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Challenge: Reducing Holiday Stress

How To Fix That Holiday Hitch

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Each year, I think I’ve got Christmas beat.

I’ve done my shopping ahead of time.

I’ve added holiday events (school concerts!) to the calendar and requested time off work beforehand.

I ordered New Years cards (!) instead of Christmas cards in order to buy myself extra time to mail them. I'm especially proud of that one.

Yep, I’m gonna make it through this holiday season emotionally unscathed.

But those doggone overwhelming holiday feels of stress get me ANYWAY.

I have a few new tricks up my sleeve for this year…mainly thanks to my work in a treatment center for people with anxiety and depression. I’ve incorporated a few tools of the trade over the past few weeks, and I must say, my Holiday Overwhelm is faaaaaaaar lower than usual.

Since there is no “secret sauce,” I’ll take anything that brings a little incremental improvement. Some of my favorite short-circuit moves:

  • Alternate holiday parties

Trying to make the rounds of holiday parties is my biggest stressor this year.

So I’m (mostly) taking the year off from any holiday parties that require jumping through at least one hoop (ex., finding a babysitter) in order to go.

I figure, I went to those parties last year, and I’ll go again next year. But this year, it’s become too much. So I’m skipping many of them. I

t’s tough; I feel guilty about it from time to time. But then I think of the calories I will save by avoiding all the food and wine and I feel better.

  • ABC Mindfulness

When stuck in a task or errand that is starting to stress me out, I play a little game. I pick a category - say, animals - and run through the alphabet, picking an animal for each letter.

I do this while waiting in line or stuck in a noisy, crowded (stressful!) place. It helps give the pissy, perseverating monkey that is taking over my brain something to do so I can let the rational, logical part of me take the wheel and get. stuff. done.

  • Pick your battles…and battle days

Our stress tolerance and patience varies by day; it’s affected by sleep, hydration and a long list of other influences that are only partially in our control.

Some days, stressful situations roll off me….and other days, I throw (mostly internally-contained) temper tantrums over inevitable inconveniences or personal disagreements.

On particularly difficult days, I jettison errands. I scrap to-do items that are not urgent and push these less important tasks back a day or two, for when I (hopefully) have a more even-keel day.

This is not always easy. I recently scrapped a trip to Target, which disappointed my youngest son. He complained that I was bailing after promising that we would go shopping. (I don’t recall it was a promise, but nonetheless, he was miffed at me.)

We sat down for a talk.

I said “I’m sorry you are disappointed. I remember telling you this morning that we would go. In our family, it is important to keep our word…and it’s important that we honor each other by being flexible and understanding for when others need to change plans.” He understood, and we made plans to go later in the week. In my breaking my “promise”, we both learned something. I learned to guard and use my energy effectively and efficiently, and my son learned that being a caring family member sometimes requires one person to put aside their agenda out of love and compassion for others.

Which is perfect, since love and family are what the holidays are really about anyway.

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