4 Tips to Manage Holiday Stress

Rev. Roxanne Pendleton, MDiv
Senior Projects Coordinator, Center for Trauma Informed Innovation

The holidays can bring experiences of beauty, gratitude, spirituality, and deeply meaningful connection as well as overwhelming pressure for everything to be perfect, resulting in more than a little unhappiness. Follow these mindful tips to maximize your JOY and minimize your stress: 

  1. Prioritize self-care – When the house and schedule fill up, it’s easy to cancel those regular practices that support your well-being. Don’t! Self-care means taking responsibility to do what’s best for your brain, body, and spirit. This is the season to be even more intentional about maintaining (and adding, if necessary) practices that make you calm and merry. So, ditch the guilt about not being at “every” family event, and go to that yoga class. Pamper yourself with nurturing foods. Drink a cup of hot tea. Whatever your brain needs to decompress right now, do that.

  2. Decide what is essential – It is common to have big, dreamy plans about the menu, the activities, the gifts, the decorations, the family traditions that make the season bright, but almost all of that is not essential. Ask yourself what truly is essential. If you don’t get that house project completed, if you have take-out instead of home-cooked food, if you spend less money on presents than last year, will everything really fall apart? Probably not. Choose what means the most to you, and focus on that. Let the rest go. Revisit tip #1.

  3. Manage your expectations – When extra guests are here, when extra tasks pile up, when things get extra busy, it is not reasonable to expect that all will flow as smoothly as it normally does. So, choose to expect that your house will be messier, louder, and more chaotic. Expect that someone will hurt your feelings. Expect that something will get broken. Expect the minor and major irritations that come with all the “extra” of the holidays, and give yourself and others extra grace. Revisit tip #1. Often.

  4. Do less, experience more – In this season, we often add lots of “To-Dos” and activities. We don’t want to miss out, so keeping all our commitments can become a marathon that leaves us feeling exhausted and unsatisfied. Take a look at your schedule. Ask yourself what you can release, and then politely decline anything more. Remember that “No” is a complete sentence. If you choose to do fewer things that you truly want to do, you will find that you have the mental, physical, and emotional capacity to be truly present, and that is the pathway to having those deeply meaningful experiences that bring joy long after the season ends. And, if you find yourself feeling stressed over implementing these tips, revisit tip #1.

Center for Trauma Informed Innovation

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