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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

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Can You Have a Stress-Free Holiday?

December holidays are filled with decorating, parties, presents and often extra stress. The holiday period can add so much more to an already busy calendar, and it can become difficult to juggle those additional activities. During an interview with licensed clinical social worker Melanie Yost, she provided some tips to help us through the season and avoid stress where possible.

Yost suggests we start with being aware of the “story” we want to create over the holiday. To do this, ask yourself, how do I want to feel this holiday? Instead of allowing the craziness of the holiday to take over, decide ahead of time what you want the festivities to look and feel like.

“We all have stories. Our story sets the tone and influences our mood. It also sets expectations. And often, the expectation is what drives us crazy,” says Yost.

Setting reasonable expectations and being aware of them can create a manageable holiday story and help relieve some of the stressors that come along.

“Many people are not even aware that they have expectations that drive their choices, behaviors, and their stress,” says Yost, “So, ask yourself what your expectations for this holiday are. Once you determine that, consider what is reasonable and important based on your time, energy, and finances. Finally, rank them in priority order.”

Set boundaries. Consider the time you have available and what your finances will allow, realistically. Yost says if something is extremely important to you and your family, most people always find the time, energy, and money to make it happen. However, understand that some expectations may not be met this year. If you must cut out an activity or event, remember it is not the end of the world for you or your kids.

“As parents, our job is not to make sure our kids are happy all the time. It is a disservice if we eliminate all the obstacles and negative feelings. It is our job to teach them to be resilient and to handle stuff. Kids must learn to deal with disappointment and hurt feelings,” states Yost.

Another way to make the holiday season easier is to communicate your needs. Start having conversations with your family, friends, co-workers, and other parents early. Letting those around you know what you can and cannot undertake early will assist you in planning and organization. Maybe this year, you will allow someone else to host the gathering or plan to meet at a local restaurant. Is it best to provide pizza delivery for the class party and not spend the effort making a homemade snack? Discussing these items through open and honest communication can save a lot of stress.

“Manage expectations by talking. Many people, especially women, get into the habit of putting others’ needs first. Sometimes, we do not stop to think about what our needs are and end up in a spiral. You should permit yourself to state your needs.”

Finally, take what Yost calls “micro” moments of self-care whenever you can.

“Many people tend to think of self-care in huge chunks of time. But through the holidays, we still have to deal with children, school, activities, work, and household stuff.  We may not have huge chunks of time available regularly,” says Yost, “However, you can find five minutes to practice self-care.”

“Micro” moments of self-care need only last five to 15 minutes. Some ideas can include doing deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed. Enjoying your favorite morning beverage in silence. Taking a walk around the block. Whatever you can to ground yourself at the moment.

“These micro-moments can make a world of difference,” states Yost.

Stress is not just for adults. Many children deal with feelings of anxiety and excitement throughout the holiday season as their schedules change and things become influx.

“It is important that we also teach our children how to manage stress, calm themselves, set boundaries, and define their expectations. It is OK to teach our kids to say, ‘I need a moment alone,’” says Yost. “Many parents think, ‘I have to go fix this for my kid!’, but it is better to respect and recognize their feelings.”

No holiday will be completely stress-free. Try these tips to reduce chaos this season. Set expectations. Plan and modify as needed. And always be kind to yourself. It’s a gift you won’t regret giving.

Melanie Yost’s Top 5 Tips to a “Lesser” Stressed Holiday:

  1. Set expectations. How do you want to feel through the holidays?
  2. Set realistic priorities. Consider your time, energy, and finances.
  3. Have boundaries. Do not over-commit yourself.
  4. Communicate. Be honest and start a conversation early with family and friends about your boundaries and priorities.
  5. Be kind to yourself. Take “micro” moments of self-care wherever you can.

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