Between shopping for gifts, preparing for lavish dinners, and having visiting relatives and friends, the holiday season creates more stress than we might realize. This can lead to feeling burned out, tired, cranky and it might even make us miss out on the joy that is supposed to accompany this season.
Instead of giving you pat answers on how to reduce stress, like simplify and manage your time well, I think it is more useful to look at what is making this time stressful for you in the first place. You have probably already heard about simplification and time management, but there is a reason that those tips are not helping to lower the stress. So here are some things to ask yourself:
What is at stake here if things don’t go as planned? What is the worst that will happen if they don’t go as planned? What do I really, really want out of my holidays? What is important to me, and to my family (if applicable)? I have talked to so many people who don’t even like the people they plan to spend time with, and it makes them fill with dread and a sense of resentment to get together with those people. What would you do if you could do anything with your time off? Who’s stopping you?
Who am I trying to impress? Whose standards am I trying to live up to, and do I value that person’s opinion? Am I striving to live up to my own standards, or someone else’s? What will happen if I let that other person or myself down?
What is the purpose of my activities? What is the intent behind them? If I’m giving gifts, do I really want to make that person happy, or do I simply feel obliged to give them something because of my affiliation with them? How much energy am I willing to put into giving them a gift? If I’m cooking a meal, what is my intent there? Do I want to make it look like something out of Good Housekeeping, or is the purpose to enjoy the company of the people I’m hosting? Would it be easier for me to ask people to bring side dishes, to reduce my stress and feel more relaxed, gracious and happy to see them?
All these questions can help re-organize your priorities, and help you remember the reason for your activities. Once you realize your true intent, then it becomes easier to apply those chestnuts of time management and simplification. Managing your intent and expectations comes first, in my humble opinion.