“Plans are useless, but planning is invaluable.” – Winston Churchill
Yes, it’s that time again – so grab your calendar and start planing! The Holidays are a time of joy, love, family, friends… and stress. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Holiday season – nothing makes me happier than seeing the look on my kids face when they’re opening their gifts on Christmas. But… between the physical demands of always being on the go – running from one party to another – and the extra emotional energy needed to catch up with family and friends (not to mention socializing with colleagues), the Holidays can be VERY stressful. Add in some extra cookies, candy canes, caffeine, some Nog, and Cousin Eddie… you’re bound to get some heightened physical and emotional reactions to your stress.
In order to slow things down so we can really enjoy the Holiday season this year we need to start planning NOW. Here are five tips that will help you manage your stress levels over the Holiday season.
The first tip is acceptance. It’s the Holidays – there will be stress – accept it. I know this sounds harsh, but there are just some things that we cannot change so we need to move beyond the fact of thinking that we can. The sooner you accept this, the easier it will be to deal with the annoyance or irritation of that moment – so you can let it go and move on.
Take your family for example. Family is family, so this year… don’t try to change them. You know how hard it is to try to change yourself; so don’t expect you can change someone else this season.
Believe me, I know it’s easy for me to say things like, “Let go… go with the flow… and embrace uncertainty”. And, I know full well you’re probably saying, “Oh, OK, thanks Andy. I’ll just “accept” my stress – thanks buddy, real helpful.” However, making the conscious choice NOT to bottle up your emotions and announce to yourself, “Well, XYZ just happened. I guess I should just deal with it now” – this will actually lessen the stress level because you’re not pushing the issue back down and fighting it. Trust me on this one. It will just bubble back up later if you don’t deal with it. Dealing with your stress NOW rather than LATER is key, if you want to relax and have any sort of fun this Holiday season.
Let’s face it, there are going to be a number of Holiday events this season and if you try to attend them all, you’ll wear yourself out quickly. If you over-commit just to please everyone, this will only lead to more stress all around. The goal should be able to relax and really enjoy the Holiday season – it goes by so quickly. Looking back we often wish we could have been more “in the moment.” So, (with this in mind) it is important to create a master calendar NOW recognizing your limitations – you’ll be able to plan for the essentials and possibly scale back on the (less important) commitments. The more you plan NOW, the more you will enjoy your time with your friends and family when you are at a social event or party. Again, this year “accept” that you can’t do it all – and know that it’s okay to say no…politely, of course.
For thousands of years Vedic Sages, Buddhist Monks, and regular people like you and me and have used meditation as a tool to slow down the content (that narrative story) in the mind and relax the body. But this doesn’t mean we need to travel to India or some remote mountain in the Himalayas to meditate. You can actually meditate almost anywhere. When you start your day with meditation, not only will you be better equipped to cope with stress of the Holidays, you might even unveil a few new perspectives you didn’t have before. It doesn’t have to occur in the morning – personally, I think it’s a great way to decompress and melt away the accumulated stress after a busy day. But again, you can do it anywhere. Try this breathing exercise the next time you are in a long check-out line.
• Take a deep breath in and pay close attention to your breath (be aware of the people around you – make sure you’re not in the way of anything)
• Every time you notice your mind has wondered to other thoughts, feelings, or noises, “catch yourself” and bring your attention back to your breath
• Breathe normally when it’s your turn to unload your items from the carriage
You will be amazed at how energized you feel!
4. Yoga/ Exercise
The Holiday season is usually when people give up on fitting in their exercise (and clothes;). In the North East it gets cold… and dark a lot earlier, so it’s often hard to get motivated to move. This year, make Thanksgiving the NEW New Year’s day. This is when we can reflect with gratitude on the prior year and set our intentions and goals for the following year. Then, get moving! Soon, you’ll start to forget about “the irritating coworker from last night’s party” and your stress will naturally dissolve – you will actually feel a boost in your energy and mood. This is also the best time of the year to hit the gym because it’s less crowded. You’ll have your routine locked down before all the “quitters”;) come back in January.
Yoga and Exercise are like “meditation in motion” because you’re focusing on a single task and more concerned with your physical movement – concentrating on how your body is feeling. If live in my area, check out Stil Studio , 227 Legacy Pl, Dedham, MA. 02026. Try to take a few classes a week, get a massage, and try the other cool forms of bodywork they have going on – your body will thank you later.
The last tip is all about sleep. Lots of late nights and a lack of sleep can contribute to experiencing even greater stress. Sleep is essential for balance and renewal, especially during the Holidays when we are constantly expending energy with friends and family members… and running from one crowded store to the next. How can you wake up refreshed throughout the season? Try this:
• Set and get into a routine
• Go to bed and wake up the same time every day (weekends included)
• Use the bedroom for sleeping – No TV, cell phones, or working on the laptop once you crawl into bed (this goes double for my wife;)
• No caffeine and limit your alcohol before you go to bed
I hope this helps you have a restful and wonderful Holiday season – and say “hello everybody” to Aunt Bethany for me!