As the holidays approach (yes, they’ll be here sooner than you know), most women go into platoon sergeant-prep mode. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or another holiday doesn’t matter. Stress is stress. We’re deciding what to cook/which cookies to bake and how much/many, whom to invite (or not), when to hold the event, whether invitations are necessary, how to decorate, what to wear, where out-of-town family members will sleep, who’s at the children’s table, etc., etc.
One thing that’s probably inevitable and that we don’t plan for is the stress surrounding holiday time. Unfortunately, women are more susceptible to holiday stress than their male counterparts. During this time of year, there is often more stress at work, compounded by the seasonal rush to find the time to get everything done.
However, with a few pre-emptive strikes, you can declare war on your No. 1 enemy: stress. After all, with all the hormonal symptoms of perimenopause or menopause you’re dealing with, added stress could turn you into loose cannon. Here are a few weapons you can add to your pre-holiday arsenal:
Plan your attack
Don’t let the commercialism of the season pressure you to spend a lot of money.
When it comes to gift giving, start saving early. Set a budget. Find non-monetary gifts to give to the special people in your life (a weekend of babysitting for a relative, for example). The gift of your time is the best!
Set realistic expectations for yourself. Divide your projects into smaller tasks. For instance, don’t try to decorate the entire house in one day. Start with the tree or your mantle. You won’t be so overwhelmed if you break up the tasks.
Round up the troops
Remember, you don’t have to do all the holiday planning yourself. Enlist the support of your family and friends. This will make them feel part of the holiday festivities and give them a much-needed break. If you’re planning a big gathering, think about hiring professional help with cooking and/or cleaning. That way, you’ll be able to enjoy spending time with friends and family.
Do an about-face
Just because you’ve done things the same way for decades doesn’t mean you can’t change them now. I’m not saying you should abandon tradition. But be open to the idea of creating new traditions that fit with your current lifestyle. Shortcuts can take a lot of pressure off you, and no one will notice. For instance, if you don’t have time to bake cookies from scratch, use a mix or even the refrigerator slice-and-bake cookies. (I’ll never tell. You can even mess up the edges, so they don’t look so cookie-cutter perfect!)
Surround yourself with reinforcements
In addition to being a stressful time, the holidays can be lonely for many. Try to surround yourself with family, friends, or co-workers who care about your well-being.
But don’t overdo it. While the holidays are the perfect time to socialize, don’t feel obligated to accept every invitation. Allow yourself some downtime to recharge and re-energize.
With all the added stress — and the abundance of food in the house — it’s easy to binge during the holidays. Keep healthy snacks on hand if you’re busy working in the kitchen. Stock the fridge with cut-up veggies and fruit to grab and go if you’re crunched for time. Make it just as easy to reach in the fridge as it is to reach in the cookie jar, and you’ve won half the battle.
Beat a hasty retreat
If all else fails, put down the gift wrap, the cookie sheet, and the tangled tinsel and take a deep breath. Take a half hour to exercise. Releasing those endorphins may be just what you need. I find 20 minutes of meditation to be quite calming. You can also grab a glass of wine or your favorite eggnog and sit back and take a minute. There are lots of choices to help you say goodbye to seasonal stress.
Again, be sure to practice moderation. Excessive alcohol (or even caffeine) can produce the opposite of the intended effect and exacerbate anxiety.
We tend to be very hard on ourselves. It’s time to eliminate the pressure and lower the bar, along with our expectations. No one cares if your soufflé is perfect. Focus instead on what’s important: spending time with loved ones and creating holiday memories to last a lifetime.
This holiday season, you can win the stress war. All it takes is a strategic approach, and you’ll be on your way to a joyful holiday.
My Motto: Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!
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