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It’s the most wonderful time of the year—but also one of the most stressful! Make the season more enjoyable by stopping stress in its tracks with these tips this Christmas.
- Be satisfied with “good enough”. Don’t always go for bigger and better when planning your holiday, and avoid unrealistic expectations of how things should look and be. Does the tree have to be bussed in from the hinterlands of Alaska? Does the wrapping paper have to be colour co-ordinated? Keep priorities in order by focusing on the most important things – connection and fun – and be happy with “good enough” for everything else.
- Drop expensive, high-stress rituals. If you’re dragging your kids off to see The Nutcracker—it’s a tradition!—but they’re whining every step of the way, make a switch. True, families thrive on traditions, but it’s less about the event itself, which your kids may have outgrown, and more about time together. If your kids are complaining, or if it’s stressing you out, drop expensive, high-stress rituals in favour of something simple and universally appealing, like a popcorn and Christmas movie night.
- Focus on what’s most important. That massive pile of holiday cards needs to get mailed? Everyone’s doing Elf on the Shelf so you need to as well? You need to bake cookies for school break up? Refocus on what’s most important to you. Only spend time doing things that actually bring you joy and outsource the rest. Buy the cookies if you don’t like baking. Forget about the cards, or do e-cards instead. Ask yourself: Which are the most important things to me? and let go of the rest.
- Go online. Avoid the stress of shopping centre gift buying and shop online. Many places deliver for free, or if over a certain amount, and it means you also save money on buying spontaneous splurges from things you see in shop windows!
- Hold onto daily rituals. If you like to read for half an hour before bed, don’t give it up in favour of yet another holiday chore. Our everyday practices help calm and center us.
- Stick with the tried and true. It’s worth remembering that a special gathering is not always the time to experiment with a new recipe. Just do what you know how to do and can do well, like basic mashed potatoes on the menu because it’s a family favorite. Focus on the fellowship of the people you’re gathering with, and don’t stress out on the preparations and menu.
- Know when to say no. Only say yes to meaningful events that focus on the holiday and bring the whole family or your most precious friends together. It’s okay to decline an invitation until the new year.
- Prep for holiday dinner guests. Every time you make a meal in the weeks before Christmas, double the recipe and freeze half. That way, when guests visit you can serve a home-cooked meal in minutes.
- Enjoy treats the right way. Too much added sugar can cause blood sugar highs and lows, leaving you feeling more anxious and less able to handle stress. Try eating just one cookie or piece of cake instead of a handful so you can have a taste without overdoing it. (Place your treat on a plate, then walk away from the rest of the goodies so you aren’t in sight of more temptations.) Also, when cooking, make healthy swaps like almond meal instead of flour, honey instead of white sugar, etc.
- Find ways to sweat. (And we don’t mean in the kitchen!) Studies have found that heading outdoors to exercise is more enjoyable than doing the same activity while cooped up inside, and you’ll feel a lift in your mood after just 5 minutes. Working out is also one of the best ways to bust anxiety: Research shows that it promotes the release of endorphins, which act like a tranquilizer on the brain. Plus, exercise blunts the effects of stress hormones like cortisol. Go for a family walk before or after dinner to look at neighbourhood Christmas lights, or set your morning alarm 20 minutes earlier to fit in a jog.
- Let it all out. Bottling up your stress for too long can lead to health issues such as back pain and a weakened immune system. Holidays bring up not only general stress, but emotional stresses to do with family strains or lost loved ones. So it’s crucial to find a release that works for you. One suggestion: Go to a private spot, such as your car, and scream for about 5 seconds. If screaming isn’t for you, try a few minutes of dancing, singing (put on some holiday tunes!) or deep breathing.
- Keep up the health support. Schedule in a massage or acupuncture treatment if you know the holiday stress gets to you. Keep up with supplements like magnesium, nervatona, B vitamins or rescue remedy, which all help to stabilise your nervous system to help you deal with stress better. Don’t forget self-care during this time.
Forget about pinterest. Let go of perfectionism and unrealistic expectations. Our Christmas tables and place settings don’t need to look like they’re out of a magazine. Our baking doesn’t have to be Martha Stewart standard. Our home decorations don’t need to good enough for pinterest. Don’t measure the success of your holiday season by how it looks: judge it by how it FEELS, and the best times are those when we are centred, happy and grateful, not when we are measuring up to some unrealistic ideal of perfection.