Whether you celebrate one holiday or all of them- we are all familiar with the whirlwind that begins right after Halloween, builds to Thanksgiving, and continues gaining momentum through the end of the year. While this season is meant to bring feelings of closeness and cheer to you and your loved ones, it can also bring on feelings of stress and anxiety- especially during the planning of events. On the bright side unlike many other types of stress, holiday stress is predictable. We know where it will begin and end and we can make premeditated plans on how to reduce its impact on us. Here are some tips you can try during your holiday seasons to assist you with stress management and help your holidays remain full of cheer.
Plan in detail: Sit down a week or two before the big event and map out everything that needs to be done and when it needs to be done. Write a timeline or use your planner/calendar or appointment book to schedule tasks. For example, if things like baking, caroling, shopping, sending cards, visiting relatives and decorating are on your list- write down the days and times you want each of those accomplished. Make a list of everything else you need to do each day so you know when and where you can fit everything in.
Expect the unexpected: Knowing and accepting that some things might go wrong will help you be prepared when/if something does. When you are making your to-do-list for the holidays, anticipate the snafus. We get so wrapped up in our notions of what makes the holidays special, down to the very last ornament on the tree, that when something goes wrong we can be thrown off kilter and end up overreacting to the small stuff. Try to keep in mind that the details you noticed not going your way probably weren’t noticed by others, and didn’t significantly effect the outcome of your holidays.
Have a back-up plan: In the event that something goes awry, be ready for it. This could be based on past history or new challenges unique to this holiday season. Stay positive. Be prepared. Be flexible. Take a deep, grounding breath all the way to the bottom of your belly. Look at the situation and consider your options. For example, perhaps you have a flaky family member that is either always late or always drops out at the last minute. Try to account for that- either make some extra food so there will be a plate for them if they are delayed, or call ahead of time to confirm they are coming so you don’t do extra work on table settings and cooking more than necessary.
Relax and regroup: After the holidays, allow yourself to unwind. Schedule some down time. You’ve just spent a few weeks focused on everyone but you. Plan a lazy night at home with your favorite novel. Go to the spa and have a long relaxing Swedish massage. Spend a casual night out with a close friend. You deserve it! Knowing you have something special planned just for you after the holidays can help reduce anxiety and maintain good cheer throughout.
Remember, all the stress of baking and caroling and decorating and shopping is for one reason: you love it! So take a deep breath, keep calm and deck the halls.
*Written by Michelle Avidon, a Clinical Psychology Graduate Student with a BA in Psychology. She mentored troubled youth at The Door in New York City and now works in Inpatient Mental Health in New Canaan, CT. *Edited by Heather Edwards, LMHC, NCC, BCC