Managing Stress During the Holidays

holidays stress

The holidays are fast approaching! What does that mean? STRESS!

Recently I realized that the holidays aren’t what they used to be. I’m just not that into it anymore. There’s so much to do with the decorating, dressing up, cooking and baking. . .it all seems like too much work Are you feeling this way too? If you are, you’re probably thinking that there has to be a better way. I thought so too so I asked a question in a group I’m in – How do you feel about the holidays? I got TONS of responses.

  • “I’m not a fan of holidays either. They just aren’t exciting any more.”
  • “Instead of trying to do what everyone else wants you to do, why don’t you do the things that bring you joy?
  • “I used to hate holidays but now that [insert family member] is gone, I miss doing all the things we used to do.”

These responses made me really do some brainstorming about what I wanted this holiday season. After many days and nights thinking about it, I’ve come up with 5 tips to help manage the stress but still have fun at the same time. Hopefully these tips can help you enjoy the holidays and get through them somewhat stress-free.


Tip # 1 – Know that YOU are in control

When it comes to control, YOU are in charge of how you feel, what you say and do, where you go and how you choose to spend your energy. The experiences you have are either charged positively or negatively based on the energy that you create. Brendon Burchard encourages people to think of themselves as a power plant. The power plant doesn’t have energy, it generates it. This holiday season, focus on saying yes to invites that will energize you and no to the ones you don’t.

Saying yes to some and no to others is something YOU control. You shouldn’t be forced to make decisions but be empowered to make choices. Ones that benefit you and your family. It can be hard to choose, especially when family comes into play, but ultimately YOU need to decide what’s right for you, your own health – physical & mental.

Remember that you are in control of your attitude and your actions. When something negative or bad happens, don’t be quick to blame others for what’s happening. Maybe you can’t get the perfect gift for someone because the store is sold out or a driver cuts you off on the highway. The store isn’t at fault for selling out, maybe it’s just a hot item. The driver might be in a rush because they need to get to the hospital ASAP to visit a sick family member. Just worry about YOU and how you choose to react.

Tip # 2 – Become an observer

Instead of chiming in during every single conversation, sit back, watch and observe. It might not feel right, but sometimes sitting out can be a good thing. Have you ever added in your two cents and then sparked an argument? I know have and it wasn’t fun. Learning to bite your tongue can save you endless amounts of unnecessary stress.

So what do you do when you’re sitting back and observing? Breathe calmly and practice the 4-7-8 breathing. You can find instructions on how to practice the technique here. While you’re breathing, watch the conversations happening around you, how people are acting and see if you can determine what they’re feeling. Doing this will give you a better sense of the environment you’re in.

Remember this phrase from Trent Shelton – Facts Over Feelings. This short statement holds true in almost all situations. When you observe and collect the facts, you’re better able to determine how you will behave. Seeing facts for what they are and not allowing feelings to overshadow them keeps things clear and honest.

Tip # 3 – Don’t believe everything you think

Thoughts are funny. We hear them in our brains and almost immediately take them for the truth. The problem with this is, not everything we think is true. So turn down the volume on your thoughts. When you hear thoughts pop in your head, analyze them before jumping to conclusions. Ask yourself these questions with respect to your thoughts:

  1. Is this thought true?
  2. Is this thought helpful to me and/or the people around me?
  3. Is this thought kind to me and/or the people around me?

If you have a thought that isn’t true, you can turn the volume on that thought down to zero and ignore it. Thoughts that are helpful provide incite and information. And if the thought isn’t kind, disregard it completely because it doesn’t help anyone.

To help process some of these thoughts, try the process of free writing. That’s when you grab a notebook and something to write with and just jot down every thought that’s in your head. When you do this, you don’t stop to judge anything you’re writing. You just keep writing until there’s nothing left to write. Then and only then do you go back and read what you wrote. This activity is helpful because it gets the thoughts out of your brain and on paper and allows you to see what makes sense.

Tip # 4 – Take responsibility for what YOU do

Like Tip # 1, you are responsible for what you choose to say and do, how you feel and what events you go to this holiday season. You make the choice on how you act and one of the biggest responsibilities comes with taking things personally. Yes, sometimes during the holidays, people say things they don’t truly believe or mean but the comments can be hurtful. If something is said that makes you wince, acknowledge it, let the other person know that the comment hurt and tell them why. Although it can be hard, try not to take things personally.

When you’re surrounded by friends and family this season, allow others to feel their feelings without judgement. Even if you think someone is overreacting, don’t allow yourself to jump to conclusions and don’t take ownership of their feelings. Remember, you don’t have to feel the same way as someone else does. We are individuals and that’s why we’re all special because we think differently and we feel differently.

If you need to, create space for yourself. Be responsible for your own peace of mind and well being. Each week or every few weeks, make sure you have white space on your calendar. What’s white space? It’s just what it sounds like – space on your calendar that has no plans, no obligations and is just for you. Use that time to rest, recover and heal your mind, body and soul.

Tip # 5 – Celebrate the holidays as if you were a kid

Do you remember what it was like to be a kid during the holidays? You got to let loose, have fun, see family members, open presents and only help out with a few things like setting the table. This year, try enjoying the holidays as if you were a kid again.

When your nieces and nephews ask you to go outside and have a snowball fight, do it! Make placemats for all the dinner guests to color and draw on, including the adults. Participate in activities that might seem immature but bring you back to your childhood. These are the types of activities that probably put a smile on your face and bring you joy. For the things that don’t seem enjoyable, say no and move on.

And remember to go with the flow and take one step at a time. As kids, life was easier and he had less responsibilities. Adulting is hard. But you know what’s harder? Going through the holidays without any enjoyment.

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