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How to Conquer Stress During the Holiday Season

As the calendar flips to October, a sense of excitement fills the air, tinged with a hint of dread for some of us. The holiday season is upon us, bringing a whirlwind of events and emotions. From Halloween to Thanksgiving, Black Friday to Christmas, and culminating in the New Year celebrations, we're launched into a three-month-long marathon of festivities, family gatherings, shopping sprees, and much more. While these occasions are meant to bring joy, they often serve up a hearty side dish of stress. The looming deadlines at work, the expectations of picturesque family gatherings, and the pressure to find that "perfect gift" can easily overwhelm even the most seasoned holiday veterans. Today, I aim to arm you with strategies to conquer stress and make the most out of this holiday season.

woman experiencing holiday stress

The Importance of Planning Ahead for Q4

Whether you're a business owner, an employee, or someone juggling multiple responsibilities, planning for the fourth quarter is crucial. Just as you wouldn't go into a business quarter without a strategy, it's equally vital to have a plan for your personal life during this time. Why is this important? Being overwhelmed is the kryptonite to joy and happiness. Randomness causes overwhelm - full stop. Having a solid plan in place gives you control, helping you avoid a stressful holiday season and allowing you to greet the New Year with a sense of accomplishment and peace. Remember, it's not just about surviving the holiday season; it's about thriving in it and loving it.

5 Tips for Managing Stress During the Holiday Season

#1: Front-Load Your Responsibilities

In business, we often discuss front-loading the quarter to meet our objectives. Why not apply the same strategy to your personal life during the holiday season? Here is what I do:

Step 1: I start by laying out my responsibilities for the rest of the year on October 1st.

Step 2: I take a proactive approach to my well-being and tackle most of my tasks in October and early November with the goal of completing all my business tasks by the second week in November.

Step 3: I tackle personal holiday duties between Black Friday and the first week of December. For example, I order my Christmas cards on Black Friday, work on addressing them the following week, and then get them in the mail by the first week of December.

By following these three steps, you can create a serene space for yourself in December to truly appreciate the festivities. Doing this helps to alleviate the stress of last-minute shopping, planning, and other holiday-related duties. With a little forethought, you'll find that December can be a month of calm and genuine enjoyment. I call it my month of twinkle lights because I love all the festivities.

#2: The "No-Stress" Gift Strategy

Gift-giving can be one of the most stressful aspects of the holiday season. To alleviate this stress, start by making a list of all the people you'd like to give gifts to. Next, set a realistic budget for each person and brainstorm gift ideas beforehand. If you can, shop online or in stores before the holiday rush to avoid the stress of long lines and sold-out items. By having a plan and sticking to it, you can transform the often overwhelming task of gift-giving into a joyful experience.

Holiday Gifting Planner

Pro Tip: One of my team members, Chelsey, handles gift-giving like a pro. In the back of her planner, she has a Holiday Gift Planner. She has a list of every family member and friend to whom she plans to give a gift, as well as sections for the present and check boxes for when it has arrived, been wrapped, and been given. Even a check box for their Christmas card. She gave me a copy, which I added below, for you to download for inspiration!

BUT SHE ISN’T DONE YET! With this list, she has a box called Santa’s Secret Storage. Throughout THE ENTIRE YEAR, Chelsey collects Christmas gifts. If she sees something she knows her mother-in-law or best buddy would love at a market, she buys it, puts a sticky note on it to say who it is for, and puts it in the box, even if it is only March.

Come October, Chelsey goes through the box, fills out her Holiday Gift Planner with what she already has, and sees who is left to shop for. Often, Chelsey will have crushed half of her list by then. Not only does this make gift shopping less stressful, but it spreads the cost throughout the year and provides joyful moments when she finds that perfect Christmas gift – even when Christmas is nine months away.

Holiday Gifting
Download PDF • 106KB

#3: Family Time Management

The holiday season is synonymous with family gatherings, which can be both a blessing and a stressor. I encourage you to take the time to sit down with your family and create a schedule that balances family obligations with personal time. Make a note of the most important activities for your family, like if your husband wants to attend a tree lighting ceremony or your kiddo wants to visit Santa at the mall.

Let family members know in advance about confirmed plans so they can manage their expectations and reserve their time appropriately. Posting a holiday calendar in the house may be beneficial for easy reference. This way, you can partake in family traditions without feeling overwhelmed and still carve out some time for yourself.

#4: Mindfulness Techniques for the Holidays

Mindfulness can be a powerful tool for reducing stress during the holiday season. Simple techniques like taking deep breaths, being present in the moment, and practicing gratitude can go a long way in managing stress levels.

I recommend starting or ending your day with a five-minute mindfulness meditation to center yourself. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed amidst the holiday hustle, take a moment to step back and breathe. By doing so, you can regain your calm and continue enjoying the holiday season.

#5: Saying No is Saying Yes to Yourself

We often find ourselves drowning in invitations to parties, family gatherings, and various social events during the holiday season. While it's tempting to say yes to everything, doing so can lead to burnout. If you want to skip that office get-together with those coworkers you don’t even like or you don’t have time for that 3rd bake sale, say no! It’s okay!

Remember that saying no to an invitation is actually saying yes to yourself — yes to your well-being, yes to your peace of mind, and yes to the things that genuinely bring you joy. Don't feel guilty about prioritizing and setting boundaries for your well-being; it's crucial for maintaining happiness throughout the holiday season.

happy family walking together

Why Managing Stress During the Holiday Season Matters

Managing stress during the holiday season isn't just about making it through December without pulling your hair out; it's about holistic well-being. Stress has both immediate and long-term health impacts, ranging from sleep disturbances and digestive issues to chronic conditions like heart disease. Being proactive about stress management helps you physically, but it also sets a positive example for your family, particularly for younger generations who are learning how to manage their own stress and responsibilities.

Moreover, managing stress allows you to build deeper bonds with your family and friends. When you're not preoccupied with a never-ending to-do list, you can fully engage in conversations, games, and shared activities, creating memories that last a lifetime. Finally, managing stress during this busy period allows you to pause and appreciate the true meaning of each celebration, whether it's the joy of togetherness, the spirit of giving, or the anticipation of a fresh start in the New Year. Let's shift the focus from merely surviving to genuinely thriving this holiday season.

"Happiness email" written in a letter

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