Dear Santa, less stress please!
Ho ho ho! I know, you are trying so hard to be on Santa’s nice list. Adulting is freaking hard and they keep adding more to your ‘to do’ list. Shopping. Baking. Decorating. Being nice to people you don’t like. It’s all exhausting!
Here are some easy tips to help you not only manage stress, but maybe even enjoy the holiday season!
Connect to your values.
For all of us, there is something that we value about the holiday season. Knowing your values can help you manage stress. Values can be things that are important to you like family, friends, your pets, a safe and warm house, or security. Values can be qualities you think are important like love, kindness, honesty or authenticity. Values can be actions like charity, hard work, giving, or caring for others.
If you are stressed about what to get your kids for Christmas, it might be because you value being a good Mom, providing for your kids, and your family.
If you are stressed about money at the holidays, it might be because you value providing for your family, hard work, and security.
If you are stressed about family interactions at the holidays, it might be because you value kindness, being respected, authenticity, and being valued.
For most people who are stressed about work, it’s because they want to be good at their jobs.
When experiencing a stressful situation, ask yourself:
What is it that I value in this situation?
What value is being threatened?
Now that you know what you value,
how can you use that insight to
shift your perspective and manage your stress?
What can you control?
When you feel as though you have more control over a situation, it helps to manage stress (it can also make you a better leader and help you to be more productive at work). While not always possible to exert control over every situation, stress researcher Robert Sapolsky states, “a sense of control works best for milder stressors” (p.404). Shift your mindset:
What can you control? What can’t you control?
Let’s break down a situation: Carol is super-stressed about going to Christmas dinner. She loves her family, but feels they can be critical of her life in unkind ways. And also, she’s a vegetarian and this event is all meat all the time. What a mess!
What she CAN’T control: what other people do and say, how they react to her, what other people think about her, what happens overall, what is cooked for dinner
What she CAN control: Carol most likely knows some of the general themes of comments her family will make towards her, she can go in prepared by deciding ahead of time what she would say in response or how she will react - she can even practice it. Even if it doesn’t happen, she will feel more prepared and in control. Carol can eat some awesome veggies before dinner to make sure that rolls will be enough! Or she can bring some of her favorite veggie dishes for everyone to try. And finally, sometimes it’s OK to say ‘NO.’ In this scenario, Carol could opt to hang out with friends, enjoy a day of self-care, or binge-watch all of those Netflix holiday movies.
You have more control than you think!
Have a plan for coping
All of us have things we do to cope with stress. It’s different for everyone, and it varies by situation. We all have things that really work and some things that we just do out of habit.
For me, watching Friends on Netflix is a go-to stress management tool - but I don’t even really enjoy it anymore, it’s just something I do. However, actually going out to the movies is also a stress coping mechanism for me and it almost always works! I’ve also noticed that if I get some physical activity in, going to a yoga class or for a walk, that also almost always reduces my stress - more so than my preferred habitual method of sitting on the couch looking at Instagram. It turns out being social helps me to manage stress, even though I’m introverted - so hanging out with friends is a great option too!
What coping strategies actually work for you?
Make a plan to do them.
Put them in your calendar.
My December holiday calendar is literally packed with yoga classes and movie dates with friends to help me buffer the stress that I know is coming!
Just say NO
This is your brain - this is your brain on stress…..unfocused, lack of concentration, racing mind. How can being busy and overwhelmed affect your health? In addition to increasing stress, it can impact your sleep, your emotional states (irritability, impatience), and your mental state (less focus, concentration). Details here.
Doing less is probably the easiest stress management tool ever. You literally just do less. I am very intentional about what I say yes to during the holidays. I don’t say yes to things that I don’t want to do (even if I should). I choose my mental health over what I think I should do (and over what other people think I should do). It’s not always an option - we still have to go to work - but when it is an option - I say no to that. I don’t isolate myself, I just decide where I want to put my limited energy.
Need help prioritizing and planning? I couldn’t do anything without my Passion Planner.