It’s a mathematical fact: Your level of stress is inversely proportional to the proximity of the holidays. As the days between now and the holidays decrease, your stress level is certain to increase. It doesn’t matter whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or another holiday.
Stress is stress.
We’re deciding what to cook/which cookies to bake and how much/many, whom to invite (or not), when to hold the event, whether invitations are necessary, how to decorate, what to wear, where out-of-town family members will sleep, who’s at the children’s table, etc., etc.
One thing that we don’t plan for, is the stress that surrounds holiday time. Unfortunately, women are more susceptible to holiday stress than their male counterparts. During this time of year there’s also often more stress at work, which is compounded with the seasonal rush to find the time to get everything done.
Add to the holiday hubbub all the haywire hormones of perimenopause or menopause, and you’ll need to call in the troops. Here’s some ammunition you can add to your pre-holiday arsenal:
Don’t overspend. I say “Bah, humbug!” to the commercialism of the season. You shouldn’t feel pressured to spend a lot of money. When it comes to gift giving, start saving early. Set a budget. Find non-monetary gifts to give to the special people in your life (a weekend of babysitting for a relative, for example). The gift of your time is the best gift
Go easy on yourself. Divide your projects into smaller tasks. For instance, don’t try to decorate the entire house in one day. Start with the tree, or your mantle. You won’t be so overwhelmed if you break up the tasks.
Surround yourself with reinforcements
Don’t go it alone. Enlist the support of your family and friends. By including your children in the holiday preparations, you’ll give yourself a break and ensure that they carry on favorite family traditions for years to come. If you’re planning a really big gathering, think about hiring some professional help with either the cooking or the cleanup – or both. That way, you’ll actually be able to enjoy spending time with friends and family.
Make a truce with tradition
Don’t be a stickler for tradition. Just because you’ve done things the same way for decades, doesn’t mean you can’t change them now. I’m not saying you should abandon tradition. But be open to the idea of creating new traditions that fit with your current lifestyle. Shortcuts can take a lot of pressure off of you and no one will even notice. For instance, if you simply don’t have time to bake cookies from scratch, use a mix or even the refrigerator slice-and-bake cookies. (I’ll never tell. You can even mess up the edges a bit so they don’t look so cookie-cutter perfect!)
Surround yourself with reinforcements
Don’t fall victim to depression. In addition to being a stressful time, the holidays also can be a lonely time for many. Try to surround yourself with family, friends or co-workers who care about your wellbeing.
But don’t overdo it. While the holidays are the perfect time to socialize, don’t feel obligated to accept every invitation. Allow yourself some downtime to recharge and re-energize.
Don’t raid the refrigerator
Don’t surrender to your food cravings. They could be just a result of all the stress.
It’s easy to binge during the holidays, especially when you constantly seem to be around food. Keep healthy snacks on hand. Stock the fridge with cut-up veggies and fruit so you can grab and go if you’re crunched for time. Make it just as easy to reach in the fridge as it is to reach in the cookie jar, and you’ve won half the battle.
Declare a ceasefire
Do take a break. Put down the gift wrap, the cookie sheet, the tangled tinsel and take a deep breath. Take a half hour to exercise. Releasing those endorphins may be just what you need. I find 20 minutes of meditation to be quite calming. You can raise the white flag… and raise a glass of wine or your fav eggnog to your lips. Enjoy a little R&R. There are lots of choices to help you say goodbye to seasonal stress.
Be sure to practice moderation. Excessive alcohol (or even caffeine), can produce the opposite of the intended effect, and actually exacerbate anxiety.
We tend to be very hard on ourselves. It’s time to eliminate the pressure and lower the bar, along with our expectations. To be honest, no one really cares if your soufflé is perfect. Focus instead on what’s really important: spending time with loved ones and creating holiday memories to last a lifetime.
This holiday season, your home doesn’t have to be a war zone. You can win the war on stress. All it takes is a little planning, and you’ll be able to put the peace back in your holiday planning – and in your holiday.
Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!