For many of us, December is a busy month. From gift shopping and the kids’ winter break to holiday gatherings, party planning, family celebrations, travel arrangements, and end-of-year deadlines—so much of what we do this month feels out of the ordinary for our usual routines. And everyday routines are often very busy to begin with! As joyous as the holidays are, the truth is, they do add more stress into our December days. So here are my 10 tips for keeping your holiday stress more manageable and our days more memorable and happy.
- Keep a gratitude journal this month.
Either first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening, write down one thing you are grateful for this holiday season. When you consciously take note of what you are grateful for, your blessings have a way of balancing those stressful feelings.
- Begin your day in silence.
When you “wake up and stop” first thing in the morning by sitting in silence for 5 minutes, you give yourself the chance to connect with the spirit of the holiday—your peace, power, goodwill, and calm within. When the day starts getting hectic or stressful, breathe deeply and remember this connection.
- Create a to-do list.
Make a to-do list for the day in order of priority, including all of the extra tasks and events expected of you. Are you trying to do too much? If so, go ahead and cross off the last thing on your list. If it is at the end, it is low priority and can wait. This gives you a little breathing room to do something relaxing for yourself to counteract the stress of all the hustle and bustle.
- Stay present.
As you transition from one event or moment in your day to the next, instead of letting your mind get carried away with worrying about what needs to get done, bring your mind back to the present moment by focusing on your breath. With all the extra demands on your time during the holidays, your mind will have your thoughts on overdrive if you don’t take the reins and remind yourself, “All is well; just breathe.”
- Give up the need to be perfect.
Give yourself a break and give up the idea of perfection: You don’t have to be the perfect weight, have the prettiest holiday party dress, throw the best party, or give the greatest gifts to feel good about yourself. Embrace who you are, imperfections and all, by being the “perfect” expression of yourself. You can do this by giving every moment your personal best and not comparing yourself to others.
- Say no to things you really don’t want to do.
Do you have to accept every request or invitation you receive during the holidays? Give yourself permission to say no. Really think about what is being asked of you, and if it doesn’t serve your plan for the day or your greatest good in the grander scheme, politely decline. This is like crossing off the last thing on your to-do list. When it comes to invitations and requests for your time, you really do not have “to-do” anything you don’t want to do.
- Choose some time not to multitask.
We generally multitask all the time, but with our hectic holiday schedules, multitasking seems like the only way to get everything done. However, this tends to drain our energy at an even quicker speed: that’s just the opposite of what we want! Instead, identify one area of your life where you can do just one thing, like having a meal. Turn off the TV, put down the phone, and stay off the computer. Notice how much energy you gain from this one-pointed activity—energy for tackling whatever is next on your list.
- Make a list and stick to it.
Especially during the holiday season, it is super important to make a list of what you need at the supermarket and shopping malls so that you can do your shopping efficiently. Efficient shopping equals some downtime for you later. So, as important as having a list is sticking to your list. Too often, we get caught up browsing the aisles, which uses up precious energy and time for the other things we need to do. Keep your mind focused. If you start to wander, take a few breaths and bring yourself back to the moment and back to your list.
- Make mealtime family time.
There’s no better time for you to be mindful than to make your mealtimes family time. The holidays are reminders to be present for each other, so this is an extra reason to sit down together for your meals, no matter what else is going on in everyone’s lives. When you make being together a priority, you set the tone for what is most important in life. This is your opportunity to be there for one another with love and strength. This time sets the tone for the season and is the perfect way to manage the stresses of the day.
- End your day in peace.
Just before bed, unplug from technology and spend a few minutes reading something uplifting and inspirational, perhaps a holiday classic. Think about authors and stories that inspire you and keep a few of these books at your bedside. After you have read for a few minutes, place the book aside and set the intention to end your day in peace. Let go of all worries and fears. The day is over. Nothing can be changed. Giving your mind a rest from thinking about your worries, fears, and plans helps you to have a well-nourished, restful sleep. Starting the new day without past stresses, you find yourself ready to take on any holiday “challenges” in a new light with a fresh mind.