By Joanne Lee
Surviving The Festive Season
In this episode Joanne discusses how to survive the Festive Season. She shares strategies for dealing with holiday stress so that you can really enjoy your time together with friends, family and loved ones whilst having a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Episode 14 Transcript
Welcome to Episode Fourteen of our Full Spectrum Wellness Podcast. I'm so happy and excited to be back here with you for our fourteen episode and second to last episode of the year.
As we head into Christmas week I wanted to talk about holiday stress. I’ve spoken to lots of clients in the last few weeks who have experienced stress, break downs in communications with partners and financial worries, not surprising with what’s going on in the world right now.
Battling and overcoming stress during the holidays can be a challenge to anyone and there are a number of things that can lead to this type of stress, family gatherings, coping with loss, busy shops, long queues, gift buying and conflicts to name but a few.
You may also have high expectations that add to the stress of your holiday season. Long gone are the days in which the season was highly anticipated and there was a sense of magic in the air. As an adult, you may find the season to be more stressful than joyous. Unfortunately, these days, you may even consider holiday stress as a necessary holiday tradition!
In addition to your typical schedule of work, home and kids, you've got more shopping to do, menus to plan, and food to prepare.
So I want to share with you some methods you can use to battle and overcome stress during the holidays:
- Acknowledge that everything doesn't need to be perfect. The adverts on the radio and Tv during the holidays really miss the mark when it comes to realistic portrayals of family holidays.
- Accept that you can enjoy some beautiful holiday get-togethers regardless of whether something is spilled or you're having trouble locating your favorite dinner napkins.
- Furthermore, most people will hardly notice if the pies were baked a little too long or you forgot the cranberry sauce.
- Start holiday planning and preparations earlier. Can you imagine how much less stressed you'd feel if you had all your gift shopping and wrapping done in October?
- Also, plan your holiday menus well in advance of using them. This way, you'll have the menu set and the shopping lists made. As the holidays get closer, review your menus and shopping lists and make any minor adjustments you want.
- Spreading holiday tasks out over longer periods of time means you'll have less stress during the holiday season.
- Scale down your holiday plans. Because adults sometimes have an overly idealistic view of the holidays that springs from their childhood experiences, this strategy can be tough to do. Scaling down your plans involves letting go of your "perfect dream" for the holidays.
- Essentially, know that you don't have to repeat that special holiday memory you have in your mind. You don't have to find the perfect gift, spend the most money or have a room stacked with wrapped packages to show your love to others.
- Ascribe to the theory that, "It's the thought that counts." Most people will never remember the cool thing you got for them that one year. But they will have warm memories of the time you spent together as a family.
- Are you overcommitted? The holidays normally come with many social gatherings that most of us feel we must attend. The fact is that you don’t have to go to every event you’re invited to.
- Saying “no thank you” to some of the invitations will free up more time for yourself!
It’s important to remember and enjoy the spirit of the holidays. If it takes saying “no” to preserve some of your sanity, go for it! Others will be more understanding than you give them credit for.
- Don’t become so burdened that you secretly wish for the season to pass quickly. Take time to be by yourself. Whether you take a yoga class or a bubble bath, allow yourself to do something enjoyable without worrying about the holiday stress.
- Carrying on traditions. Growing up, we may have seen our mothers cook a full course Christmas dinner. Perhaps it was routine to host a lavish holiday party. Maybe your family baked hundreds of Christmas cookies to give to friends and relatives.
- Tradition is good but don’t allow yourself to become so wrapped up in tradition that it consumes you.
If you find that the routine you normally follow for the pure and simple sake of tradition is weighing on you and resulting in more stress than you can deal with, break away from it! You will be happier when you’re free from this stress.
- Rather than living up to the expectations of years past, start your own, easy-going traditions. Instead of throwing a lavish party, have fewer friends over. Allow other family members to bring side dishes to the holiday meal rather than cooking it all yourself.
