The holidays are stressful. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, irritable, or exhausted. Here are some simple tips to help you stay sane.
Focus on what truly matters. Is it connecting with loved ones, generosity, faith, service? Take a moment to consider what you value and why. Let go of anything that isn’t aligned with your values. Consumerism, expectations of others, negative judgment, over-indulgence? Make a conscious effort to direct your energy toward what fills you up rather than what drains you. TIP: write it down and post it somewhere you will see it often over the next month or so.
Simplify. Give a few heartfelt, thoughtful gifts rather than a bunch of generic, obligatory ones. Opt out of some events instead of trying to attend them all. Prepare easy recipes rather than those with complicated steps or a ton of ingredients. Decorate with just a few well-placed items. Delegate and ask for help. TIP: keep asking yourself, is there is an easier way to do this?
Clear physical space. The holidays are full of clutter. Piles of wrapping paper, crafting supplies, stashed gifts, a plethora of decorations can all contribute to mental stress. Clear out any unnecessary items. Organize what you do need. Clean up. Make sure your physical environment is pleasant and calm. TIP: do a pre-holiday purge and donate unused/unwanted items.
Make exercise a priority. Physical activity is incredibly helpful for managing stress but is often one of the first things to get scratched off the to-do list. Exercise helps your mind as much as your body. You don’t have to go for a five mile run or bust ass at the gym for an hour. Dance around your kitchen while you’re baking those cookies, get outside and go for a 20-minute walk, spend a half-hour doing a gentle yoga flow. Exercise should be nourishing. Move your body in any way that helps you feel good. TIP: designate an accountability buddy—someone to check in on your effort or do it WITH you.
Limit sugar. Too much sugar can slow your cognitive functioning, increase anxiety, lower mood, reduce sleep, and deplete energy. While it’s fun to indulge, too much sugar may ultimately cause you to feel a bit miserable. Keep this in mind, as it may help you moderate how many cookies or alcoholic beverages you consume. TIP: educate yourself on the many names for sugar and read labels!
Get plenty of sleep. All of the previous tips will help with this one. Make it a point to slow down, release obligations, eat well, exercise, and stay hydrated so that you can be well rested. TIP: stop looking at your phone before bed.
Maintain a sense of humor. When all else fails, lighten up and laugh. Really. People often get very worked up about things that ultimately don’t matter. Life is absurd. Don’t let yourself get so caught up in nonsense that you forget to have fun. TIP: listen to some comedy while wrapping gifts, find some funny holiday videos on YouTube, or watch your favorite funny movie.
Be kind. Hold the door, let someone merge in traffic, smile, put up your shopping cart, tip generously, compliment someone, help out around the house, volunteer your time, make a donation… there are so many ways to be a decent human being. It benefits you as much as anyone else, so DO IT! TIP: identify an act of kindness in the morning that you plan to do that day.
Have gratitude. Recognize your blessings and be grateful for all that you have and love and enjoy. In addition, know that every challenge or stressor is an opportunity for positive growth or change. Be grateful for it ALL—the good, the bad, the gifts, the disappointments…. everything. TIP: keep a gratitude journal.
Be good to yourself. With so much emphasis on being generous, fulfilling obligations, and tending to others it’s easy to lose sight of you. Your value is not dependent upon the gift you give, the party you throw, the outfit you wear, or the praise you receive. You don’t need to be perfect and you should never compare yourself to anyone else. Acknowledge all that you do all the time. Appreciate who you are exactly as you are. You matter. TIP: make a list of all of the reasons you feel proud of yourself.
Adina Arden Cooper
I'm a lover, a guide, a supportive companion. A storyteller, an artist, an ally and an advocate. I help individuals thrive and communities come together through counseling, coaching, and community building. I believe that shared humanity is a powerful strength and that our stories connect us in beautiful and sacred ways. As I stumble, skip, or soar my way through this life, I invite you to join me on the journey. Likewise, I'm honored to travel with you. In witnessing one another, we find meaning.