Well, 'tis the season and all that good stuff. But if you're anything like me, you're not exactly gliding into the festivities this year, a glass of eggnog in one hand, some gift wrap in the other and a sprig of holly dangling playfully from your neck.
Rather, you've got the disemboweled remains of your daughter's reindeer Christmas cracker in one hand, a to-do list so long that the paper has actually begun to curl in the other hand and some masking tape stuck to the back of your hair -- which you haven't washed since last Tuesday.
I just glanced down at my own to-do list -- you know, the one that's meant to get me through this week and next before my family takes off on a two-week trip to the end of the earth (literally) -- and it read something like this:
- Alongside the sort of monumental, life-changing, BLOCK PRINT, do-or-die tasks like:
- Turn in job applications by designated deadlines
- Decide whether or not to buy the exquisitely-located-but-slightly-too-expensive-and-slightly-too-small-flat, and
- Have that discussion (again) with 10-year-old about sex,
I've got an equally long list of imminent tasks like:
- Sort out food for coffee morning at (MY!) house day after tomorrow
- Finish buying Christmas gifts for friends in Argentina (and make sure that there are enough Hanukkah candles for home... Where did I buy them again last year?)
- Clean up dog poop that seems to have gotten tracked into foyer before coffee morning (and we all know how I feel about dog poop...)
In short: I'm frazzled. And I bet you are as well. Here are five tips for reducing stress during the holidays:
1. Just say no. Gretchen Rubin had a great post over on The Happiness Project recently where she encouraged readers to think of themselves in the third person as a means of taking better care of their own needs. In her own case, for example, she pretended that she was answering phone calls for herself by saying things like "Gretchen gets frantic when she's really hungry, so she can't wait too long for dinner" or "Gretchen really feels the cold, so she can't be outside for too long." In my own case, I have a terrible tendency to over-schedule my weekends, which just leaves me feeling absolutely wiped out by Sunday night. So particularly during this overly-hectic holiday season, I've been trying to remind myself that "Delia needs to chill on the weekends now so that she has energy to enjoy the holidays when they actually arrive." Externally, this has translated into my canceling some dinners, play dates and even holiday parties so that I can just relax.
2. Accept being invisible. This comes from communications guru Chris Brogran, who has recently made a conscious effort to become not only less busy, but less public in his professional life. Brogan's basic point is that for many of us, much of our alleged "busyness" is really about responding to our underlying fear that if we aren't perpetually "out there" getting noticed by others, we'll no longer be relevant. But that's not only exhausting, it's also -- ironically -- counter-productive, because it draws us away from core focus. Brogan's talking mainly about bloggers and other heavy consumers of social media, but his point applies equally well in real life, particularly during the holidays where there is such an over-abundance of social gatherings. You don't need to go to every cocktail party or to be seen at every coffee morning. You might find that once you show up at fewer holiday parties, far from detracting from your holiday happiness, you're actually more chipper because you're spread less thin and investing your time more in those areas that you care about most.
3. Triage. I once wrote a post about productivity in which I suggested that one way to get on top of your to-do list is to divide your list into long-term and short-term items. Each day, you tick off one item from the short-term list. Each week, you take a concrete step towards something on the long-term list. This has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas per se, except that if you're like me (see above) you're going to need some extra help "getting sorted" around about this time of year. Translated into my own current set of competing demands, then: dog sh$! now; sex talk later.
4. Do less for your kids. Sure, this is meant to be a season that's all about giving. But chances are that if you're a parent -- and particularly if you're a working parent -- and super-especially if you're a working mom kind of working parent -- you're already multi-tasking way more than everybody else out there anyway. And enjoying it less. So by all means, assuming your kids are old enough, hand off as much to them as possible so that you can take care of all those extra items that have quietly found their way onto your to-do list of late. (Did I mention the Hanukkah candles?) Let your kids decorate the tree. Hang a wreath. Cook the latkes. Not a parent? Do less for your spouse or partner. But whoever you are, do more for someone else. It's a great time of year to volunteer.
5. Do something for yourself. Again, this might seem like a counter-intuitive message for the holiday season. But if you're feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, think about one simple thing that is entirely yours and which might -- amid the chaos -- stop time for an hour and help yourself to relax. It might be something as simple as getting a massage or taking a walk in the park. In my own case, I've been working hard over the past few months at making some new friends. So one morning this week -- when I had so many deadlines pressing down upon me, I felt like I could barely breathe -- I went for a quick coffee with a woman I'd met and we talked about a book we'd both read. So much fun. Afterwards, somehow everything else didn't seem so onerous after all.
How about you? What do you do to stay calm during the holidays?