It’s really tough to stay balanced and minimize stress this time of year. We tend to try to do too much and then we get stressed out and unbalanced. As a follow up to my video 3 Tips to Enjoy the Holidays Without Losing Your Mind, here are my 8 tips for staying balanced this holiday season and combat holiday stress!
1. Practice Party Moderation
When I was in my late 20s, I was a very social gal with holiday parties every weekend, sometimes two or three in one night. One year, during the course of one evening, I traveled from Pennsylvania to Maryland and then to Virginia in order to attend all the parties on my list. Sadly, I didn’t have any quality time at any of the events and vowed to never overextend myself like that again. Sometimes you just have to say “no”.
So be strong and say “no” to a party that you know will overextend you.
2. Take a Walk
I have a dog who I walk at least 3 times a day for anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes each time. I cherish those walks (well, most of the time). But you don’t need a dog to have an excuse to walk and you don’t need to walk for a long time to help you de-stress. Just a 15-minute walk can work wonders. Too cold outside, you say? I wear many layers, and yes, while I may look like The Michelin Man, I’m enjoying nature! The cool air where I live refreshes me. I always bring a phone in case of emergency, but I try not to use it, even if I remember that I need to call someone. I forego the temptation to listen to a podcast or music and just take a few deep breaths and try to be present with nature. I look at the sky. I listen to birds chirping and dogs barking. I notice squirrels and leaves and I give thanks for these things. I slow down. And when I return home, I feel rejuvenated. Every single time.
3. Schedule Down Time
Back when I was planning special events, I remember thinking that I would use the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day to catch up on work. But when the time came, I was totally pooped and all I wanted to do was sleep or stare at the television. Not only was I resentful that I had scheduled work that week when everyone else was taking time off, I was mad at myself for not accomplishing all the tasks on my TODO list.
I set myself up for failure.
I was already stressed and then I stressed myself even more by being upset for overscheduling and not achieving my goals.
Now, I make a point to set aside a few days – or more if I’m lucky – to schedule nothing. No social events, no work tasks. Nuthin’. In fact, I actually block the time out on my calendar and write SCHEDULE NOTHING! Sticking to this goal may be a little challenging, but think of the benefits! Each day can be an adventure as it evolves into whatever you want it to be.
4. Single Task
It used to be that multi-tasking was a skill we all needed. Even the business world encouraged it, but not anymore. Various studies say that when we multi task, we are much less efficient in the long run. That is why it is important to tackle just one task at a time.
Just one task at a time.
I know! It’s tough! For those of us who live in the United States, it is an accepted — even glorified — part of our culture to be able to multi-task. But what are the ultimate results? High blood pressure, stress, and a general feeling of unhappiness because we have not given our brains down time. Also, we aren’t fully experiencing anything.
So when you are eating breakfast, just eat breakfast. Don’t check email or clean the kitchen. Truly enjoy that meal. When you are talking on the phone, just talk on the phone. Give the person on the other end your undivided attention. When you are driving, just drive. It will be safer, too.
Be present in the experience. Your loved ones and colleagues will appreciate the attention and everyone will be more fulfilled.
5. Schedule Time to Exercise
When we are busy with holiday tasks, it is too easy to blow off our workouts. But when we do that, we have no outlet for our stress. By the way, when I use the term exercise, I’m talking about more than walking. I mean really getting your heart rate up if your physical condition and your doctor permit you. Do it for at least 20 minutes or more. While walking is good for you and eliminates stress, a good, sweaty workout will eliminate even more stress and improve your heart health. You might even prevent adding some extra holiday pounds.
6. Do Nothing for at Least 5 Minutes Each Day
Some might call this meditation. I call it my Saver of Sanity or the key to keeping my blood pressure in check (because it was getting high!). Take time to turn off your phone and walk away from all the stimuli in your life — the TV, your computer, pets, and other people. Take time to concentrate on breathing in and then breathing out. Just focus on breathing and not your TODO list. If you can do this for more than five minutes, good for you! Another option is to take several five-minute breaks throughout the day.
If meditation is a new concept for you, watch my video Meditation and Mindfulness to learn more.
7. Shop Local or Online
Heading to the mall is still a popular choice for holiday shopping, and who can deny the fact that there are so many options in one place? But for many of us, just traveling to the mall can be stressful. If you are driving, there is the potential for traffic and the challenges of finding a parking space. And let’s not forget the crowds and long lines. Who needs it?
If you can, support a local store that you can reach by walking (you’ll accomplish tip #2 above!). You’ll get exercise and the fresh air will calm you. If driving is the only option, I bet the parking experience with your local merchant will be easier than at the mall. You can always shop online, too, while listening to pleasant music and sipping a beverage that is a good de-stresser (herbal tea, wine from a local vineyard). We like to support local businesses (within 100 miles of our home), but if we don’t have the opportunity to travel to that business, I check its web site to see if I can make purchases online. If I can’t find gifts online from a local company, I try to support a company in our region — or at least in this country — to cut down on transportation costs and carbon emissions.
Check out my video 3 Foolproof Gift Tips which are sure to make your holiday shopping more enjoyable!
8. Try Just One of These Tips
The holidays are overwhelming, so if the 7 tips above are too much for you to tackle, just focus on one this year. And then tackle another next year.