While the holidays are supposed to be a joyful occasion, the mounting stress of the season often clouds how we feel about this time of the year.
If you’re like me, you have a list of “to do’s” which includes shopping, cookie baking, gift wrapping, party hosting and sending holiday cards. Once you add these tasks to your daily household list of responsibilities, chances are you’ll feel snowed under in no time at all.
It comes as no surprise that many Americans are looking for ways to manage their holiday stress. It’s one of the most popular search terms on Google, which illuminates the real need to sprinkle some self-care into your day so that you can weather the busyness of the season.
I’ve developed seven self-care tools that can help you find balance as you wrangle with this holiday havoc.
1. Create a value-led holiday
How many of the things on your ‘to do’ list feel like ‘shoulds’ instead of ‘wants?’ During the holidays, we unknowingly believe that we should send pristine holiday cards, bake dozens of beautifully decorated cookies, and spend hours picking out the perfect gifts for everyone on our Santa list.
But, if these tasks feel stressful, ask yourself if they align with your values? If they don’t, give yourself permission to let some of these things go so that you have more time for creating memories that actually matter to you.
2. Say No
The holidays are a time of the year when it’s easy to forget about boundaries, and this happens in many ways. We may take on too much because we don’t want to disappoint friends and co-workers by declining invitations to parties. We may also overspend, which sets us up for financial woes in January.
Instead of fantasizing about what’s possible to take on during a busy time of the year, think about what’s doable. Boundaries create a sense of safety and can help us to manage our time more efficiently, too.
3. Be Mindful
As painful as it might feel, try to remain in the present instead of catapulting to the future. It’s easy to think about “what’s next” when we’re wrestling with a lot of tasks, but try to stay in the moment by taking a few deep mindful breaths and reminding yourself that life happens in the present, not in the future or the past.
4. Walk it Out
When our bodies are stressed, we propel into the fight or flight mode, which makes the stress hormone, cortisol, rise. Yet there’s one simple exercise that’s clinically proven to distil this stress hormone, and that’s walking. Even though your days feel as if they’re overflowing, try to take a few brisk walks to help calm your mind and your body.
5. Sleep it Off
Healthy sleep hygiene is one of the core blocks of emotional wellness. But, it’s easy for holiday stress to throw off our nighttime routine. As challenging as it might be, try to stick to your regular sleep schedule by going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time every morning.
Here’s another tip; don’t bring your iPhone or Smartphone into the bedroom. New research shows that the light from our phones may affect the quality of our sleep.
6. Practice Acceptance
Often, stress builds because we’re attached to specific outcomes, such as cooking a perfect meal or buying the best gifts. When things, such as time interfere with these results, we may feel deep frustration. Yet we can let ourselves off the hook of holiday perfectionism by accepting what’s possible instead of holding ourselves to unrealistic standards.
In the midst of preparing for the holiday season, don’t forget to unwind and have some fun with family and friends. Think about activities that spark joy and lower your stress levels, such as playing games, watching your favorite holiday movies or listening to your favorite holiday songs.
This blog post originally appeared on Well Clinic blog.