This post was done in partnership by Cindy Priest Entrekin of New Perspectives Counseling.
On the first day of the holiday, my anxiety gave to me, a panic attack over decorating the tree!!
If this sounds familiar, you may be feeling overwhelmed this holiday season. Many of my clients are juggling multiple commitments, from family to work to holiday events, and it can all feel like too much at times. In light of this common condition, I want to share with you my no fluff, all action step plan for taking back your holidays.
1. Don’t overcommit. Admittedly, it is hard to say no during a season of family gatherings and celebrations. First,determine the events that mean the most to you and your family and only attend those, politely declining all others. Be sure you and your partner are on the same page about what you are committing to so there are no surprises. Great apps like Cozi help families keep their calendars organized. Also, don’t forget to schedule some downtime for the family where you do something relaxing and fun, maybe baking or wrapping presents while watching your favorite holiday movie. The holiday season is a time for celebration and reflection, don’t forget the reflection!
2. Keep up your healthy routines. Don’t stop taking care of yourself this month. The business of the season can be overwhelming. If you are feeling anxious, this is a cue for you to take some time for yourself. Make an intentional choice to take care of your body and mind by maintaining as much of your routine as possible, including adequate sleep, exercise, and downtime. If you do these things, this month will be much less stressful and it will be much easier to transition into the new year if your routine isn’t completely disrupted.
3. Have a budget. There is no worse holiday hangover than a big credit card bill in January. Determine early on how much money you plan to spend and stick to it. Be sure you have a system for keeping up with purchases as it is easy to get caught up in shopping for friends and family with all of the sales and events going on. If you have a partner and both of you are shopping for children and family, be sure you communicate what your spending is. If you plan to give to charity, you will want to include that into your holiday budget as well. Travel expenses also need to be considered if you are travelling for the holidays.
4. Lose perfectionism. Since there is no such thing as perfect, don’t make it a goal! Have realistic expectations about the events you are attending or hosting with family and friends. Keep in mind that life is unpredictable and often, so are people. The stressful moments during gatherings but can be less stressful if you are not expecting a perfect event. Of course, a no-drama holiday season would be fantastic, but you only have control over what you think, feel, say and do (which is actually nice because that means you are not responsible for the words or behaviors of others). Children (and some adults!) are likely to misbehave at some point during gatherings but it doesn’t have to ruin your holiday experience. Focus on the positive.
5. Practice gratitude and kindness. Studies show that kindness decreases stress, anxiety, pain, depression, and blood pressure. This is a holiday stress cure people don’t talk about enough! Just like an anti-depressant, kindness stimulates the production of serotonin. This is the chemical that heals wounds, calms you down and causes a feeling of happiness. In regards to gratitude, most studies on gratitude support an association between gratitude and a person’s well being. It also helps with relationships. For example, partners who express gratitude for one another feel more positive about each other and are more willing to discuss concerns about their relationship.
Now you know how to own your holiday this year! Use these action steps to make planning and experiencing the season in a positive, less stressful way. As a therapist, I know the less anxiety you have, the better you feel. So in the spirit of the season, please accept my holiday gift to you – Crushing Mom Guilt, The Ultimate Guide.
Cindy Priest Entrekin, a Licensed Professional Counselor is dedicated to empowering women to problem solve, cope with feelings, and change harmful behavior patterns to achieve a life with less anxiety and more inspiration. With 20 years of experience she has assisted thousands of people in successfully navigating life transitions. She has been featured on an NBC affiliate station multiple times as an expert in transition. Cindy currently resides in Chester, NJ with her husband, daughter, and the two sweetest dogs on the planet. She rarely says no to travel and loves new adventures.
If you are ready to find out if counseling is the next step for you, use this link to contact me about a free 20-minute phone consultation.