Do the holidays stress you out?
It seems like the countdown to Christmas starts earlier and earlier each year. For my family, we actually start looking ahead to the holidays when my son auditions for a role in The Nutcracker, which takes place in September. And some stores are putting out Christmas merchandise as early as August. I just can’t get away.
It’s easy to get caught up in someone else’s idea of the perfect holiday, thanks to all of the wonderful advertising and marketing that bombards us. I’m not speaking ill of that advertising — I’m part of the industry and it serves a purpose. But if we aren’t true to ourselves, we can let the chaos of the season overwhelm us. Well, at least, that can happen to me.
I don’t know if you have the same issues, but from where I stand, I needed a strategy for managing my holiday stress. I already have enough stress in my life. I can’t pile more on top of it. That knot in my shoulder isn’t getting any better — I certainly don’t want it to worsen. So I thought I’d share the ways that I reduce the tension.
Commit to what’s really important
The most important thing in my life is my family. I move mountains to be there for them. That doesn’t stop during the holidays. Knowing my priority helps guide me when I have to make choices. It’s like a compass.
Here’s an example of how my compass helped. Recently, my husband and I received an invitation to an event that we think would be really fun. However, going would have meant two nights in a row away from our children, who already missed us. It would have meant asking my parents to inconvenience themselves and drive my children home late when they shouldn’t be driving.
The question we asked was — does this serve our commitment to our children?
We were disappointed, but the decision was clear: we decided we shouldn’t go to the event. Our compass guided us.
Don’t fall prey to FOMO
I used to log into Facebook more than twice a day. Facebook loves it when we log in and check our feeds a lot. But just because Facebook doesn’t have a problem with your “Fear of Missing Out” doesn’t mean that it’s good for you.
When I am checking social media, I’m not engaging face-to-face with real people in my life. Don’t get me wrong — social media has its place. It’s a wonderful way to keep in touch, especially with people who live far away. But the obsessive need to check in can pose a problem.
I recognize that Facebook and I have a problem. I couldn’t resist the urge to check in. So I uninstalled it from my phone. I also work really hard to put down my phone or turn away from my computer when people talk to me. It’s hard, but if you can take it one day at a time, you’re on your way.
Stay in the Present
You know that feeling when you’re all excited for an event and you think about it an anticipation rises as it gets closer and closer? But then the actual day comes and it’s not nearly as exciting as the anticipation you felt? OK, maybe I’m the only one. But seriously, I noticed that I spent so much time anticipating that I forgot to enjoy the days leading up to that event. Now I focus on where I am. It’s not easy, but it can be so rewarding.
One of my favorite memories is of a simple walk I took with my family. The air was crisp and cold, and were out enjoying the lights on all the houses. The highlight of our walk was at a house that has more than a dozen blow-up decorations in the front yard. They add a new one every year, and it’s fun to see. It was special.
You can stand there and appreciate the beauty right in front of you. You don’t have to wait for a fancy vacation or anything if you stay in the present.
Feel All the Feels
I tend to feel a knot in the back of my throat a lot during the holidays. I don’t actually cry, but I sure feel like I’m going to. I’m overwhelmed with emotions — happiness, pride, joy, sadness… you name it.
I routinely feel a knot in my throat when music from the Nutcracker plays. I hear it so much, you would think it wouldn’t affect me. I think about my son performing, and I feel this swell of pride.
I typically hide my reaction as best I can. But over the years I’ve learned to accept that feelings are feelings. We all have them, and there’s nothing wrong with feelings. I don’t need to be embarrassed. No one needs to be embarrassed.
Own that feeling. It’s OK to have all the feels.
I tend to put other people’s health and happiness ahead of my own. I will give and give until there’s nothing left. But, at the urging of my husband, I’m learning to slow down and breathe. I try to take care of myself. I sleep when I need to. I meditate. I journal. I read. I exercise. I get creative! It’s not easy, because time is at a premium. I get it. My children take a lot of my time. But my name is Cindy. My role may be mom, but my identity is my own. I am responsible for taking care of myself, because if I don’t, I can’t take care of anyone else.
You know what my husband and I did the other day? We took a class in making fused glass! We carved out two hours and sat in a studio and learned how to make two pieces of glass art. I realized when it was all over that I had fully immersed myself in the activity. I felt so much better afterward — like I was refreshed!
I took a breath from life, and it was beautiful.
I would love to know if you have strategies for avoiding holiday stress. My ways are by no means the only ways. We all have to experiment and find our path. In the meantime, we do our best. Happy holidays,
Also published on Medium.