We're all hearing the familiar greetings of the season to be joyful and cheerful. Although well meaning, these messages and expectations can heighten our less desirable feelings such as sadness, grief, or loneliness. On top of it all, it seems as though everywhere we turn the Xmas music is blaring and product advertisements are jumping out at us implying that we must consume and celebrate in order to fit in whether we have the means or not.
How do we manage holiday stress when we're not feeling merry and bright and find true peace amidst all the excitement?
Follow these 8 Steeps to Reduce Holiday Stress and Feel Better!
1. Stay with-in your budget. That goes for money and time! With so many parties and pressure (or desire) to buy it's easy to forget to stay with-in reasonable limits. Several years ago we made the switch from frenzied holiday shopping to a more relaxed experience by giving our families an opportunity to spend meaningful time together instead of piles of gifts. There were years when we bought them a tree and we decorated it together or we got together over music, games, and refreshments.
2. Take care of yourself. Go out for a walk or an exercise class. Eat more greens the day after a party where you may have over-indulged. Enjoy a concert or movie that lifts your spirits. We just saw the Handel + Haydn Society perform Handel's Messiah at Symphony Hall. It was magnificent. A cup of coffee and a nice stroll about town before that felt rejuvenating. Whatever re-energizes you, do it!
3. Acknowledge all of your feelings. We find this time of year brings on a wide range of emotions. Just two years ago Shawn's grandfather passed away on New Year's Eve and some time before that we experienced the loss of our second baby. Every time we celebrate the joys of our families and friends being together we naturally think of those who aren't with us. Holding a space for both the delightful and unpleasant has certainly made our lives richer and finding solace in remembering our loved ones who are no longer here while enjoying our time with those who are brings a sense of balance to our lives.
4.Practice gratitude. Expressing thanks for anything, no matter its size, can make you feel better. We have a friend who keeps a daily 'Gratitude Journal' and she believes this exercise lifts her mood every time. There have been plenty of nights where the two of us are sitting on the couch and needing to shift our mood to something lighter. Laughing about how our younger son runs across our house screaming with glee as he is being chased by the older brother is often enough to cheer us up. That's if we can get past the noise and see it for the fun and good times they're having;)
5. Change perspective. The meaning we assign things can affect how we feel about them. For us, kids really seem to challenge this advice. Our boys leave a mess all over the place during meal times. It can really be quite gross to watch an 8 year old eat saucy chicken wings, but recognizing the satisfaction on his face and being on the receiving end of their smiles after a tasty meal brings us joy. Sometimes, we just have to shift our focus from the mess we have to clean up to the fun we have making it.
6. Discover the wonder of the season. There is something for everyone to connect to during the winter holidays- a walk in the fresh snow; the aromas of spices, hot chocolate, or cider; a song or story that reflects your beliefs. Find something that brings you joy no matter how fleeting.
7. Be creative! Bake cookies, decorate, start a new tradition, or volunteer. Connect with others in ways that feels good.
8. Treat yourself to something nice- some quiet time alone, a gourmet cup of coffee, Pilates, or a vacation! Whatever your budget, do something that you might not usually do and remember to enjoy!