Feeling stressed about the holidays? You’re not alone.
The holiday season and holiday stress will soon be upon us (in the United States at least). First, comes Thanksgiving. The holiday where people give thanks and feast together. Next, come Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa depending on your faith or background. Finally, if you haven’t yet had enough, there is a New Year to celebrate. In addition, my family also adds in two birthdays and a wedding anniversary in the already packed season. It’s a non-stop parade of holidays.
The result? Holiday stress rather than holiday cheer.
Also, retailers bombard us everywhere with holiday advertising earlier and earlier each year. Mailboxes get cluttered with catalogs filled with seasonal decor, gifts, outfits and more. Our email inboxes are also not immune from ads full of things we “need.” Television and magazines also bombard us with the more is better messages. These messages add to our holiday stress.
Don’t forget the holiday gatherings. Extroverts get energized mingling at more parties than the rest of the year combined. While introverts attend many events out of obligation and often leave feeling drained. This too leads to holiday stress. The Northern hemisphere’s longer, darker days don’t seem designed for the hustle and bustle of the busiest season of the year.
I’ll admit that I am a bit like Scrooge or the Grinch as the holidays sometimes filled me with dread rather than joy. It didn’t help that my busiest season at work was also in the fall. Easing holiday stress continues to be a work in progress for me.
How do you feel about the holiday?
Now, inspired by the Desire Map, I focus on how I want to feel during the holiday and what I need to do to make that happen.
First, list each holiday that you will celebrate in the coming months. Next, ask yourself the following questions for each one.
When I reflect on [insert holiday name] in general, what do I feel? Joy? Delight? Excitement? Dread? Overwhelm? Or a mixed bag of emotions?
Now, how do I feel about the entire holiday season this year? Some years life makes the season feel more joyous while other years can be a struggle. Finally, acknowledge how you feel this year.
What’s working and not working about the holiday?
Let’s set dissatisfaction out of the way first. What’s not working for me about [insert holiday name]? Recall when you didn’t feel how you wanted to feel during the holiday. What made you feel that way? For example, I’m dissatisfied with going into credit card debt each Christmas from purchasing too many presents.
Good work. OK, shake it off and move onto gratitude and positive experiences. When did I feel the way I hoped during [insert holiday name]? What made me feel that way? Sights. Smells. Tastes. Sounds. Touch. People. Be as specific as possible. What do I love about the holiday? Why specifically do I love that thing? For example, I buy a live Christmas tree each year because I love the smell of evergreen in the house.
Now for the most crucial part. Answer these two questions to ease holiday stress.
If you need to choose just one piece of advice to improve your holiday season, answer these two questions.
For [insert holiday name], I want to feel:
To feel this way, I want to do, experience and have the following:
Remember all areas of your life when you answer both questions:
Body + Wellness.
Essence + Sprituality
Relationships + Society
Creativity + Learning
Livelihood + Lifestyle
Now, look at your list of experiences you want to have. What are you most excited about? Are there any that help you generate more than one of the feelings you want to feel? Prioritize it.
Create a could-do list for the season
A could do list is a to-do list that reminds you that you have the option of not doing items on the list. (I credit this idea to the book Get it Done: From Procrastination to Creative Genius in 15 minutes a Day by Sam Bennett.)
First, write Could Do at the top of a sheet of paper. Then, list all the tasks related to the holiday.
For example, here are some of the things that would end up on my Christmas could do list:
Purchase gifts for every member of the extended family.
Make homemade gifts for teachers.
Buy stocking stuffers.
Write the Christmas letter.
Hire a professional photo taken for the family photo Christmas card.
Cut down your own Christmas tree in the woods.
Stock up on wood for the fireplace.
Deep clean the house in preparation for guests.
Hang Christmas lights outside.
Despite feeling overwhelmed, don’t hibernate inside and curl up with a blanket and hide until the season is over yet. We are going to try to whittle down the list.
Next, for each item on the list. Answer the following:
TIME: How long would it take to complete the task?
EXPENSE: What will it cost?
INCLINATION: Rate your inclination on a scale of one to ten. Here’s how to do it. A ten means you enjoy the task while a one means you hate it and will procrastinate to avoid doing it.
DELEGATE: Are you the only person who can do this? Can you ask or pay someone else to do it?
ROI: Will the return on investment of your time and money spent be worth it?
If you could do only one thing on this list, what would it be? What did you find out? Any obvious tasks to cross off the list? Or tasks that you can have someone else do? Whittle down the list until looking at it energizes you instead of drains you.
Prevent holiday stress with a stop doing list
You’ve figured out what will make you feel the way you want to feel for the holiday. Now create a list of tasks or behaviors to stop doing for the season.
Here are some examples:
Let Uncle Joe trigger my anger and frustration at family gatherings.
Spend more than my allotted budget on gifts.
Feel pressured to wear a different or new outfit for each holiday event.
Say yes to every invitation without pausing to consider whether I want to attend and if it will make my calendar too busy.
Run myself ragged by visiting every local relative on Thanksgiving day.
Trying to create the “perfect A+” holiday for my family when a B or C grade will suffice.
Which of these techniques will you use to create more ease and less striving this holiday season?