Holiday stress too often overshadows our ability to enjoy the winter season celebrations. This happens because many common life stressors around time, money, and family dynamics tend to expand this time of year. Throw in a dose of inclement weather and you can suddenly find you’ve flipped from the warm and cozy person you want to be, to a cold and prickly “just get through it” kind of you. While you may not be able to change our economy, completely clear your schedule, get your family members to be considerate of your boundaries, or prevent snow on your travel day, how you engage with these stressors CAN help determine the impact they have on you. Here are 7 tips to help you reduce holiday stress and create a more enjoyable holiday season.
- Define Your Values – The foundation for all the others and the key to keeping it simple and joyful. What values will you focus on honoring in your life, in this season, with these people?
Defining your values is the first step in making intentional and supportive choices that honor what you really want. We tend to go into autopilot when stressed and do what we’re used to doing, regardless of whether the experience actually matches what we want to create. We also overcomplicate things that feel big because our brains think that if it feels big, it must BE big and then we prove ourselves right by making it big. Not to mention we’ve been conditioned to believe that everything important takes hard work. It doesn’t. Bottomline, should are rarely magical and bringing the magic is probably WAY simpler than it feels when you’re stressed. So, take it out of the feeling zone and intentionally explore what really matters to you when it comes to this season and the people you’re interacting with. Consider how YOU want to show up and what will help you do that.
Clarify Your Budget – Money tends to come with lots of feelings. Put the facts of your finances, not your feelings in charge. Making seasonal magic doesn’t have to ruin the rest of your year.
Take a good look at your finances and then budget according to your values. When we’re bombarded with consumer culture and scarcity marketing, it’s tempting to just spend and deal with it later. This ultimately means more stress and less “magic” in the season. Expressing love and sharing joy are usually less complicated and financially dependent as all the consumer noise can make it feel. It is crucial to base your decisions not off your emotions, but off your financial capability. Budgeting may feel initially stressful and like a mood killer but conscious choices will almost always lead to more holistically loving (and ultimately less stressful) outcomes.
Allocate Your Time – You deserve a place at the holiday table. Get clear about what you need and set reasonable expectations for yourself and with others.
Make plans based on your values, be reasonable with yourself, and set appropriate expectations with others. Do not sneak time (otherwise known as trying to fit the things you want/need to do in the spaces between what other people want to do.) This almost always backfires. People get annoyed when they notice, and you’ll get irritable that you’re not getting to do what’s important to you. Not to mention it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle that affirms people will get annoyed when you take time for yourself making you more inclined to sneak time. Often this can be resolved by simply being clear. While there may be some initial tension, it will dissipate and/or you’ll be able to handle it more easily because you’re less stressed trying to get things done. Remember: you are allowed to take time and you’re worth having time. Be reasonable with yourself and say what you need – set those expectations.
Communicate Clearly- Listen to yourself and then have conversations based on the level of trust you have in a relationship. Clear communication honors you and allows other people the dignity to make their own informed decisions.
The more you listen to and trust yourself, the more clearly you’ll be able to communicate with other people. Get honest with yourself about what you need based on what you identify in #1. Take that clear communication with yourself into communication with anyone else impacted by your decisions. Depending on level of trust with them, it can be a conversation about how to best coordinate or it can be simply saying “I’m available at this time for such and such activity.” In some cases you may need to trust that doing what you need to do to support your ability to show up the way you want will have a positive ripple effect (even if people don’t like it right away). Remember, clear communication with yourself and others is key to managing expectations and preventing misunderstandings. It also allows other people the dignity to make informed decisions for themselves.
Don’t Take Things Personally – What other people say and how they behave is about them, what you hear and how you interpret their behavior is about you. Allow other people to be where they’re at.
Keep in mind that what people say is more about them and what you hear is about you. Your brain is a filter. Their brain is a filter. The filters are composed of everything that’s ever happened in their life (and sometimes even before it) up until now. How they choose to engage says more about what’s going on with them than it does about you. Likewise, no one can push a button you don’t have – so, consider your buttons. What can you learn? Are you out of alignment with your values? Is there something you’d like to do differently? These are things you have power in. Allow people to be where they are. It’s not all about you. This perspective will help you maintain your peace, check in with how you’re showing up, and make supportive choices.
Assume Good Intent – This is NOT about accepting unacceptable behavior. This is about keeping yourself out of story-telling rabbit holes, so you can set supportive boundaries rather than reactive ones.
This one can be a little tricky, so I will first say that it is NOT about accepting unacceptable behavior. This is about staying out of story-telling rabbit holes. What I mean by that is, our brains tend toward negative assumptions. So, without intentional focus, your brain will spin a story about the perceived danger. Yet most people aren’t actually trying to hurt you. (Could be that you have different communication styles or love languages or stress languages, etc.) Focusing on an assumed good intent can balance out that negative tendency. This allows you to be curious about what’s really going on and make intentional decisions based on what you need vs making reactive decisions to get someone else to behave differently. Impact matters more than intent, so boundary setting is key. Remember, you want boundaries based on values vs boundaries based on assumptions.
Have A Plan to Support Yourself – Your creative brain turns off when your stress response activates, setting off subconsciously pre-determined reactions. Creating some conscious plans ahead of time can help mitigate these effects along with solid self-care.
Identify strategies to support yourself and how you want to show up to whatever situation you’re in or whoever you’re with. Do this ahead of time because your creative brain turns off when your stress response kicks in. If you have a plan in place, you can automatically turn to that to help you navigate in an aligned way. Also, the more you feel supported, the less reactive your internal “danger alarm” may be. Consider things like having a way out of a conversation or situation, like an excuse (“I’ve really got to use the bathroom.”), a phrase to diffuse (“That’s an interesting perspective.”) or even an interruption (“I feel hurt by that comment and need to step away.) Know what activities help you release stress (Have you taken my stress release quiz yet? If not, check it out HERE). Finally, know who you can reach out to for support and have some self-care plans that support you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Remember, even a little care can go a long way.
For more support navigating stress and the winter season, check out these Unlimited Podcast episodes: Setting Holiday Boundaries, Understanding Your Stress Language, Loving Yourself Through Grief, How to Say No Without Guilt, and A Simple Way to End the Year Strong.
With these tips, I hope you’ll have more fun and less stress this holiday season.
Remember: You deserve joy at all times of the year!
Written by Valerie Friedlander, PCC, ELI-MP
Valerie Friedlander is a Life/Business Alignment coach for women leaders who feel pulled between work and family. She is an International Coaching Federation Professional Certified Coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner with 10 years in corporate management, mediation training, and over 20 years supporting people in science and spiritually based personal development. Her philosophy is rooted in individual empowerment with social system awareness. She is also the host of the Unlimited podcast, a wife, mom of two, sci-fi/fantasy nerd, and creative spirit.
Find her at https://valeriefriedlander.com and on all social channels @unlimitedcoachval
Content provided by Women Belong member Valerie Friedlander