Even if we’re not hosting, I can sometimes find the holidays to be a bit stressful. Scheduling, cooking, nap-time, exercise, family dynamics…it can be a little overwhelming. So how can I get a stress-free holiday?
I wrote about this overall concept of Hygge which encourages comfort, mindfulness, and focuses on being in the moment. It is more of a philosophy that will help you throughout the year. While Hygge is a longer-term philosophy that can inform our day to day actions, it can be hard to step-back and think about a “Philosophy” with the capital P when you are stressed, tired, or overwhelmed.
So, to help with that, I created a list of key strategies to limit your holiday stress no matter what your To-Do list says.
What Causes Holiday Stress?
It’s supposed to be a joyous time. Why are the holidays so stressful? There are a confluence of factors that make the holidays more stressful. Sure, the songs and holiday lights are beautiful but we’re dealing with spending more money than usual, visiting potentially angst-inspiring family members, juggling year-end work projects/kids’ pageants/religious services/hosting visitors, cooking picture-perfect meals, etc. Throw in shorter days with less sunlight, less sunlight, and more sugar crashes – it’s the perfect recipe for stressful holidays.
Luckily, if we’re careful, we can reduce holiday stress and increase the holiday joy.
How to Beat Holiday Stress
1. Go to bed early the night before.
If you’re tired, you will have a lot of trouble managing stress. Your nagging aunt’s comments about more babies or the inevitable toddler destruction (how do such tiny humans make such large messes?!) will be a lot harder to deal with if you’re not rested.
2. Get up earlier. Ok, I know I just said to get more sleep. So you need to go to bed earlier the night before. But I also encourage you to get up just slightly earlier on the day of the holiday. This can be as little as 15 minutes or as much as 1 hour. Use this time to meditate, walk, do yoga, or have a sip of (quiet) coffee by yourself. Don’t look at your phone yet. Social media and emails can wait. Reflect on how you want the day to go and the experience you want to have. You won’t be able to control how other people behave or react during the day but this momentary preparation will allow you to identify how you want to act or respond.
3. If you have to cook, choose what makes it most enjoyable. This could take different forms depending on your situation. It could mean using store-bought crust if you’re supposed to bring the pumpkin/apple/sweet potato pie this year (or even buying a pie from a trusted bakery!). It could also mean giving yourself time to craft your recipe. For example, I’m still perfecting my crust-game, so I rely on store-bought when I have to bring it somewhere else. I don’t want to let down my hosts. But, I do enjoy trying new baking techniques. Last Christmas, I took some time to make a Yule Log (Bûche de Noël). It was a wonderful challenge, stretched my skills and impressed my guests. Pick what you need for the situation at hand. This may also change from holiday to holiday, year to year, as your life seasons change.
4. Get in some movement around the holiday. This could be with the family or on your own. Try a hike, walk, yoga, spin class, or even an impromptu dance party. Before you go crazy–I don’t mean this as a method to “earn” your Thanksgiving meal. Food does not need to be earned. Food is fuel for your life. That being said, regular and consistent movement will reduce stress and can even help digestion.
5. Say “No” where possible. Seriously. Do it. I give you permission. Give yourself permission. Just say “no”. There is enough to do without adding on more responsibilities. Choose the highest priority commitments (be honest!) and follow through. And I mean, the highest priorities. That should be three or less. Have a family tradition of cookie decorating? Good. Volunteering at the soup kitchen? Good, great even. Egg-nog at your cousin’s dentist’s postal carrier’s house? JUST SAY NO. You are not responsible for their event’s success, their happiness, or even attending every thing you’re invited to. Time is finite. Keep it precious.