It’s that time of year again…time for holiday stress! We’re less than a month away from Christmas, with the seemingly endless list of Very Important Things To Do, it may feel like there is nothing that you can do about your stress levels. Family plans need to be organized, shopping needs to be done, the bills keep coming, errands still need be run, and it is impossible to put your family and career responsibilities on hold. The key to managing stress is realizing that you are in control of your life. The first step to managing stress is identifying the sources of your stress. Once you realize what is stressing you out, look at how you currently cope with it – overeating? Skipping your workouts? Smoking a bit more? Worried that you’ll turn into the Hulk, and smash something puny? (Can you imagine his clothing bills?).
Funny how sometimes the things we think will make the situation better, usually make everything worse. Time to break the pattern! Check out our top stress management strategies.
1. Lovingly use this word: “no”
When you have a full plate of projects, or your to do list is getting longer than your arm-span, it takes guts to be able to say ‘no.’ And while the Giver in you is probably scoffing at the idea of saying “no” – think about the effect on both you and the people you’re trying to help. Adding more to your list doesn’t make life easier for you, and there is the off-chance that your ability to help them is going to be less than 100% effort. Not because you don’t love helping, but because you’re burned out, tired, hungry, frustrated (I could keep going). Consider that someone else could be dying to help them on that project and would do a stellar job of it! How awesome is that?
2. Avoid people that stress you out.
Have you ever had a day where you’re “just not in the mood” to deal with your boss’s bad jokes? (My jokes are great). Or some days we’re not in the mood for ANYONE, and would rather hide at the coffee shop or stay at home with a good movie? If the opportunity presents itself for you to avoid or take a break from people that trigger a negative emotion in you, go for it.
3. Avoid situations that stress you out.
While I love Costco, I hate endlessly circling the Costco parking lot for hours, only to find the cruddy spot that has the obnoxious gold Hummer taking up 1.5 spots beside you. I’ve butted up against this situation so many times and the shoppers never seem to go away on Sunday! Argh! So instead of hating myself and the entire planet, I have now scheduled any Costco runs early in the week, either first thing in the morning or just before they close and accumulate my needed items into one big trip. I find that going out of my way to avoid situations that stress me, out a tiny bit bothersome, but comparatively, it’s like a walk in the park for my emotional state. And since I like myself and everyone around me a lot more when I’m happy and calm, I’ll gladly take the detour! Same goes for parties or events that I’m not comfortable attending. I would rather bring my best self to a gathering when I am willingly open and loving towards others.
4. Express yourself!
If listening to Madonna helps you de-stress go for it, but that’s not what I’m referring to. Find a safe way to express your feelings instead of bottling them up. This could come in the form of a chat with your best friend venting (we all need to sometimes!), asking your trainer to pull out the kickboxing pads or dancing your little heart out. Swallowing your emotions is like creating your own personal pressure cooker that might just blow it’s top one day, and we don’t want that to happen to you. In fact, we recommend ensuring that you have a way to express yourself weekly because sometimes when you don’t feel you need to, that is when you MOST need to.
5. Accept things you can’t change
Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Look for the positives and see challenges as opportunities for growth. “Oh, groan, let’s all take the high road lesson, eh?” I’ve learned the hard way that getting ticked off only messes ME up the most. And if my frustration does end up hurting someone else, I feel guilty about my actions. Start by asking yourself “what do I want?” Because while we can’t change the situation (store is closed, someone is late for their shift, favourite restaurant is fully booked), we can change ourselves! On my honeymoon, we arrived in Venice to find the city completely flooded! The only way to get around was on a rickety plank/boardwalk that was erected, causing you to inch through the city at a snail’s pace. Lineups to get anywhere stretched as far as the eye could see. I knew what I DIDN’T want in that situation – to stand in more crowded lineups, in the rain and miss out on the cool Venetian shops I couldn’t get to (did I mention I was hungry and tired too)? So I asked myself, what DO I want? I wanted to see the city! I wanted to roam around from shop to shop and at free will, and get something to eat! So we found someone selling these awful, bright coloured waders that allowed me to do exactly what I wanted to, even though it was a major Italian fashion faux-pas/worst nightmare. My desire to be free outweighed my desire to be cool, haha.
Just continually yourself the question (what do I want) and soon you’ll be making awesome decisions all over the place and you’ll see just how change-able situations are!
6. Make time for fun and relaxation
Nurture yourself by regularly scheduling activities you enjoy. Things like taking a refreshing walk along the sea wall, workout, get a massage, and curl up with a good book, watch an inspiring movie. Now this isn’t something to add to your TO DO list – this is like feeding your baby, drinking fluids or showing up for a favourite client. Doing something that makes you feel human again, feel relaxed, calm and happy is so ridiculously important, I really should have put this as number one! If you don’t take care of you, who will? And remember that airplane safety talk? Put your mask on (take care of yourself) before assisting others! The holiday season is all about giving, don’t forget receiving some love, time and awesomeness from yourself!
Remember – YOU ARE IN CONTROL and you have the power to breeze emerge from the holiday season unscathed! The key is to realize what is the right amount of stress we can handle and completely avoid your breaking point. And if you do breakdown, that’s okay, you’re not alone, just go back to the tips and try again. The key question to always ask yourself is, “what do I want?” If you can answer it clearly and then make moves towards that answer, you’ll be flying! Good luck and see you on the other side!