Do you get stressed out over the holidays? I don’t care how “Zen” you are, between the constant commercials encouraging us to “buy, buy, buy” , extra social obligations, weirdness in our families and self-care going on the back burner for 8 weeks out of the year, I know we all experience a little Holiday Stress!
Today, my friend and fellow midlife woman, Liz Applegate brings her honest assessment of how she typically feels around the holidays AND her remedy to make this holiday season one with more meaning and less stress.How to have a holiday with more meaning and less stress. Click To Tweet
Action Plan To Beat Holiday Stress
Even though retail establishments have been bringing out Christmas decorations since mid-July, the reality of the holiday season is upon us. Here we are again in November. Am I the only one who is questioning how 2016 managed to slip by so quickly?
I’m going to be open and honest about a couple of things: One, over the years, instead of the holidays having that “magical” feeling they once had, instead I end up feeling stressed, put out, and rather “bah humbug” from November 1 to January 1. Two, every year for the last several, I swear that “next year” will be different.
Please tell me that I’m not the only one!
I’m not sure what it is, but there seems to be an overwhelming pressure I’ve put on myself to decorate and cook like Martha Stewart plus find perfect gifts that rival Oprah’s Favorite Things. It’s not fun; it’s not fulfilling, and I’m not sure that I like myself frantically trying to achieve these crazy standards.
So before the madness has begun for 2016, I thought that after all these years of promising to make the holiday season more meaningful and less stressful, I’d do something about it.
Knowing that many of us are experiencing similar feelings when we reach the middle years, I wanted to share my action plan below.
Setting My Intention
Maybe you aren’t familiar with intention setting, and it sounds a little woo-woo for you, but it’s just declaring “the main thing” and then keeping “the main thing as “the main thing.” So every decision that you need to make refers to your intention.
And I want to be clear…this is not about an intention of having perfectly prepared meals, a perfectly decorated table and finding the most incredibly personal gifts for my family at $50 each.
This intention is about meaning and how I want to feel and this year it’s “joyful connection.” As my kids are growing up and this being the first year that some, not all, will be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I want the time that I do have with them to be meaningful and filled with joy.
Will arguing with my ex-husband over the time we are eating Thanksgiving dinner to accommodate his time with the boys add to my intention or detract from it? Is there something else I can do in this situation to add to the joyful connection with my sons? Will unpacking and displaying up all 14 boxes of Christmas decorations add to my intention of “joyful connection”?
Because I hate that my sons feel the pressure of eating two dinners, between both parents’ homes, my husband and I have decided to move our Thanksgiving dinner to Friday. They don’t have the pressure of time and neither do we. The 14 boxes of decorations? I’m considering very simple this year with a much smaller tree and maybe just decorations on the mantle.
Each time I’m faced with a decision where I feel my stress level going up, I will ask, “Is this helping to keep the main thing as the main thing?” This question helps to eliminate the “shoulds” I may be feeling around this time of year and focusing on what’s most important.
My Optimum Day
I created a tool that I call my “Optimum Day Checklist.” (I need to come up with a better name for it, but for now, that’s what I call it).
So for the second part of my Stress-free, Super Meaningful Holiday of 2016 Plan, this means I need to get back to basics. And for me, I have specifics to follow, but all too often I let slide, especially around the holidays. Below is my Optimum Day Checklist.Beat Holiday Stress with an Optimum Day Checklist. Here's how. Click To Tweet
- Drink enough water. For me, I feel best when I drink half of my weight in ounces.
- Be mindful of what I allow in and where I am showing up. I need to pay attention to mindless social media scrolling and other or self-numbing activities. Also, I need to be wary of situations/people where I feel unsafe to be myself.
- Get enough sleep. Most nights that means that I’m off computer/tv/iPad/iPhone by 9 pm and in bed by 10 pm.
- Feed my body. I need to pay attention to added sugar, soy, and wheat which are all known triggers that leave me feeling lackluster. I also am sure that I’m taking my supplements and medication, regularly.
- Move. For me, that can be dancing in the living room, (80’s music please!), taking a walk, or practicing yoga.
- Feed my brain. Read, do puzzles, play a board game, listen to podcasts.
- Laugh. As often as possible.
- Feed my curiosity. Try a new food, recipe, restaurant, take a new route to a common destination, change my radio station/playlist. Mix up the “usuals” for a holiday meal. Cajun Thanksgiving? Sure, why not! Caribbean Christmas Dinner? Yep!
- Open up. Both physically and metaphorically: Take deep breath breaks throughout the day, stretch, smile at the cashier and offer a warm conversation, introduce myself to a stranger. Donate to a charity.
- Feed my senses. Burn scented candles, buy flowers, wear something shimmery and spruce up the few decorations that I will have out, soak in a warm bath with luxurious bubble, sip champagne with my husband under the lighted Christmas tree.
This checklist is a reminder to be mindful of my feelings and honoring where I am on any particular day.
When I am feeling the stress of the season and find that I’m playing into the “shoulds” instead of my intention, I need to remind myself to go back to the basics and see what I have let slip.
If you haven’t thought of your Optimum Day Checklist, take this week and start paying attention to what you need. Notice your moods and feelings and if you aren’t feeling great, ask if adding a stretch, a big glass of water or a 3-minute solo dance party may help.
I invite you to set your intention for the holiday season. Is it to be joyful? Simple? Peaceful? Whatever it is, you deserve your attention, and you deserve to have a Stress-free Super Meaningful Holiday.
Liz is the Founder of Midlife Schmidlife and has a weekly podcast that I know you’ll enjoy.
I was interviewed for this podcast: Being Brave and Learning New Things
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