At Shift, we know how stressful the holidays can be. Really – December is always a packed house for us, with clients wanting to take a proactive approach to holiday stress management. It’s great to see people caring for their minds and optimizing their lives during this busy time. We'll be discussing some great stress-busting survival strategies to help you stay joyful during the holidays.

1. Take a Stressor Inventory

Make a log of all the things that stress you during the holidays. Make sure to include even the little things – like getting Aunty Ada’s gingersnap recipe perfect. Then, grab a (figurative) red pen and start slashing! Ask yourself, which of these items really has to be here. Why? If visiting a certain person is always painful, do you have to go? If shopping for perfect gifts strains you, is there an alternative that would be easier? How about cancelling that self-imposed cocktail party and going skiing instead? Why not operate from more of a “want” perspective and less of an “obligation” mentality. Free Yourself!

2. Keep Your Coins in Your Coffers

Money is one of the most common holiday stressors during the holidays. It can be easy to overspend, which can lead to a consumerism hangover later. Look at the core reason for purchasing a gift – is it to let someone close know you care or is it an obligation or social pressure gift? If it’s the latter, wiggle out. If the former, ask about another way to demonstrate it (think a shared experience or handmade memento,) or place a realistic spending limit on your thoughtfulness.

One of the reasons we overspend on gifts is the sporadic, hurried nature of holiday shopping. There are a couple of ways to tackle this. Purchase all presents online and ahead of time, in one or two sittings, for example. Or, keeping a running log of who to buy for, how much is the budget and what has been spent. Organization and avoidance of procrastination are UBER helpful!

3. Keep a Calendar

December gets crowded quickly and over-scheduling can take the fun out of the festivities. Mark down all events before agreeing to them. Next, jot down family time, alone time, go to yoga time, eat gingerbread men time – whatever you need to keep yourself balanced during the season. Look at conflicts with social obligations and get rid of the ones that don’t fit. This season, gift yourself the things you need to be joy filled. If you’re in a couple or have a family, slam everyone’s needs and events together and use the same calendar for everyone. It helps to zoom out and strive for balance!

4. Temptation Bundling

Temptation bundling happens when we take an unsavory chore with a fun satisfier, so we can have a little more fun with things we absolutely have to get done. Here’s some examples:

Chore + Fun

  • Wrapping presents + watching a festive movie
  • Making Christmas present lists + having dinner out with the spouse
  • Christmas baking + with all the girlfriends and wine
  • Holiday meal making + potluck contributions
  • Hosting in-laws + a games night

You get the idea: plan it out and have a little more fun.

5. Just Say No

Reduce the pressure by reducing the “yeses.” And not just to other people – say no to the elevated expectations you place on yourself, as well. If baking cupcakes for the office that are perfectly iced with mini-snowflakes seems daunting, deem it unnecessary and stop by Safeway instead. Throw “shoulds” into the wind and do what works for you in the way that works for you.

6. Delegate and Share the Work

Superman isn’t Santa, and you don’t need to be either. Try to divide tasks and ask for help. Caterers? Potlucks? Gift exchanges (vs. individual ones)? Yes, please.

7. Get Support if You Need it

If you’re sinking under family pressure, gift buying madness and not enough time, come talk to us at Shift. Well, we’re not the only option – but we’re a great one.

8. Add Some Fun!

Snuggle by the fire, go skating, bake (or just eat!) tasty cookies, wear a silly reindeer sweater, have a scotch, groove to old Christmas classics, spin some dreidels, but get into the fun. And if you’re all holiday’d out – skip it and head out dancing, hop around at the trampoline park or tuck into a good book. Fun is a great stress reliever – make sure you get enough!

9. Practice Good Boundaries

Family gatherings can mean coming face to face with less than favorite family members or past ingrained triggers. To cope better, don’t feel bad about limiting contact or setting boundaries. If a person or situation makes you uneasy, you don’t have to entertain it. If it is the globs of unhappy memories or a difficult family dynamic or relationships, therapy can help to navigate them. Sometimes, we idealize the holidays or create unrealistic expectations and later have to deal with disappointment. Addressing your thoughts ahead of time can be helpful.

10. Decide to Be First Priority

You are empowered to create your own holiday magic = no one else will craft it for you. Take control, imagine your ideal season and put it into action, fun and mulled wine.

Andrea McTague

Andrea’s trained in: Borderline PD, loved ones/children of NPD, anxiety, assertiveness development, entrepreneurial and executive coaching psychology.

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