Aren’t the holidays suppose to be fun, perfect, and full of family love? Sometimes it works out that way and sometimes it doesn’t. Why? More often than not because of the added stress we feel during this time of year. We want that Norman Rockwell picture of a family gathering: everyone is cohesive and just loves being together. The advertisers on television paint pictures of the perfectly decorated homes, festive celebratory dinners and amazing Christmas presents, like that brand new Lexus parked outside of your garage with a big red velvety ribbon attached to the top.
Stir into the mix our 500+ items that we have added to our “to do” list, and it will be enough to give you some intense hyperventilation. Here is the survival motto to remember during holidays (and at other times of high stress): PRIORITIZE, MINIMIZE AND SIMPLIFY, or PMS. Look at your “to-do” list and prioritize the items from most important to least. Now look at it again see if there is any thing you can delete from that list (minimize). Next, delegate (simplify) those items on your list that others can assist you with, making holiday balance a group effort. Realize that others are just as capable as we are, if we relinquish our perfectionism and control tendencies. Even the youngest can learn to help. If some things are not perfect, no one will notice.
Another thing to remember is breathe! Yes, yes we all do it all the time, but the focus here in the deep, intentional breathing. Take a deep breath through your nose, hold for a brief second, and slowly exhale through your mouth. This small exercise increases your oxygen intake which helps relax your muscles, increase your blood flow and allows you to feel calmer. Practice this several times throughout your day.
Ha, ha, ha..! Laughter is a great medicine. Even though a cliché, it holds true. Laughter is linked with lower blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol. According to a study done by Mayo Clinic laughter encourages endorphins to be released in the brain. The endorphins promote muscle relaxation and a happier state of mind. Just try saying a hearty "ha, ha, ha….ho, ho, ho" and see what happens. Smile more and notice and enjoy little things.
It is a busy time of year. Shopping, waiting in lines and carrying packages. Whew… What do we do with all that stress? While waiting in line, trudging through the mall or waiting to pick up your child remember to take your deep breaths. But, also learn to relax your shoulders. Many times when stressed, we tighten our shoulder muscles. Lower your shoulders, extending the distance between your ears and shoulders. This is a simple and discreet relaxation exercise, no one will even know you are doing it. Speaking of your shoulders, be sure you switch carrying your bags from one arm to the other, reducing undue stress on one shoulder.
Most importantly, take time to rejuvenate. We all have a different definition of what that may look like: reading a book, having a warm cup of tea, taking a warm bath/shower, having a conversation with a friend. Whatever "rejuvenate" means to you, make sure to do it. In closing, enjoy the holidays and remember: Prioritize, Minimize, Simplify!