As a child, I remember the holiday season being the best time ever. I was with all of my cousins and surrounded by all of my family. We played games, ate all of the food, opened gifts, and got to stay up late – what kid wouldn’t love that?! Now, as an adult, and mainly as a parent, the holidays can be a complete nightmare. Once I started setting boundaries during the holidays, things got a lot better.
Where Does the Stress Come From?
Stress can come from a lot of places this time of year. Figuring out the family dinners, traveling, and deciding which family will you visit when. The “you did that last year, why don’t you do this, this year” suggestions from everyone and anyone. Getting all the gifts, making all the food, packing all of the gifts, food, clothes, travel bags just for a few hours – the list could go on and on. With all of these things to do I found I was dreading the holidays instead of enjoying them.
Eventually, the holiday’s took my anxiety and stress to a whole new level, I did not even know could happen. One year, I decided to take back control of my lost joy with the holidays. Don’t get me wrong, the holiday’s are still stressful. There is still traveling to visit family and multiple gatherings, with all the food and beverages, but I have a few tips that have helped me anchor down, create new traditions and ease my stress and anxiety.
Know the Plan
For the past five years, I have been super proactive about what each family is doing on what day and what time. Knowing there is a plan helps me to be able to relax a little bit. Additionally, because of this, I can coordinate travel time and make sure I have everything ready ahead of time, instead of scrambling.
Make Time for You
During the holiday season, more so than ever, I am very intentional about making time for myself. This might look like a walk by myself, cooking dinner with a podcast going, enjoying a relaxing bath, or baking cookies with friends. I make sure I schedule in joy for myself every week.
It is Okay to Say “No”
At one point, I was stretching myself so thin by saying yes to everything. I was traveling across the state in the same day to visit both families which lead to long drives, a long night, and a cranky mom and baby. Eventually I learned to gently suggest starting a new tradition, which was having one day with each family. This gives us more time to enjoy everyone’s company and less rushing around for me.
I like to use the Simple Habit App on my phone and select a quick meditation to help me through whatever stress or anxiety I am feeling at that moment. In all the chaos, I find that I truly need silence throughout the day.
When I started to take back control, I did not do it all at once. The first thing that was most important to me was having a plan. I felt way more in control and everything else would fall into place after. When you think about everything, start with what matters MOST to you and build up from there. This is something I practice every year – it is never perfect, but every year does get better and better. I promise the work is worth it!
At the end of it all, just know, that it is okay to not feel merry, holly and jolly during the holidays all of the time. Maybe you have lost someone, maybe the holidays are a tough memory, maybe you are overwhelmed, maybe you can’t give the gifts you want. Whatever you reason may be, it is just that, YOUR reason. Take the time YOU need for you.