It’s a beautiful time of year – filled with twinkling lights, music, and the promise of snow. It also happens to be filled with stress.
We get that beautiful magazine picture in our heads. You know, that picture of a perfect holiday with handmade gifts and homemade food, a pristine house, and a calm, put-together family… Ha! Those expectations are a recipe for disaster.
Some of us are dealing with a complicated mix of family, high expectations (even if they’re just our own), and budgets that are stretched to the max. Others of us are working through loneliness, sadness, and loss.
Something about the holiday season brings out that difficult mix of joy and pain that bleeds over from our home life into our work life. If you’re stressed this holiday season, here are some strategies to help you manage that stress and hopefully enjoy the holidays a little bit more.
- You don’t have to do everything. Yes, my friends reading this are laughing right now. I fall prey to this trap all the time. But the more I entertain, the more I find that good, simple food is fabulous. And cheating a bit by not making it all myself can keep me saner. Planning a menu that is easy and make-ahead means I have downtime and more time to enjoy guests. You don’t have to find the perfect gift and you don’t have to attend every holiday event. You don’t have to do everything.
- Make a plan. List out what you want to get done and schedule times to do it. Knowing who is getting what or where you need to be and when can help keep you sane. Most often, making a plan can help you realize when you’re stretched too thin or are dreading too many activities.
- Cut things from your to-do list. The longer I have to plan, the more elaborate my plans get. Pare your list down to the things you absolutely have to do and nix the rest. Plan in some extra time for down time, resting, and recovering if something doesn’t work out the way you want.
- Ask for help. It’s so hard to do. But involving your family or your friends in preparation can make them feel like they’re an important and trusted part of your life. No one expects you to do everything by yourself (See #1.)
- Say thank you. Practicing gratitude is scientifically shown to make you happier and connect you to the people around you. It just makes you feel good and it makes others feel good too.
- Give to others. Nothing can change your perspective faster than taking time to help others in need. Show some love to the CFC, volunteer, or take a donation to a food bank or animal shelter. Even doing something small and simple can pull you out of your stressed mindset.
For those of you who are experiencing loss, depression, sadness, loneliness, or the many complicated feelings and difficult situations that add stress to “the most wonderful time of the year,” please know that you’re not alone. As you work through this holiday season, please remember:
- It’ll get better. It may not feel like it now, but things can get better. It just takes time. And sometimes requires getting more help.
- Practice good self-care. Don’t know where to start? Here’s a good resource and a TEDTalk playlist to get you started.
- Contact your Employee Assistance Program. The EAP is an excellent resource if you need legal help, are feeling financial stress, or just need someone to talk to. They’re trained to listen and help you work through any problems you may be having. They can also refer you to professionals in your area if you need someone to talk to on a more regular basis. EAP is an amazing, confidential program that your agency pays for to help support you. Take advantage of it.