Pre-Empt This Year’s Holiday Stress
Yes. You heard me. Holiday stress. It’s the polar opposite of the joy we hope for. The holiday bliss every greeting card claims we are due. There are magic moments. We savor them, but briefly, in between the hard work of ‘magic making.’ Sometimes, the holidays are just stressful. An overscheduled, overwrought time when forced fun competes with our massive to-do list. The strain is enough to threaten every shred of patience we have.
If you sought the escape hatch, at least once in the past few months, I’d like to share a simple way to make the holidays work better next time. Not perfect…but better. I tried this last year and it radically improved things. I plan to optimize this method, with a few subtle changes, and really crush it for this year’s holiday season!
Two Steps Now = Better Holidays Later
- Write yourself a note TODAY while holiday memories are fresh (it takes 10 to 15 minutes.) This note will remind the future-you-of-10 months-from-now, what did and didn’t work. Create a Google or Word Document, label it something like “Holiday Observations 2018.”
- Create a calendar entry (with a reminder) that triggers you to read your own wise advice, ideally October 1st It’s that simple.
Capture What Really Matters!
What made you irrationally angry, sad or stressed over the holidays? Was it wrapping gifts? Was it the terrible ordeal choosing a restaurant your extended family could all agree upon? Was it buying airline tickets again-too-late and paying a fortune in last-minute-tax? Was it feeling strained trying to manage your children’s schedules or behavior in a new environment? Whatever it was, write it down!
Every trigger has an solution companion. Sometimes the solution is to stop. Say no to whatever that trigger is. Just step away from the urge to do more shopping 2 days before Christmas, politely decline the evening functions you have no time to enjoy or avoid trying to make that caramel dome for the Thanksgiving dessert! Whatever your kryptonite was over the holidays, try to eliminate it from your schedule next time.
If it’s not something you can eliminate, figure out how to do it differently. If it’s shopping for gifts or airline tickets, the solution is probably to shop earlier. Alternatively, gift people experiences (instead of stuff) and avoid wrapping altogether! If the issue is dealing with holiday cards…maybe you a) don’t send any or b) send an e-card, email or New Year’s card instead. Pull yourself out of the trap of doing what you’ve always done!
If your holiday stress involved difficult family dynamics, then consider candid conversations with yourself, your spouse and anyone else you need to reset expectations with. Which relationships do you need to nurture and which ones drain your precious energy? Write it down! Can you renegotiate how much time or how you spend the time together? Determine if spending time with the same cast of family characters is essential each year. Maybe it’s not.
Holidays are a time when many of us ‘forget’ we need decent sleep, buffer time in-between activities, reasonably nutritious meals (I’m looking at you holiday cookies) or space to think. If you have paid time off, instead of scrambling to use your vacation time during what is typically the busiest work season (like I did) pace yourself. Take time off, strategically, to deal with holiday responsibilities. Do it in advance to avoid last-minuteness (i.e. gifts, photo cards, scheduling family visits!) Why have holiday prep claim all of your nights and weekends for a month or more? If there’s a performance you want to see or if you’d like to break away for a yoga class, do it. Schedule time for the fun, not just the work!
Imagine yourself emerging from the holidays, next January, feeling restored and replenished instead of drained! Give yourself permission to do holidays differently this year. Time with a happy, healthy Mom is the most important gift you can give your family.