- Finding the perfect gift. There’s so much pressure to purchase the perfect gift for each person that it takes all the fun out of shopping. Remember, people are generally appreciative for whatever gift they receive. They don’t expect you to go to every corner of the Earth to find them a spectacular gift.
- Save time and money by skipping the wrapping! Creativity is the main focus. You can even give gifts that can be used throughout the year. For example, you may give a coupon in a card for a free night of babysitting, one day of gardening, or other special things.
- Shopping online has made searching for gifts much easier. It might also be more cost effective to buy online because many shops offer special sales or free shipping near the holidays.
- Take shortcuts to save time. Figure out easier ways to do things that will provide more time for other holiday tasks and activities.
- One good example: Rather than baking the pies, order them from a nearby bakery that's known for its delicious baked goods.
- When shopping, don't be afraid to select gift cards as holiday gifts. The fact is that many people prefer receiving a gift card as they can then choose exactly what they want. Gift cards are easy to shop for, satisfy nearly everyone and will cost you less in wrapping paper. Basically, gift cards are "no fuss and no muss."
- Choose what you want to do. Ponder what the holidays truly mean to you and then express that meaning in your celebrations. Avoid getting caught up in the commercialism that has taken over the entire holiday season.
- Some would say "it's all about the shopping." However, it's worth your time to think about what ideas you hope to portray to your friends and loved ones during the holidays.
- Let go of feeling required to plan and carry out elaborate, lavish celebrations. Maybe you'd really rather have smaller, more intimate gatherings with friends spread out over a month or two, rather than a big whoop-de-doo that makes it difficult to really connect with others.
The best way to teach your children that the holidays are about giving to others is to take them to visit local charities or even to serve meals at a church soup kitchen.
As you can see, there are several effective ways to battle and overcome stress during the holidays. The key is to determine what’s causing your stress so you can eliminate it. In the end, you’ll see that most of the stress you experience is a result of the expectations you pose on yourself.
In terms of relationships I often hear from clients that the holidays are always stressful in their family. They have children and large, demanding extended families. They feel torn in a million directions during the holidays and feel like their relationship suffers the most during the holiday season.
These couples report barely spend time with each other. They are always fighting and arguing and have a hard time figuring out their plans.
So if I just described you, what can you do to make the holidays easier on your relationship?
Firstly, it’s important to realise that stress increases for many families during the holidays. It’s easy to get caught up in all the demands of the holidays. You have less time to focus on each other and your relationship.
You can alleviate some of the holiday stress by identifying the root cause of the stress and working to resolve those challenges.
Is a specific family member causing issues? Do you both argue too much about presents for the kids? What is causing most of the stress during the holidays?
Once you have identified the root cause of the stress, it’s easier to find ways to deal with it together.
In addition, setting expectations before the holidays start can help.
For example, create a list of things you both want to accomplish during the holidays. Then, divide the list, so each person has a fair share of tasks.
Stick to your list, so you’ll always know what to expect during the holidays and can avoid unpleasant surprises.
Couples often have disagreements about which in-laws they should visit during the holidays. This is also a source of significant stress in many marriages and the starting point of many arguments.
You have several options for handling family visits during the holidays:
- One option is to alternate the years that you visit the in-laws. For example, you can visit one set of parents one year and the other set of parents the next year.
- Another option is to have the in-laws come to see you during the holidays.
- It’s also possible to skip the family visits completely. Although it may be hard to say no to your parents or your spouse or partners, staying home can decrease your stress.
Whatever option you choose, it’s important that both you and your spouse or partner are comfortable with it and don’t waver from it. It’s crucial to put up a united front that won’t be swayed by either set of parents.
This may cause some strife in the beginning, especially if you choose to stay home or ask them to come see you. They may not be used to you pushing back and saying no. However, it can strengthen your relationship and alleviate stress when you set clear boundaries with both sides of the family.
To further reduce stress during the holidays and improve your relationship. Consider setting aside time to be with your spouse or partner. Pick one or two days on the calendar during the holiday season and make them date nights. This means the children aren’t allowed, and you can focus only on each other.
