Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tips on how to de-stress your holidays

I used to roll my eyes at people who would get depressed during holidays. Seriously, what was there to be depressed about? And then my mother died. It’s not her absence that upsets me the most. It’s been 10 years since she died and I have learned to live with that void. It’s how our family tradition and togetherness died with her.


I don’t blame my father for that. He has a new life now with a wonderful, beautiful wife. And she has her family there. I’m a grownup now. I have husband and a child. And if anything, I should be grateful for my in-laws, who have readily filled that emptiness. But still, it depresses me. This is my problem, obviously. Each year I get upset about it and each year I eventually realize that just because my family no longer sees each other on the actual holidays doesn’t mean we don’t love each other. It means I need to focus on what I have here. It just drives me nuts that every holiday season I have to process the same old bullshit again and again.

Well, enough about my rant. I probably should check into therapy, but for now I did find comfort in these tips on How to Handle Holiday Stress, offered by speaker, author and coach Karen Susman. And, now I’ll offer them to you, too:

  1. Lower expectations. Have a realistic view of what is really important. Your kids want your time. They are not going to remember the Martha Stewart decorations – unless you involve them in the making of the decorations.
  2. Don’t over schedule yourself or your family. Pick and choose the holiday functions.
  3. Take care of yourself. You can’t give what you don’t have. So, eat healthfully, avoid the sweets as much as possible. Exercise routines are sacrificed when we’re overwhelmed, but exercise is the best investment of your time.
  4. Get plenty of sleep. Most of us are suffering from sleep deprivation as it is. Nothing is worth your getting sick.
  5. Ask for help. Involve your kids, spouse, family and friends.
  6. Ask yourself, “If I only had half the time, what would I do?” This will help you prioritize.
  7. Pick names for gifts instead of buying a gift for everyone. This will save you money and time.
  8. Shop online or from catalogues.
  9. Buy stamps online. Why stand in line at the post office?
  10. Make gifts with your kids. They’ll love the time spent together and they’ll be proud of their creations.
  11. Read holiday stories to your children. This allows you to sit down, relax and connect. (We had a holiday tradition of everyone climbing on to the big bed and reading together.)
  12. Start new holiday traditions that are less stressful for you but just as meaningful.
  13. Ask yourself why you’re really working this hard on the holidays. Many times our egos get in the way, or we’re in competition with a friend or family member. Martyrdom has lots of payoffs. Give it up!
  14. Take a minute in the tub, or waiting in line to write down all your stressors. Include your everyday stressors as well as holiday stressors. Which ones can you face head on, take care of and get off your list? For instance, if paying bills is hanging over your head, sit down and get that done. Get the snow tires on instead of praying it doesn’t snow. If money’s short, spend less, cut up credit cards or call a financial advisor.
  15. Look at your list of stressors and determine which ones you have no control over. Your parents areaging. The economy is like sludge. If you live in Minnesota, it will snow.
  16. Do a mental makeover. Reframe what the holidays are all about for you. Is this a religious holiday? Then forget the fluff and focus on the real meaning. If your kids are pressuring you to buy, buy, buy, this is a wonderful opportunity to help them learn the value of giving to others. Have them go through their toys and pick some to take to a homeless shelter.
  17. Remember how you felt on December 26 of January 2 last go ’round. What did you say you’d never do again? What did your kids enjoy most? How would you like to feel this year after the holidays? How can you achieve this?
  18. Don’t get caught up in the hoopla. Just because the media, family, friends, etc. say we should be doing something doesn’t mean we have to.
  19. When a “should” runs through your mind, you don’t have to act on it.
  20. Embrace your imperfection. It’s one of the nicest things you can do for your kids and your mate. Being imperfect takes the pressure off of you and off of them.
  21. Limit your TV watching – especially the news.
  22. Don’t do anything in December you’re going to regret in January. Why be stuck with huge bills and 10extra pounds?
  23. One last de-stresser: the holidays will pass and you’ll survive. You always do.

Photo, Flickr, Greg Westfall

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