Are you among the 88% of Americans who find the holidays stressful instead of blissful? If you’re female, the answer is more likely to be yes.  After all, women do most of the shopping, decorating, cooking, baking, party-planning and memory-making for our families.

And honestly, wasn’t your schedule already jam-packed before the holidays? The answer is no doubt, yes.  So, how can you reclaim calm, peace and joy this holiday season?

Start with the following: Pause for just a moment and take a deep breath. Then another. And remember you have choices about what you do and don’t do for the holidays. Seriously, you do. There is no mandate that you run yourself ragged buying gifts, going to parties and over-doing… everything.

So, pause, breathe and be intentional. Get clear on what works for you now, this year, in this season of life. Things change. We change, children grow up. People move away or leave us. What worked or what we did in past years may need to be updated. Clean the slate and reinvent your holiday plans.

For instance, do you still get joy out of creating and sending personalized cards or is this a year to take a break? Do you want to give and exchange gifts with a multitude of folks or make a single larger donation to the Red Cross or your preferred charity for Bahamas relief, human trafficking or animal welfare – and do so in the names of those you love?

Do you want to escape and go away for a white, green or blue Christmas – skiing, camping or playing at the beach? Our kids remember and benefit from experiences far more than they do from mounds of the latest games and gadgets. Give them the greatest gift of all – time with you and/or an adventure.

Now for you… What warms your soul? What makes you happy? What do you want out of YOUR holiday season? This isn’t entirely a selfish fantasy.  In fact, if you are happy and peaceful, those around you are more likely to be as well. Studies show that stress is a “social contagion” and can be spread like a virus. We have “mirror neurons” that mimic what we see in others, which helps us bond.  We often take on and mimic the emotions of those close to us without even being aware. So, your stress can be spread to your children, your partner and your friends (and vice versa).

If instead of getting frazzled, we actually care for ourselves and enjoy the season, our loved ones feel that calm and joy too.  Everybody wins when you are at your best.

Here are a few more tips to reduce your stress and spark joy this season:

Connections – Have you heard – “loneliness is the new smoking”? It’s true loneliness or isolation can have negative health consequences, as serious as those of smoking. So, if you’re feeling lonely, if you’ve lost someone dear to you, reach out. Connect with a friend or a group. Or, if you know someone who is lonely, include them this year. There is always room at the table.

Giving – There is no shame in dialing down the excesses of the past. Who really needs more stuff? It may be a season to reduce, reuse (regift) or to give an experience or time together. Doing so eliminates the frenzy of holiday shopping while boosting relationships, saving our planet and/or helping those in need.

Grace – Give this to yourself. A little grace for not being “perfect”. A burned (or undercooked turkey – mine was ready about the time everyone finished dessert last year!), sometimes makes the best stories. Stories that get told for years – or generations. You’re doing your best. That’s all you can do. So, be mindful, intentional and full of grace – for yourself and others this year.

Less is More. Why not make this the year of less? Less running around buying meaning-less stuff.  Instead, focus on finding more connection. More meaning. More togetherness. Maybe this is a good time for a new family tradition, a new you tradition for a more joyful holiday season.

This article was originally written for and published in Orange Appeal Magazine, Nov./Dec 2019). Thanks to Christi Ashby and the OA Team!


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