Oh the STRESS!
Can I get an amen? It seems the closer we get to Christmas day, the larger the stress becomes. In the last week alone I have witnessed:
A grown woman lashing out in anger at a driver who moved too slow.
A couple staring down and yelling at a car in the parking lot because they believed the driver wasn't driving careful enough (She was).
A man pushing his way through a line (literally!) to get to what he wanted.
A woman pulling over and YELLING at my son as he drove through the neighborhood because he didn't slow down enough when she pulled out in front of him.
Stress abounds during this season. But it doesn't only come in angry outbursts. Sometimes stress comes if feeling exhausted all. the. time. Or, losing focus and wandering through your day with no clear completion of anything. Or, withdrawing completely from the lives we lead. It can even come across as apathy for the events and activities usually enjoyed during this time of year.
I have struggled with that last one lately for sure...
About a week ago I shared a post on my Facebook page about feeling holiday season-less. A sweet and dear long-time friend replied:
"Volunteer! Take dinner to a young mom or someone sick. Look around at someone in need and fill that need. It will make it feel like Christmas, I guarantee it. Provide gifts for a needy family. Let me know what happens."
It got me thinking... was I approaching this season in a way that was actually limiting my ability to enjoy it?
So, to honor my friend (and my curiosity) I decided to change my perspective. Here's what I am learning about how to combat stress during the holidays:
1. Grace matters. In addition to our usual full lives, December adds with it a whole host of to-do's. Keeping the expectation that we should do it ALL, and do it all well (insert perfectionist mindset) is a mindset that not only adds to our stress but also steals our joy in everything we do. Grace isn't just for others. It is for us too. It matters that we allow ourselves to receive it as well as give it.
2. Expectations matter. Speaking of expectations... what do you expect of yourself this time of year? Have you thought about it? I have been expecting that I would continue developing my business, getting clients, and building programs without a hitch and still have the energy, stamina and desire to get all the gifts purchased, wrapped, and under the tree, along with completing all the decorating, and the baking and home made gift-making, and laundry, and self-care (like sleep!) done well every day. This is not a healthy mindset in terms of expectations. A healthy mindset allows for shifting in levels of expectation in seasons of intensity (ahem, like the Holiday season...) in order to maintain focus on what matters most. You can read more about managing expectations here.
3. Relationships matter. Like my friend suggested, putting our focus on the people around us instead of the tasks on our to-do list matters. When we shift our perspective to being rather than doing something wonderful happens: the expectations that stress us out are replaced with joy. Baking cookies for friends becomes about the friends, not the task. Shopping for the holiday dinner becomes about the family, not the list. Volunteering our time becomes about those who receive such a gift, not the loss of time.
4. Spontaneity matters. This one has been the biggest winner for me (so far) in combating stress. Choosing to say no to what was planned in order to say yes to something else is empowering. Saying yes to a phone call from a friend, saying yes to putting out treats for your delivery personnel, saying yes to that tug to watch "just one more", even saying yes to that walk to get yourself out. of. the. house are all spontaneous choices that remind us there is more to life than the tasks at hand AND that there is always time for what really needs to get done in a day.
Check out how the concept of "relationships matter"played out...
We all have 24 hours in every day we are given to live.
What we do with it matters.
May you seek to honor your priorities this holiday season over your to-do list.