The holiday season is here, bringing its unique combination of fun, joy, stress, excitement and downright craziness into your life for the next few weeks.
It can be the best time of the year, and in some ways it can be the worst. And although you can't control everything that happens during this busy season, you can control more of it than you might think.
In fact, you can shape the way you and your family experience the holiday season, rather than letting it tell you where to go, what to do, and how to feel for the next 4 weeks. But it will require a bit of time, effort and planning on your part – starting today.
If you want to keep your stress level under control, take care of your health,and enjoy your life and family during the holidays, here are four things you need to do right away…
1. Decide what you want and need
- What kind of holiday season do you want to experience this year?
- What events and activities fill your heart and soul (and which ones drain you)?
- What do you want to change from previous years?
Really take some time to think about these questions. If you're married, talk about them with your spouse. Find out what he or she wants and needs, and talk about how you can work together to create a season that will help you both stay relaxed and healthy. Bring it all out in the open and really listen to each other, then agree to focus on two or three things that are priorities for each of you.
2. Make a plan
Now that you know what you want, decide how you're going to make it happen.
A want without a plan is just a wish, and wishes don't help you get where you want to go.
So make a plan…
- Schedule the things you really want to do, and block out time on your schedule when you don't want to do anything.
- Schedule time for your spouse's priorities too.
- Talk through the things that cause holiday stress – gifts, money, travel, extended family – and decide how you're going to handle them.
- Talk to your children about your family's priorities for the season, take their interests into account, and let them know what to expect.
Getting everyone to “buy in” now will be key to helping you follow through on your plan.
3. Say no and let go
This is where it starts to get hard!
In order to create a holiday season that allows you and your family to relax, stay healthy, and enjoy life, you have to say no to things that don't fit your plan and priorities for this year.
Sometimes you have to let go of activities you've done in the past that no longer “work” for you, your spouse, or your family.
This will undoubtedly involve saying no to things that other people want you to do, like hosting your daughter's class party, attending your aunt's church Christmas program, or dropping by your neighbor's holiday extravaganza.
- It may mean saying “not this year” to a long trip that you can't afford or don't want to take.
- It may mean cutting down your gift list, because you don't have the time, energy or money to buy all of those gifts.
- Or it may mean letting go of something else that would keep you from slowing down, staying calm, and really enjoying the season.
4. Take care of yourself every day
Even if you decide on your priorities, make a plan, and say no to things that don't work for you, the holiday season will still be busy and somewhat stressful.
So mitigate the busyness and stress by doing at least one thing to take care of yourself every day.
This may mean exercising regularly (one of nature's best stress reducers!), getting at least seven hours of sleep every night, eating whole, healthy foods most days of the week, or taking 30 minutes every day to do something that feeds your mind or spirit. Or it may mean planning something fun with your spouse or kids – or setting aside some time to do absolutely nothing.
This year, create the kind of holiday season you really want, rather than just letting the holidays happen.
By taking a few simple steps now, you can end this year and begin the new year on a strong note – feeling calm, happy and healthy.