Handling Holiday Stressors

“The holidays are upon us and like many women, my mature response often goes like this: panic, stare, shudder and roll over, desperately clutching a tin of Danish butter cookies.” Could any of us say it better?! I love this quote by Connie Sokol in her article, “3 tips to simplify and savor the holiday season.” It depicts the overwhelm that many of us feel during the holidays while shopping, wrapping, decorating, cooking, cleaning, providing service, sending cards, preparing for family to visit, and all the other things that we often think we have to accomplish simultaneously with perfection. Such stressors can trigger habits of coping and comforting ourselves with unhealthy food. Let’s take a look at some stress reducers:

First, there is no need for perfection in preparing for holiday fun. It’s called the season of JOY, not the season of ripping your hair out! Expectations of perfection in one’s self is a key stressor any day, let alone during the end-of-the-year festivities. Face it, you won’t get everything perfect! Put that expectation away, and enjoy the many imperfections that lead to laughter and fun memories. Choose to enjoy the spirit of the season.

Second, there is no need to tackle the holidays all by yourself; share the job!Children and adults enjoy participating in the preparations, and their involvement can help alleviate the load (as long as you’re not expecting perfection). A friend of mine is a gifted decorator and party planner. Like many women during the holidays, not only does she decorate, but she also prepares holiday food and plans family activities. A few months ago, she relayed to me an epiphany she had concerning the holidays and her family. While enjoying a conversation with her husband, he shared his excitement for the approaching holidays and the family having fun together, like they do every year. While listening, my friend had many thoughts swirling in her head about the preparations and planning she needed to make for the holidays to run smoothly in their home. Suddenly, she looked at her husband, thought of her children’s excitement during the holidays as well, and said, “Your holidays just happen for you, don’t they.” My friend realized that her family enjoys the fruits of her labors, while she runs around making the holidays “happen” for them. Make preparations for a family event, which can foster connection. If it is difficult for you to let go and share the job, ask yourself these three questions:

1. Am I doing this to create family memories or for show?
2. Am I making this because I love my family or to check it off the list?
3. Am I being present in the moment and enjoying this event or am I thinking ahead to when it will be done, or planning the next thing?

These are key questions that Connie Sokol addresses in her article as ones that can help you experience holiday preparations as being love driven vs. expectation driven. She includes the thought, “Consider how much holiday stress you’ll eliminate by focusing on those who matter most and not on how someone might perceive you or your item, event or décor.” It couldn’t have been said better.Put your feet up and watch the energetic video interview, “Avoiding Holiday Overwhelm,” which contains more enlightening tips from Connie Sokol to handle holiday stressors. It’s worth the 8 minutes!

I wish you JOY and a healthy holiday!