point at which your stress levels are so high you snap mentally, physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Once you hit your stress threshold, the holidays become memorable — and not in the way you we’re hoping.
Family boundaries need to be observed. There’s no denying that families coming together during the holidays is what makes them special. It can also make them stressful. To ensure things go smoothly and your stress response isn’t triggered, practice acceptance, forgiveness, patience, and always take a long deep breath before you speak. It’s not for them, it’s for you and the ones you love.
Keep out of the danger zone. We all have habits that are not good for us. Those habits we’ve cut back on (eating sweets) or given up (smoking). The holidays do not give us permission to forego healthy habits and revert back or start unhealthy ones with plans that the new year will set us right again. Studies show that holiday timeframe is just long enough for our behaviors to set in as habits, making them all the harder to stop after the holiday period is over. Stay out of the danger zone and continue doing all of your healthy habits, and even start some new ones, like rest/recovery or breathing, so you are setting your new year up for success.
Tip #5: Say NO
Say no. Just because you’re invited to 6-holiday parties on the same weekend, doesn’t mean you have to go to all of them. Decide which of them matters the most and say no to the rest. It’s okay to say no. Respectfully decline the invite with a simple “Thank you for the invitation, but we are not able to attend” and move on. You don’t need to provide an explanation of why. Perhaps you can even suggest getting together after the holidays if it is someone you would really like to spend some time with.
Overcommitting yourself to every holiday invitation and a request is only going to result in burnout, not only physically but also financially. Hostess gifts and baking supplies for 10 dozen cookies can be costly!
Finally, choose those traditions that matter to you and don’t feel guilty about saying no to the rest. Ultimately this will be the best gift you can receive this holiday season.
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