by Beth Tabak
“The stress-free way to enjoy the holidays is to plan, take one step at a time, and have a sense of humor.” Beth Tabak
Can you feel the holiday jitters beginning? Suddenly there it is right around the corner. Relax! Take time to plan well now and ease on into the holidays with a big smile on your face. Get out a small notebook and pen, and let’s get started.
1- Reminisce over previous holidays. In your notebook create a column for What Works and another for Not That Again. Under What Works list the activities that bring you joy, those that come naturally to you, and those that seem to click into place. Under Not That Again list your challenges. Jot the things that drain your energy and bring you down. What can you do to delegate, dump, or change those items in the Not That Again column and embrace more of the things in the What Works column? What changes need to take place?
2- Choose a theme for the holidays that you can get excited about. What is most important to you during this holiday? Base your theme around that. Maybe you want to stay home instead of traveling. Your theme could be “Home for the Holidays”. Maybe your budget is tight. Your theme could be “Simply Sensational”. Your theme will help you stay focused. You can choose a theme that honors your spirituality such as "Faith and Family First" or choose a favorite quote such as Mahatma Gandhi's “Be the Change You Wish to See in the World”. Get creative, have fun, and write it down.
3- Set your top 3 priorities based on your theme and what you want. Get crystal clear. Write them down. When you know your priorities you are able to respond easily to a request. When you know what is important to you it becomes easier to set boundaries. When someone asks you to get involved in a project or activity request 24 hours to respond. Look at your top 3 priorities and see if it serves them. If it does, then it is worth considering. If not, the answer is likely no.
4- Create a Map. What would happen if you took a big trip without planning? You would likely get lost, waste time, and experience anxiety. It makes sense to plan at the holidays when so many areas of our lives are effected: time, energy, personal care, relationships, physical environment, and finances. Create a task list thru the end of the year. Yes it takes a block of time and will save you time and stress. It will prevent you from running in circles, going back and forth to the same place, and trying to remember what’s next. Last year I had 200+ items on my task list. No wonder we feel stressed when we attempt this in our heads. Here's a tool to ease the pain. On your computer create a chart with 4 columns. Use your theme for the header. Under your theme list your top priorities horizontally. Label the 4 columns in a way that is helpful to you. I use Business, Personal, Holiday, and Need List. Set up your page with a small font and minimal margin space so you can fit as many rows as possible. List your tasks and add to it as they come to you. Keep your map with you everywhere you go. Set blocks of time to carry out these tasks. Have fun and gain momentum as you check them off. Remember to save it for next year.
5- Simplify! Every task must be handled. Your options are to do it, delegate it, or dump it. Eliminate what does not serve your top 3 priorities. What can you get help on and delegate? This is a good time to get rid of those items on your Not That Again list. Hire someone to decorate or a housekeeper for the month. Have everyone bring a dish instead of you doing it all yourself. Get your family involved and develop a new attitude that things don't have to be perfect. Let go. This will allow you space to embrace what you enjoy.
6- Set your budget. Develop a budget that feels good. Many people are tight on cash. There are lots of ways to make this holiday special without adding stress to your budget. How can you show people they are appreciated? What activities can you do as a family? Letting people know what is special about them in a card, letter, audio cassette, or video is a great gift. Get creative and have fun. Every year I have at least one gift for the kids to find. I wrap empty boxes inside each other. When they open the last box there is a clue telling them the next step. Don't let a tight budget steal your joy.
7- Set your boundaries. Decide now what you will not tolerate. Write it down. Remember your Not That Again list? Is there someone who always ropes you into things you do not want to do? Have the conversation you need to have. No is no. If someone continues to ask after you said no, they are attempting to control you. Setting boundaries is about educating people on how they can treat you. Is there someone you need to educate?
8- Schedule one hour a week for planning and schedule time for yourself. When is a good time for you to update your task list? When can you take time for you? Put it on your calendar every week through the end of the year and keep those appointments. See if adding this line to your planner will help you keep your appointment: "I have an appointment in honor of myself this ______(day) at __:__ (time) to do something really special for me because I sooooooo deserve it!"
9- Give in a way that gives you joy vs. out of obligation. When you give in a way that comes naturally to you, you stay in integrity with who you are. Therefore, you are able to share your own special gifts with others. When you are doing what you love life seems to click. If there is a situation you are dreading, think about how you can tweak it and handle it in a way that would bring you joy.
10- Take action now! Begin today so that you are tying up your last bows well before the pitter patter of hoofs on the rooftop. Keep your holiday notebook and map close at hand. The sooner you complete your tasks, the sooner you can sit back, smile, and enjoy the season!
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