- Find a way to stay connected with them throughout the holidays. Whether you send each other sweet text messages or leave behind loving sticky notes in each other’s lunches, find a way to keep the love going.
- Make your holiday plans clear, but stay flexible. The holidays are a source of stress for many couples. It’s important to have a plan. However, even the best plans can fall apart. Try to stay flexible throughout the holiday season.
Create your own couple ritual for the holidays.
So remember, put the “jolly” back in your holidays and create cherished holiday memories
- Acknowledge that everything doesn't need to be perfect
- Start holiday planning and preparations earlier
- Simplify wherever you can when planning and holding festive celebrations
- Stick to your budget
- Scale down your holiday plans
- Ponder what you really want to do to celebrate the holidays
- Talk with family members and friends about what they want to do
- Plan celebrations that express what the holidays truly mean for you
- Identify old family traditions. Which ones do you love? Opt to keep holiday traditions that bring you joy and happiness
- Give yourself permission to let go of old traditions that you aren’t fond of
- Establish start and stop times for parties
- Take shortcuts like buying pre-made pies to save time
- Promptly ask for help when you need it
- Keep the kids busy with holiday crafts. They’ll enjoy it and you can get more done.
- Take time daily to meditate, even if only for a few minutes
- Inform all prospective attendees of your holiday plans in advance
- Discuss challenging issues in advance with a person who tends to create tension
- Use place cards to assign seating in efforts to avoid tension-filled holiday gatherings
- Short-circuit disagreeable family discussions by interrupting or changing the subject
- Make a gift list, considering the amount of money you can comfortably spend
- Cut down your gift list
- Shop early and make notes about where to get low-cost gifts
- Ask for gift suggestions from the people on your gift list
- Consider giving gift cards to save time and precious energy
- Reduce the amount of money you spend overall for the holidays and per gift
- Avoid making credit card purchases at holiday time
- Think about making homemade food gifts to save money at holiday time
- Shop early and place gifts in a gift drawer so you’ll be ready for the holidays
- Schedule time to be with your family for some special holiday moments
If you have to travel over the holiday remember to
- Plan holiday travel itineraries in advance
- Travel during off-peak hours
- Start out well rested
- Build in extra money to your travel budget in case of emergencies
- Arrive at the airport or other station early to more easily take care of last minute challenges
- Expect to run into snags
- Pack light and carry on your bag, rather than checking it
- Allow extra time to travel from place to place and expect heavy traffic
- Send your gifts in advance or take gift cards
- Limit alcohol and caffeine
- Pack plenty of healthy snacks that travel well without refrigeration
- Bring plenty of things to keep the kids happily occupied
- Make waiting times go faster and regain a happy holiday feeling by meditating. Use portable meditation props, like a favorite image on your smart phone or tablet
- Plan to arrive at your holiday destination rested and excited to share your holidays with loved ones
Here is a little Meditation for Holiday Travel
- Sit up straight and relax your shoulders
- Let distracting thoughts dissolve away as you focus on deep breathing
- Think about your destination and the loved ones you'll be visiting
- Remember that you're surrounded by people making similar plans – just like you
- Once you're feeling relaxed and happy, let go of the details and enjoy that warm feeling
- Imagine wrapping up those good feelings and presenting them to everyone around you
- Gradually return your attention to the present moment
- Remind yourself of the good vibes you felt while meditating
This year, make the decision to reduce your holiday stress. By shedding the urge to be perfect, beginning holiday planning earlier, scaling down expectations, and using shortcuts to save time, you'll bring your tension level way down.
Think about what you really want the holidays to mean to you and your family. Then, you can let go of expectations based on the past and really enjoy your time together. And ultimately, isn't that what the holidays are for?
And I say this every year to clients who are struggling with holiday stress, “It’s just one day, or a couple of days and it happens every year!”
Have a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New year, much love from me and a massive thank you for supporting this podcast and listening to me this year.
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