First, notice that the title of this article is not “Quick Tips to Get Rid of Holiday Stress.” Why? Because the holidays are stressful. That is ok. We create a lot of our own suffering by expecting life to be free from stress, sadness, and worry. Those are all a part of life, so let’s start by expecting some stress this holiday season; that way, when it arrives not only are we not surprised, we’re ready!
Write a List
I know this sounds like an obvious one but here’s the deal; when we are stressed or overwhelmed we activate our amygdala, the part of our brain that is in charge of our fight or flight response, it floods our nervous system with stress hormones, and makes it difficult to think clearly. Ever had that anxious feeling like you were going to forget something? Or can’t sleep at night because to-do lists or the next day’s tasks were circling in your head? That is the aforementioned process at work, kind of a “fight or flight light”. Writing a list gives these thoughts/tasks/etc… their time and space and allows your brain to move on and ultimately rest. So, take a few minutes to write out you list, it might save you hours of stress thinking and lost sleep!
Ask for Help
People have a lot of thoughts and feelings about asking for help. Take a few seconds to think about what asking for help means to you. Does it mean you aren’t capable, good enough, that you don’t stack up to other parents? We all need help, we can’t do it all ourselves. Whether it’s delegating to your partner, asking a friend to watch your kiddos so you can get stuff done, or just getting help out to your car at the grocery store, take all the help you can get this holiday. And challenge that thought that to be “good enough” you have to do it all yourself!
You can only do what you can do in the present. Anything else is added stress. When you’re overwhelmed take a deep breath, focus on the feeling of your breath going in and out of your nose or your chest going up and down as you breathe. Stay here for a few moments. This will calm your central nervous system and give you a nice little reset. Then decide what you can do in the moment and let the rest go. If you feel the nagging need to remember or keep track of things, use the present moment to make a list that you can go back to.
Remember, the best gift you can give for the holidays is a present, balanced self. Take care of yourself and enjoy the season.
Abby Withee is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in Rolling Hills Estates and Redondo Beach. With a focus on mindful practices, Abby works with children, adolescents, adults, and families to address a variety of diagnoses and presenting issues.
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