3 Strategies for Less Stress this Holiday Season
Updated: Dec 1, 2019
Is your holiday season one of gratitude, quiet reflection and family connection? Or does it feel more like a frenzied, manic race to the finish line?
I remember when I was a young child looking forward to the Advent season, cutting out snowflakes from paper, creating arts with pine cones and baking Christmas cookies with my mom while singing along to Christmas carols. Every year, that was what I imagined Christmas to be like.
Every year what we had instead was a mom that was stressed out about money and how she would afford presents. A frenzied cleaning spree, including washing down the walls and shampooing carpets because company was coming. We did bake Christmas cookies together, but it always involved yelling and nagging and frustration because the cookies weren’t perfect enough, the frosting dripped on the floor and the flour was everywhere. It wasn’t that my mom hated Christmas or found no enjoyment in it. I think she wanted to find enjoyment. I think that was what she was chasing. But, in an effort to make the holidays perfect, she made the holidays feel more like a minefield we had to navigate until the day after Christmas when we could actually enjoy our presents, and eat the leftover cookies that weren’t perfect enough for company.
I remember when I was young vowing that I would not repeat this pattern with my children. I wanted them to enjoy their holidays as I had always imagined them to be when I was younger. I never asked my children if my vision for the holidays was their’s as well. So what did I do? I re-created the same experience for my children as my mom did for us. Stress, frustration and an impeccably clean and decorated house. It wasn’t until one day, while baking cookies with my children, I got angry with my son for spilling sprinkles all over the kitchen floor. The mess was everywhere. With the pent-up stress exploding, I yelled at him to be more careful and stop making such a mess. He looked up at me, tears his eyes, and said “This is no fun. I wish Christmas was over already.” Then he left for his room. I stood in the kitchen, looked at the mess, saw my daughters standing there with their heads down. Christmas carols playing in the background, I noticed that nobody had been singing along. Nobody was having fun. I recognized that although well intentioned, I had robbed my children of the joys of the holiday.
That was the moment, I vowed to do the holidays differently. I apologized to my son, brushed some flour on the floor and said, “Let’s have some fun. Forget about the mess.” Those were by far the worst looking Christmas cookies we ever had. They were also the most delicious! I vowed to myself that I would continue, each year, to make family connection, laughter and gratitude be the goals of the season. Not perfect cookies, expensive presents or a four course dinner.
If you are ready to stop feeling tired, frustrated and stressed during the holidays, I want share with you 3 tips to stay centered, present and joyful this holiday season.
1. Take a deep breath
Sounds simple doesn’t it? During times of stress, we actually forget to breathe! We hold our breath and tense our muscles. Our body and mind, cannot feel stressed and breathe deeply at the same time. It’s an impossibility. Next time you feel angry at a checkout clerk, long lines at the store, or at your children. Take a few deep breaths, give yourself that small gift, before you react in anger.
2. Let it be good enough
Those ugly cookies taste just as good as the perfect ones. A dinner table decorated by young children may not meet Martha Stewart’s standards, but it will delight your children. A four course meal sounds beautiful in theory, but after spending hours in the kitchen, your family will eat that meal in ten minutes. And let’s be honest here…the kids likely won’t want to eat it anyway. Allow them to help prepare a simple family meal. Keep the four course dinner for when they get older. Children are young only for such a small amount of time.
3. Don’t compare yourself
All those Facebook posts with perfect families, picking out their perfect Christmas tree, in their matching sweaters? They’re not real! You don’t know what happened five minutes before that picture was taken or what happened five minutes after. It is one snapshot in time. We spend so much time comparing ourselves to those around us. It is so much easier to do now with social media. We can see our neighbor’s flawless Christmas dinner on Facebook. Your sister is tweeting about the perfect Christmas tree, and your cousin’s Instagram account is full of images that could be straight out of Housekeeping magazine. I remember one year when my children were small, decorating cookies with me. I wanted to take a picture of them for Facebook. As I got my phone, I looked at the scene in front of me and laughed. My oldest daughter had earphones in because she doesn’t like carols, or more accurately, people singing. My son was decorating cookies in his batman costume and my younger daughter had no clothes on at all, because they were all itchy on that particular day. Yup! That’s how we rolled!
This holiday season, make it a priority to laugh together, enjoy each other and spend time together. Let the rest go. As for yourself…say “no” when you need to. Prioritize where you want to help and how you want to spend your time. Above all take time to deepen your self-care. You cannot serve from an empty vessel. Make sure you take plenty of time for yourself to restore and relax.
If you are longing for more peace and reflection this holiday season, be sure to check out my virtual class: Sacred December: 4 weeks to Prioritize, Nurture, Restore and Reset.