10 Gifts to Ourselves for Minimizing Holiday Stress

Focus on the people you love and just do the best you can with everything else.

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By Sherrie Campbell

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Balancing work stress and home life during the holiday season is very challenging. There is so much to do, so little time to do it, and so much to avoid in order to decrease our stress. We must be mindful of what we can and cannot do. The greatest thing about holiday stress is that most of it is predictable, allowing us to create strategies around major pitfalls before they occur. The following strategies will protect you from experiencing extreme amounts of unnecessary pressure.

1. Gift of creating priorities.

Our career doesn't stop just because the holidays show up. To begin the uphill climb to the holidays, it is helpful to create a list of the activities which require our full participation, the activities which we can give only some of our time to, and those which we can forego completely. Creating this list provides clarity on where we stand in terms of a schedule of responsibilities, helping to keep us organized.

The gift of prioritizing helps us avoid feelings of being totally overwhelmed. For instance, if we are not much of a cook or an entertainer, we don't have to host holiday gatherings at our home. If we choose to host, we can have our holiday event catered. Before we get overwhelmed by the pressure to impress, we get to choose where we can shine, and where we need to pass the baton.

Related: How to Prioritize Your Priorities

2. Gift of creating shortcuts.

If we can't stomach the idea of not sending out holiday cards, or doing all the stuff that keeps us feeling like we're doing our part to include those we love in our holiday experience, we must find ways to create efficiency shortcuts. For example, we only need to send cards to those we are in regular conversation with and leave out the rest, or we can send cards to everyone and eliminate writing a personalized message in each card. The point is to minimize all notions of perfectionism we may hold of ourselves. Love is what matters on the holidays, not how perfectly we do things.

3. Gift of balanced holiday eating.

One of the most unbalancing things about the holidays, especially at the office, is the food. There are treats everywhere and they are incredibly difficult to resist, only to run into even more temptation when we get home. Too much sugar is horrible for our blood sugar, making it much harder for us to stay focused at work, or to control our moods. We can gift ourselves the commitment not to engage in the tasty treat eating to a point of indulgence. It only creates more stress for us when we start to hate what we look and feel like. Practice mindful eating. Use the mantra "nothing tastes as good as being at a healthy weight feels."

4. Gift of lowered expectations.

Whenever we're preparing for the holidays we develop, consciously or unconsciously, ideas of what "togetherness" is going to look like with those we love. There will be decisions around which holiday parties we should go to and which to skip, or we may have anxiety around what we think others expectations will be of us. There is only so much of each of us to go around, so we must be mindful of our limitations in tandem to accepting the limitations of others. We must be aware of how much "togetherness" we can handle emotionally during the holiday season and still be happy ourselves. It is important we equip ourselves with the necessary boundaries so we can avoid taking on loads of unnecessary negative stress.

Related: 8 Unrealistic Expectations That Can Harm You

5. Gift of finding your people.

For those of us who experience loneliness or aloneness during the holidays, it is healthy to consider inviting a group of friends to our home to enjoy the holidays with us, or to accept the invitations we receive to join others. When we're lonely it impacts our self-worth. To avoid this type of painful stress we could end up working the holidays away as a way to avoid them, but we all need time off of work. If virtually everyone we know is with family during the holidays, we might consider volunteering to help those less fortunate as a way to feel a loving connection. Many people report these experiences to be extremely fulfilling, placing their focus on what they have rather than what they lack.

6. Gift of shopping online.

There is often nothing more stressful during the holidays than going to the mall to do our gift shopping. The parking situation alone is enough to catapult us into intense levels of negativity, stress or anger. Once we're in the mall we end up waiting in lines, and dealing with other angry, disgruntled shoppers. We can now shop at home or even on our lunchbreak at work. There is almost nothing, with the advances in technology that cannot be successfully accomplished remotely. Shopping online greatly decreases our stress, making our experience of holiday shopping convenient and enjoyable.

Related: 5 Ways To Save When Shopping Online

7. Gift of taking a breath.

This may sound insignificant, but when we're under stress, especially during emotionally charged holidays, we forget to take a moment to just breathe and give our bodies the oxygen it needs to functionn on all cylinders. We must give ourselves the gift of taking 30 seconds to 10 minutes to focus on relaxing our bodies and breathing. By merely stopping to take a few deep, cleansing breaths it reduces our levels of negative stress instantly. It helps us to refocus at work or with holiday duties, allowing us to follow through on tasks to completion.

8. Gift of exercise.

Exercise reduces stress. Exercise burns off our negative energy, our irritations, and it fills our bodies and brains full of the feel good chemicals we need to reduce stress, improve our mood, and re-energize our focus. Exercise is the one thing most of us put off, when it should be the top priority on our list of to-do's, as it is the most effective stress reliever on the planet. The added side benefit of exercising is we get a little alone time, and it also helps us to keep off those extra pounds to come from all the tasty treats we may be indulging in.

9. Gift of sleep.

To stay sane during the holidays, we need restful, deep sleep. When home is swamped with holiday duties and chores added to our career workload, which doesn't slow down because Santa is coming to town, we have to be sure we are getting adequate sleep. Adequate sleep is a guaranteed way to remain productive and balanced emotionally both at work and at home. We must commit to setting the necessary limits wherever necessary to ensure we get to bed at a reasonable hour.

Related: 10 Gadgets to Help You Sleep Better

10. Gift of joy.

Be positive. The holidays are what we make of them. We must be thankful for our careers and the abundance they grant us to be able to spend money, time, and to give love to those we treasure the most. There will always be stress during the holiday season, but we each get to decide the type of attitude we bring to the emotional environment. We must choose to have a positive and joyful mindset this year. This mindset alone will make the holidays that much more enjoyable for us and for all others around us. If we want things to be positive, then we have to be positive, no matter what, by choosing not to sweat the small stuff.

Sherrie Campbell

Psychologist, Author, Speaker

Sherrie Campbell is a psychologist in Yorba Linda, Calif., with two decades of clinical training and experience in providing counseling and psychotherapy services. She is the author of Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person. Her new book, Success Equations: A Path to an Emotionally Wealthy Life, is available for pre-order.

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