I don’t have to tell you the holidays, with all their extra to-dos on top of the to-dos that are already part of your normal life, are stressful. It’s really, really easy to let that stress color your feelings about—and experience of—the actual holiday celebrations.
After all, it’s hard to shift out of “getting things done” mode and into “let’s just enjoy ourselves” mode. When you walk into a family gathering with the go-go-go mentality and its best friend, stress, it’s all too easy to over-react when someone says something that lands a little too close to one of your buttons, or to be testy, or cranky. I mean, we’ve all been there, right?
Here are 5 easy ways to help you let all the stress of holiday prep go so that you can fully enjoy the holiday itself.
- Anticipate the positive
Before you leave for the gathering (or before you begin getting ready, if you’re hosting), take a few moments to name the parts of the day you’re looking forward to; such as eating your Mom’s apple pie, seeing your favorite cousin, or playing with your niece. Then if anything happens to spike your stress levels, make it a point to focus on the things you like. Changing your focus from something upsetting to something enjoyable can snap you out of a downward spiral in mood.
- Arrive alive and ready to thrive
With a little bit of preparation, you can start creating a holiday atmosphere from the moment you leave, which helps you arrive in a calm, festive mood. If you’re driving, turn your car into a peaceful retreat: put some orange peels and cloves in the ashtray or cupholder to create a festive scent, tuck a picture of your loved ones in your sun visor (so you’ll remember why you’re traveling in the first place), and lay a blanket on the driver’s seat to give yourself a cozy place to sit. If you’re flying, wear your coziest socks, download episodes of your favorite podcast, and consider springing for noise-canceling headphones so you can find some Zen along the way.
- Bring nature along
Every mind-body tradition considers the earth to be a source of support, strength, and energy. Carry a small stone, leaf, or pinecone in your pocket or purse. When you’ve been stuck in the car or inside an airport all day, touching your little piece of nature will help relax you and boost your mental and physical stamina.
- Turn offenses into opportunities.
Instead of coping by overeating or drinking too much, prepare for family gatherings by deciding what occurrences trigger your stress reaction the most, whether it’s the way your Uncle Bob talks politics, your Mom asks about your love life, or your grandmother picks her teeth at the table. When one of your triggers happens, use it as a reminder to take one full, deep, mindful breath; you’ll trigger your relaxation response and give yourself a moment to gather your thoughts before you respond.
- Press for peace
When all your best laid plans go South and you find yourself with heart racing due to stress or upset, there’s an acupressure point located in the center of your palm, known as the Calming Point, that calms the heart and soothes apprehension and anxiety. To stimulate it, curl your ring finger in and press it gently in to your palm, making a loose fist with the rest of your fingers. Breathe naturally and release the pressure after a minute or so.
For more tips that can help you reduce overwhelm at this—or any—time of year, check out these How to Be a Better Person podcast episodes:
- Validate, Validate, Validate! (To help in any heavy or fraught conversations)
- Give a Better Compliment (so you don’t say anything accidentally offensive or creepy!)
- Catch Someone Doing Something Good (helps you stay focused on the positive)
- Don’t Be an Interrupting Cow (for better conversations and connection)
- Stick Your Butt Out (so all that sitting and eating and visiting takes less of a physical toll)
I am thankful to have you as a reader. With best wishes for a happy and festive Thanksgiving if you’re celebrating!