Although many of us look forward to spending time with family and friends, the holiday season can certainly be a stressful time as well. As routines and structures and everything predictable are interrupted, it is important to create some specific intentions for the season. Sometimes a simple visual reminder like a favorite quote may help you relax, enjoy the moment and put things in perspective. Here are some additional tips to manage expectations and prioritize activities during the season:
Set up a schedule—Yes, holidays and breaks are all about the lack of routines, but it may be important for to have some form of structure and schedule in place. Maintain some grounding rituals that are important to you like a daily fitness routine, going to bed at a particular hour, having a meal with loved ones. On the same token, it may also be helpful to recognize activities that may be problematic for you or your child and adjust accordingly. If we know that a particular activity, outing or time with a relative is going to play out because it has happened year after year, create a plan. Anticipate stressful situations you might be faced with and be prepared to engage in actions that will maintain harmony and comfort.
Take care of the mind and body—Thanks to the sympathetic nervous system, we experience the physical sensations of stress and anxiety and the famous fight or flight pattern. The solution is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and attend to these sensations at the very beginning. Think about different sensory experiences that you find particularly helpful. Taking deep breaths, lighting aromatherapy candles, playing upbeat music, holding a cut of hot chocolate or glass of wine are examples of actions that may alleviate anxiety related sensations. With respect to internal thoughts, it is equally important to pay attention to our negative and unproductive self-talk…”I have to…..I should be…..When am I going to do…” Know that it is okay to do less, say no and spend more time in the moment.
Involve kids in planning the activities—The season can be filled with obligations, commitments and disruptions in routine and comfort. Enlist your child’s help in planning activities that he/she may be interested in. This may help create meaningful traditions and unforgettable memories for your family.
Give back to your local community—It is easy to get engulfed in the right gifts, picture perfect decorations and an overindulgence of food and forget the true meaning of the season. Remind children that the holidays are about helping others and giving back. Involve your child in a service project so that they learn the importance of giving back early on. It is okay to start with something small like helping an elderly neighbor with shopping, cooking or gardening.
Model the desired behavior—The way that we manage everyday and holiday related stress is being carefully observed by our children. It is important to normalize children’s feelings and utilize these moments as teaching opportunities. You might say, “Adults get stressed too. When I feel stressed, I find it helpful to take a walk or spend some time for myself.” Ensure that others see that you can and do manage your stress and anxiety well and that there are activities and actions we can engage in to alleviate stressors.
Express gratitude— As the holiday season approaches, I find myself consumed with gratitude. Gratitude has the power to transform ordinary days into thanksgivings, turn mundane tasks into joy and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. Whether it is gratitude for family and friends or the simple things like a great cup of coffee, the scent of rain or the laughter of children, please take a moment to be grateful for all that you have—we all have much to be thankful for!
Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season and bright and happy New Year!