Ditch the Holiday Stress

Posted December 13, 2012 by Rebecca Niziol in Life After Five

Stress and the holidays seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. Feeling overwhelmed around this time of year? You’re not alone.

Yes, the period between Thanksgiving and New Years is hectic. Our normal schedules are interrupted, making workouts a challenge and overeating and drinking almost a guarantee. We see family and friends that we maybe haven’t been with all year, which can ruffle up unresolved feelings or issues from the past. We are running around trying to pick out the perfect gifts, find the best outfit for parties, donate to charity, string lights, and abruptly finish up everything at work before taking a couple days off. It’s exhausting just thinking about it all.

Society presents this idyllic holiday image of a big family gathering where thousands of gifts are exchanged, a copious amount of food is eaten, and laughter fills the air while snowflakes fall down upon our perfectly rouged cheeks. But we all know it’s really more like you pulling your hair out, running around like a crazy woman a couple days before your celebrations, and trying to pull it all together as you curse because you’ve spilled a peppermint mocha on your white parka while scarfing down a 900 calorie cookie. So basically you’ve become that crazy Target lady’s evil twin sister.

Peace on earth? No, it’s more like mayhem. “Christmas spirit” has leaked out and been replaced with “Holiday havoc.” I’ve had more clients and friends melt down and confess to me this week that they just wish it was all over. People are freaking out, stressing out, and going a little crazy. And it’s no wonder.

There is this huge amount of pressure looming over everything. Pressure to live out decades of family traditions, or create fabulous new ones. Pressure to meet some major goals and deadlines before the end of the year. Pressure to have an elf-like spring in our step and a belly-full-of-jelly laugh all month long. The pressure comes from our families, friends, and society, but most of all it comes from ourselves.

The holidays can be stressful, but do they have to be? You control that. Yes you are going to have to endure some (possibly hilarious) moments of holiday madness, but why not ease up a bit? By slowing down and releasing some of that pressure, you’ll make this time of year more enjoyable for you and others. If you want to go about the rest of the month in a tizzy, by all means you go for it! But, I myself am choosing a different take on the season of giving.

It’s so easy to lose sight of what this time of year is really all about. No one cares if you don’t send the yearly holiday newsletter this time. It doesn’t matter if you don’t bake a single cookie (although I do recommend indulging and eating at least one). Take a moment right now to redefine what the holidays mean to you.

When is the last time you stopped amidst the epic to-do list and asked yourself why you’re really doing all of this? No really, why are you?

Get clear on that. Focus on what’s really important. And let all the other extraneous holiday fluff be…well,fluff. Take a stand for a frustration-free holiday season. And my goodness, let yourself off the hook.

You have a choice… you can give into the exterior stressors (that will inevitably always be there) and feel overwhelmed, or you can chose to live above them and feel peaceful, calm, and maybe even joyful.

3 simple tips to stress less this season:

  1. Carve out time just for you. It’s really easy to give and go-go-go doing things for others. Spend at least 15 minutes alone everyday (even if you’re at your in-laws), and use that time to simply breathe and be grateful for your year. Go for a walk, meditate, or listen to Mozart.
  1. Do less. Don’t cram anything else into this last month of the year. With more down time, indulge in quiet nights or moments of stillness admiring simple pleasures. This is the perfect time to reflect on the entire year, not add more to it.
  1. Release expectations for yourself and others. The holidays aren’t a competition to see who can be the “merriest.” Requiring perfection of yourself and others around this time of year just isn’t necessary. Accept things as they happen and accept each experience for what it is. Christmas tree caught on fire? Matzo ball soup tastes like a smelly sock? You’ll have a funny memory and story to tell for years to come. Just embrace the fact that nothing ever goes perfectly according to plan.

About the Author

Rebecca Niziol

Rebecca Niziol, ELI-MP, is many things: a life coach, yoga teacher, dancer, event planner, connection catalyst, and your new best friend. Her mission is to empower others to live the authentic life of their dreams. After years of traveling North America and Europe, she is happy to have found a home and community in Chicago.