It’s that time of year again. The holidays are quickly approaching, and with them come stressors that many of us are able to hold at bay throughout the other 10 or 11 months of the year. Family stress, financial stress, weight management stress, job stress, friend stress – all these areas of stress, worry and anxiety can feel like they are ticking time bombs waiting to explode come mid-November.
I get tons of questions this time of year from clients, friends, and reporters about how to manage our stresses more effectively. And every year I try to come up with new and interesting things we haven’t heard of, thought of or tried previously. The American Psychological Association offers helpful tip sheets for managing stress, but this year I thought I would come up with some of my own sillier, and (hopefully) unique ways to survive the next 6 weeks.
- Invest in costumes. I recently participated in a Thanksgiving celebration in which we were all required to wear festive Thanksgiving themed hats. It was super fun and a great ice breaker as I didn’t know most of the people I was celebrating with. The hats were silly, uncomfortable and hot, but it kept the event light-hearted and fun – the way I believe most parties should be.
- Get over your inhibitions and perform. I have wonderful memories from my childhood of performing dance and music “concerts” for the grown-ups. Why not include performances in your holiday gatherings? A family talent show, holiday caroling, Rock Band tournaments – there are so many things to choose from! Forget the serious conversation and emotional turmoil – just dance (or sing or strum…)!
- Bring your sexy back. I recently heard someone say we shouldn’t forget our sexual side over the holidays. Stress is a well-known mood killer, but maybe if we make sex a priority during this season of giving, our whole outlook on the season will change. Need help getting in the mood? Try asking Santa for lingerie or try my new favorite sexy-in-spite-of-yourself workout: Zumba.
- Flex your “no” muscles. Hate the office holiday party? Just say no thanks. Despise addressing holiday cards? Don’t send them. Gag at the thought of eating turkey or ham? Tell them you’re allergic. So many of us get caught up in pleasing other people and living up to Martha Stewart’s image of a perfect holiday that we become the ultimate “yes-men!” Those expectations (of both ourselves and others) can lead to serious stress overload. So practice saying no regularly and stick to the cookies – oops, I mean commitments – that you really enjoy.
- Figure out what you love – and do it up – BIG! These next few weeks are supposed to be a time of celebration, joy and gratitude. What better way to commemorate the holidays than to do what you love with the ones you love and focus on the positive? Hang lights until the breaker trips, bake cookies until you run out of butter, ski until your legs get wobbly, laugh until your cheeks hurt. Whatever it is–have fun and enjoy!
Hopefully these tips will help give you a new way to appreciate the holiday season and get through it without taking sides with the Grinch. But it’s important to remember that feeling constant stress at any time of the year can be a problem. The APA Help Center has great resources to help you identify when stress is a problem and how you can try to manage it better.