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6 Ways to Thrive Through the Holiday Season

Another holiday season is upon us and the pressure to create Pinterest worthy celebrations is always HUGE. Daily stress has increased within our lives, especially over the last couple years. When the holidays come around, it can feel like a tug of war between wanting to embrace the holiday spirit and wanting to throw the towel in completely.

We can agree that the holidays add so much stress to our plate. It's supposed to be a time of joy, magic and wonder as we celebrate the end of another year, our religious festivities, practice gratitude, and the spirit of giving. It’s all quite idyllic, yet this vision is far from most of our realities.

Our world has been in upheaval since the 2020 pandemic; our economy has been struggling, we’ve been surrounded by extreme social injustices, and politics has been on fire. Add in holiday shopping, all the extra financial pressure, deadlines at work, events, kids off from school, and lots of schedule disruptions and it can feel like utter chaos.

Holidays also hit different when you are divorced or have had a recent heartbreak. They are different when you are unemployed, financially strapped, dealing with a health crisis, or have a terminally ill family member. They are different when you are far from family, overwhelmed by work responsibilities, deadlines, a terrible boss, or just juggling the never-ending competing demands on your time.

A few years back when I was recently divorced, I got thinking about how I could intentionally do the holidays different. I wanted to truly enjoy the season without wallowing in grief or overextending myself. Previously I had been the perfectionist planner; taking on too much and drowning in my own cortisol while everyone else casually sipped their hot toddies.

Coparenting life as a whole new landscape and gave us a chance to deconstruct what once was, and reimagine this magical time of year all together. Before we could create something new we had to answer some important questions.

How did we really want to spend the holidays?

What did we really want to do?

How did we want to feel?

For sure we wanted less stress, more peace, and the ability to be able to relax!

So much of the pressure, stress, and anxiety we experience this time of year is either self-induced, can be avoided, or both.

Don't let this busy time of year leave you exhausted and burnt out from doing “all the things”, or guilt-ridden and suffocating under a pile of credit card debt. This is how we self-sabotage before the new year has even begun.

These 6 Holiday Thrive Strategies, will help you get through this traditionally stressful time of year, AND create a solid foundation as you embark on the new year ahead.

1) Manage Your Mind! In any situation it is essential to manage our mindset and expectations. We all have our vision for the season and what we hope will transpire, but if recent years have taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. I’m not saying to prepare for the worst. I’m saying stay open to a variety of solutions and outcomes should something not go as expected. The fact is, (Attention Perfectionists!) we have limited control. We can control our own behaviors and do our best to communicate what we need, and or expect from others, but we cannot control other people or situational outcomes. Check in with yourself when the need to control comes up. Ask yourself, is this really worth it? Is the thing you are trying to control (aka make happen) really going to make or break your holiday? What can you let go of, and how can you remain flexible?

2) Know Your Triggers! Stay in touch with what feels right, and what feels like too much. What are the things that make you feel stressed? Is it all the decorating? The holiday cards? Maybe its traveling, cooking, the pressure to host at your home, or perhaps you are operating on a lower budget this year? What activities, events, or items on your holiday to-do list make your anxiety quiver? Note the things you absolutely LOVE and WANT to do, and then also note the things that you dread. Pro-tip, stick to the list of the things that you LOVE!

3) Permission to lower the bar! Stop trying to keep up with the Kardashian’s, or the Jones’, or whomever. There is an enormous pressure during the holidays to do bigger and better, year over year. We see our neighbors putting up their holiday decorations right after Halloween, and we immediately feel like we aren’t doing enough and are falling behind. Our sister in-law’s tree looks like it should be in Macy’s and then we start to feel inadequate. Listen up! You are not everyone else. Your holidays don’t have to look like everyone else’s. You do you, and stop the comparison. Celebrate your way, and feel good about it!

4) Make your list, and check it twice! Once you are aware of the things on your holiday to-do list that you really love to do versus dread doing, and have given yourself permission to lower the bar, you can then start making some cuts. Let’s face it, we have limited time and energy and often bite off more than we can chew. Historically I’ve witnessed myself, family, friends, and clients taking on WAY too much. One of the main reasons you see people getting sick this time of year is because they have burnt themselves out and exhausted their immune systems. If you truly want to feel relaxed and at ease, what are the items you can cross off your to-do list altogether? Of course, it’s easier to cross things off the “dread” list, but there still may be some things on the “love” list that surpass your capacity this year. Let it be easy and lighten the damn load!

5) Delegate, Baby! No one says you have to do everything my friend. Recognize the things that ONLY you can do, or the things that you want to do, and delegate everything else. People aren’t mind readers. If you're feeling overwhelmed and need help, just ask! Remember to keep communication open, respectful, and connected back to the common goal of a peaceful holiday season. Delegate to your family, partner, kids – maybe even outsource all together! Don’t feel like decorating the outside of your house? There are small businesses dying to take your order and put up your holiday lights. Don’t feel like cooking? Make it a potluck, or have it catered. There are SO many great places that cater holiday meals at truly reasonable prices. Want to forgo a big meal altogether? Great! Make it appetizers only {we always fill up on those anyway, oops!}, or have a Christmas/Hanukkah pizza party! All the time and energy you will save, is surely a gift to yourself!

6) Just say no! It’s in our nature to want to please others, especially during this season of giving. Mastering the ability to lovingly decline invitations, and set boundaries with others is key to reducing stress and anxiety; not just during the holidays, but all year round. How many times do you agree to do something before really thinking about it? How many times do you say yes, when you really want to say no? Declining invitations that stretch us too far, and setting necessary boundaries creates freedom and more time for YOURSELF. It’s about being real with yourself, and taking care of your own needs.

Stressing about that one family member drinking too much, or bringing politics to the dinner table? Have a courageous conversation in advance so you avoid any day-of drama. Say it from the heart with respect, compassion and love and it will typically be received that way. Work out any kinks so everyone can feel good about spending time together.


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