We all know the holidays can be stressful, and it’s a given that our levels of anxiety usually skyrocket come the end of November. Spending money, seeing family, traveling, planning parties, and fitting all that into your regular life plans can cause us to feel frazzled, frustrated, and exhausted. We mustn’t forget to take care of ourselves amongst the holiday frenzy, and there are simple and easy ways that can help us find some ease during this whirlwind of stress. Here are a few things you can begin to incorporate into your daily routine to hopefully make room for some peace of mind, as the end of the year approaches. 1. Don’t Overwhelm Yourself If you’ve only got a few hours after work to get fifteen errands done, try being more realistic about your To Do list. Prioritize the tasks that need to be done that day (no more than 3 to 4) and leave the ones that can wait at the bottom of the list. Tell yourself you’ll make time for the last few items the next day (or whenever you have more time) and rid yourself of guilt for not getting it all done ASAP. Instead, focus on what you did complete, and simply reorganize the following day’s tasks to accommodate for what’s left. Drop anything that doesn’t need to be done pre-holidays for when you have more time and energy.
2. Write Things Down Every morning, make a short list of the errands you need to run, the people you need to email, or the groceries you need to buy. Clearing your head of a seemingly endless list of tasks is incredibly helpful in not only keeping you organized, but in relieving stress associated with our minds churning this information up over and over again. Allocating our To Do’s onto paper can help stop the endless repetition of what needs to be taken care of, reducing our anxiety. Carry around a small notebook, post-its, or jot the notes in your phone and keep them handy at all times, checking them off as you go. I find it helpful to do this at night too, for the following morning. This way, I’m not up all night anxiously going over what needs to be done the next day. 3. “Turn Off” Before Bed If you’ve ever had a stressful day, you know how hard it is to fall asleep at the end of it, no matter how tired you are. This is because our brains take a while to re-wire into peaceful mode. Help your mind calm itself faster by unplugging at least an hour before bed. Make your task list for the next day, wrap up anything having to do with your phone or laptop, and then fully unplug. Scrolling through our phones or mindlessly browsing the internet can seem relaxing, but the information overload continues to jolt our brains awake. Try reading a book, journaling, or listening to gentle music instead. 4. Find Time for Yourself During the holidays, most of the stress we feel is associated with the expectations of others: getting the right gift, making an appearance at a friend’s party, or traveling to see your folks. In the midst of this, self-care can get completely lost. So, make an extra effort to clear room in your schedule for some Me Time. Whatever that may look like is up to you, but make sure it revolves completely around an activity that you 100% enjoy, and that doesn’t circle around any expectations or anyone else’s needs. Good options are booking yourself a massage, going for a solo run, or just sitting on your patio and having a cup of coffee, undisturbed. Me Time is an opportunity to put fuel in our gas tank, which in the end will make us more capable of handling all our stressors in a more level-headed way. 5. And finally… Meditate! You knew this one was coming, huh? But that is because it works, especially for immediate relief from stress. Mental burnout is rampant during the holidays, and meditation can be our saving grace. Whether it be for five minutes or a full hour, try to make some time to give your mind a rest. Find a place to sit quietly, close the eyes, and begin to slow down the breath. Follow your inhales and exhales as they move in and out of the nose. Whenever a thought comes up, simply acknowledge it by mentally saying “Thought,” and then bring the focus back onto your inhales and exhales. Continue to deepen the breath and try to make the in and out breaths equal in length. The longer you do this, the better the results, but even after just a few minutes, you will likely feel the calming effects. Simply breathing in a deeper way helps calm the nervous system and lower your heart rate. Breathing is our most effective and intrinsic tool we have to calm anxiety, and we never have to worry about not having access to it. We just need to practice using it in a practical and positive way. At the end of the day, we can acknowledge that this time of year is stressful, no matter how organized you are. But remember that our reactions are what form our experiences of whether something is good or bad, stressful or not stressful. Breathe often, act calmly, and think Big Picture. Remember that stressors like the presents we need to buy or plans we need to make aren't really all that important. Refocus on what this time of year is truly about: spreading love and compassion to our fellow humans. Because once the wrapping paper has been torn away, the tree has been taken down, and the decor has been boxed up, our good and loving actions will be remembered much longer than even the best of material gifts.