Let’s play a game. Below I have listed several scenarios. I want you to guess whether each situation will raise stress levels or lower stress.
You have invitations to five holiday parties between Thanksgiving and New Years. Two are related to your significant other’s work, one is a luncheon for a club, and two are family functions with extended family. Will attending all of these parties make your stress level higher or lower?
Answer: This is a trick question. The key to lowering your stress over the holidays is two fold:
- Be mindful (aware) of what you value.
- Be intentional (deliberate) in how you spend your time and energy.
Think about how much time you will spend getting ready for these five parties:
- Find five outfits.
- Gathering hostess gifts.
- Find sitters.
- Then actual time to get dressed and ready for each party.
If you have all of the clothes and gifts, this could cost you 5-7 hours. If you don’t, this could take upward of 20 hours of your time. What else could you do with all or some of these hours?
Tip: The key to higher or lower stress is not over scheduling ourselves. How do you not over schedule? Be mindful and intentional. So when I say mindful of what you value, I’m talking about being clear on your reasons and serving those reasons with your actions. If you keep what you value in front of your mind over the holidays, it will help your prioritize how you spend your time. When you say no to something, you are saying yes to something else.
Example of How to Be Mindful and Intentional with Work Parties
Be Mindful: If I value being loving and supportive partner to my significant other, and it is important to my partner to go to these work functions, then I am serving my values or what is important to me by going.
Be Intentional: If I determine that going to these work parties serve what I value, then I will block off the time on my calendar to do the necessary things to get ready, shop, nails, hair and makeup before party, etc.
If instead, your partner just wants to been seen at party a few minutes, get in and out and has told you it is not worth your time to do all necessary to go for 30 minutes, then you might decide it does not further your values to go, that the time spent getting ready and going would be much better spent on something else.
You don’t have a list of who you need to buy gifts for, a budget, or any ideas what to get each person on your list. You would rather just wing it like you have always done. Does this lead to higher or lower stress?
Answer: HIGHER for sure. Talk about a recipe for overwhelm … this is it! This can lead to spending so much more time, money, and energy than is necessary. Think about how you feel when you realize you have:
- Left someone off of list.
- Over spent.
- Don’t have the time blocked off to find, buy, and wrap gifts.
What can we do in this situation to lower stress? Once again be mindful and intentional! That is our Mantra. Find a quiet time and a cup of tea or glass of wine and …
- Write down everyone you want to buy for.
- Write down the limit of what you want to spend on each person.
- Come up with gift ideas for each person. Think about each person’s tastes, likes, and interests.
- Determine when and how you want to shop for each – online or in stores.
- Can you buy the same thing for any individuals on your list?
- Have a present closet or present drawer to store gifts until needed.
- Look for nice gifts on sale all year when you are out shopping.
- I have two aunts and two cousins I am close to and buy for every year. I try to buy for all four anytime I find a nice gift. I keep an eye out for their gifts on sale. I keep gifts for them and hostess gifts in my present closet. I keep my Christmas list in the closet with the gifts and cross them off as I find them.
So once again it is all about being mindful. Ask yourself, “What do I value?” I value connection with certain extended family members and I want my actions to make that clear to them by finding gifts that I know they will love. I’m intentional in the time and money I spend finding these gifts.
When you save time and money, you will lower your stress. Thinking about your January credit card bill is enough to ruin a perfectly wonderful holiday. Being intentional in your spending and spacing out the spending during the year, if possible, really helps to keep stress low.
You are so busy over the holidays that you have no time in your schedule for self-care and pampering. Squeezing in anything for yourself just seems overwhelming with everything else you have to do. Will bypassing yourself cause lower or higher stress?
Answer: Much higher. As women we learn the rule “I must take care of everyone else and put myself last.” This is especially our mindset over the holidays. I have been there, spending every waking moment doing things for other people and nothing for myself. What happens if we keep giving from the cup instead of the saucer? We run dry. We get cranky, tense, upset, and sleep deprived. Are we our best selves when this happens? Hardly.
I challenge you this year to adopt a new way of thinking that will keep stress lower. Schedule time for yourself. Give from the saucer and not the cup. Do things for yourself that help you be your best self such as exercise, take a nap, get your nails done, eat, clean, etc.
Once again the key is for you to keep values at the front of your mind. In this case, value your own well being.
Be mindful about what fills you up and energizes you.
Be Intentional about blocking time for yourself. Then your cup will overflow and everyone in your life will experience a better you as they drink from the saucer and not the cup.
You schedule everything you will spend time on over the holidays on your calendar and stick to it as if it is written in stone. Will this planned schedule reduce your or raise your stress level?
Answer: Another trick question. To answer this one we must separate the two parts of this statement.
1st Part – Schedule Everything on Your Calendar
This will LOWER stress. Scheduling on a calendar will helps us reduce stress because …
- Prioritize. There is only a certain amount of time in day when looking at a calendar. This makes it easier to decide how many things we can actually do in a day and pick out the most import.
- Block Out Time. This keeps us on track and less likely to get overwhelmed with a list floating around in our head.
Be Intentional: Take the action necessary to get the things done you have blocked off on your calendar. When you do this be realistic. Choose the two or three things that must get done. When we have a list of ten things and only get three done, how do we feel? When we have a list of the three most important things and we get all three done, how do we feel?
Second Part – Stick to It as if It Were Written in Stone
This will raise stress levels because life happens. The key is to have a plan, but be flexible and forgiving of ourselves if something interferes with our plan.
If I start clean up while everyone is still at the house, I will have more time to enjoy myself and get to sit down sooner. Will cleaning as you go lower or raise your stress?
Answer: Higher. Being mindful means being aware of the present and living in the moment. Allow yourself to enjoy the special moments in your holidays instead of rushing to get from one thing to the next. This will help your enjoyment level go up and stress level go down. Be present and enjoy. Don’t do the dishes while everyone else is drinking eggnog and laughing. They might be ready to leave right when you finish and then you have missed the fun with friends or family. Yes you might sit down sooner, but you have missed the reason for the get together and all the work.
What do you value here? Be mindful and keep that in the forefront of your mind. Then be intentional and enjoy those moments.
The key to keeping holiday stress low is:
- Be mindful and aware of what you value or what is most important to you and stay in the present moment.
- Be intentional in how you spend your time, money, and energy. Put it toward what is important to you.
5 Tips to Accomplish Lower Stress and More Fun This Holiday Season
- Prioritize. Trying to do it all leads to being overwhelm which equals stress. Do what is important to you.
- Block off time for each activity so you don’t over book.
- Be intentional with spending. Whether you’re on tight budget or money is no object, being in charge and on top of finances will make you feel like a boss.
- Make time for yourself. Block it off on your calendar like everything else. Give from the saucer not from the cup and you will not run low. Giving your best self to others is the best gift you can give this holiday season.
- Be present for those special moments. Don’t think ahead or work ahead. Be present with family and friends and enjoy.