4 Healthy Habits to Reduce Stress and Put “Happy” Back in Your Holidays

Tips to Stay Balanced this Holiday Season

Title: 4 Healthy Habits ot Reduce Stress and Put "Happy" Back in Your Holidays

The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes a flurry of activity and sometimes overwhelming pressure to make everything perfect. But as we rush to deck the halls and plan the perfect feast, it’s important to remember that this time of year is also about spending time with loved ones and enjoying the simple pleasures in life.

Here are 4 tips to stay balanced this holiday season.

1. Connect More & Consume Less

The true joys of the season come from connecting with people, not consuming stuff. It is easy to get stressed out about finding the right gifts and preparing fancy meals, but when you look back on the holidays, are food and presents what you’ll really remember? More likely it’s the great conversation you had, the silly game you played, the beautiful walk you went for in the snow, or your weird uncle’s goofy jokes.  So instead of stressing yourself by blowing your budget on presents and your calorie count on food and drinks, consider how you can lighten up on the purchasing and deepen the opportunities for play.

Research shows that the quality of our relationships has a huge impact on our wellbeing, so as you approach your celebrations this year, focus more on being present with the important people in your life, and less on giving presents. The less caught up you stress about the stuff of the holidays, the more time and energy you’ll have to invest in nurturing what truly creates a happy holiday season – the people.

2. Give Yourself the Gift of Doing Something You Love.

In the frenzy of giving gifts to others and celebrating with your loved ones, it’s easy to lose sight of one of the most important people in your life – yourself!  Have you ever found yourself at the end of the holiday season, feeling so exhausted that you vow to just find a way to skip the whole craziness next year? I know I have. The challenge is that another part of me loves all of the wonderful “craziness” of the holiday season, so for years I felt like I was on this “rinse and repeat” cycle between holiday celebrations and holiday burnout.

The good news is that you don’t have to choose between enjoying the holiday season and exhausting yourself. After many years of the post holiday season burnout blues, I’ve discovered that it is possible to stay energized and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the season. It just takes a bit of conscious effort to carve out a bit of time each day to do something that you love.

Even if you love the cooking, shopping, parties and presents, all this energy output can be draining because it’s externally driven by the timelines of the season. To tap into the energizing power of your intrinsic motivations, you need to be conscious of your own rhythms, rituals and small joys. Give yourself permission to sleep in an extra hour one morning. Take 15-20 minutes to enjoy a good book with your morning coffee. Put on some good dance tunes while you’re prepping all that delicious food. Have a cuddle on the couch with your kid, your spouse, or your dog for 5 minutes to break up your present wrapping. Stare out the window at the snow. Snuggle up with a cozy blanket and a sappy holiday movie. Sit in the dark with your fake fireplace on the TV and the tree lights twinkling while you listen to jazz (or EDM if that’s your jam).

It’s these simple little things you love that have the power to keep your energy up during the holidays, so take a moment now to reflect on the gifts you want to give yourself this season. Whether it’s taking naps, going to the gym, reading a trashy novel, baking cookies, dancing around your apartment in your pajamas, or having a glass of wine and a good long visit on the phone with your bestie who can’t make it home for the holidays, consciously slot in time for these things amongst the parties and preparations. By giving to yourself not just to others, you’ll end the season happier, less stressed, and more fulfilled.

3. Focus on Your Progress, Not Your Goals

For all you high-achievers out there, this might seem blasphemous! Successful people know (and research shows) that setting goals does fuel learning, growth, and achievement. But there’s a problem. While setting and achieving goals might make you more accomplished, it won’t necessarily make you happier.

Human beings are goal achieving machines.  If we can dream it, we can do it. That’s because when we set and regularly visualize our goals, our brain’s become finely tuned to notice and gravitate towards things that will help us achieve those goals. But because of the way our brains function, we also have a tendency to live in the future, rather than the present.  We get overly focused on where we’re going next and forget to celebrate how far we’ve already come.  Over time, this tendency can deplete our energy – and our confidence – because we’re living in a constant state of focusing on the empty half of the glass instead of the full one.

At this time of year, make it a priority to stop and reflect on all the ways you’re better today than you were a year ago. Don’t just look for the big things like a promotion, a course you took, or a big project you finished. Look for the small improvements like how you’ve become a little bit more patient with your spouse. Both matter equally to your brain – and it’s often the small less noticeable changes that, over time, have the biggest impact on your overall wellbeing and fulfillment.

This year I’m celebrating that I’m a little more patient with my kid, my spouse, and, most importantly, myself. I’ve managed to sustain a habit of swimming in the ocean several times a week since last January. I’m more compassionate and less judgemental. I get more sleep. I care less about my dirty house and more about spending quality time with my son. (And yes, my pesky brain wants to remind me that I didn’t finish my next book yet or lose those ten pounds, but since it’s that time of year, I’m going to give myself the gift of not listening.)  😉

4. Let it Go

We tend to put a lot of (often arbitrary) pressure on ourselves to get extra things done before the end of the year. If you’re burning the candle at both ends to finish work projects, cram in personal goals, and get ahead of the game so that you can “afford” to take some time off, stop and ask yourself these questions: Is it a deadline I’ve set for myself, or has it been set by someone else? Is there a reason for it or could it be moved? What would be the negative consequences of postponing this deliverable? What would be the positive ones? How would you feel if you bumped this deadline until January?

Full disclosure: I added this point the day before publishing this blog because I realized I was putting unnecessary pressure on myself and my whole team before the holidays. We were scrambling to complete marketing campaigns to launch our Fulfilled Leader™ public program in mid-February 2023, and to complete a big update to our website. In addition, my partner and I had also scheduled to do our annual “systems cleanup retreat” before Christmas because we were going to be booked up with out-of-town family visits during the time we usually do it. And of course, let’s not forget all the preparations and parties that were on everyone’s plates too!

Struggling to complete everything on my plate, I realized that my focus was frazzled. The pressure I was putting on myself and my team to hit our deadlines was negatively impacting our ability to complete the complex and creative work we needed to do. When I reflected on the above questions, it became clear that pushing our website launch date by 3 weeks and our course launch date by 8 weeks was likely to have more positive than negative effects on our launch results – so that’s what we did. I immediately felt happier, more focused, and calmer. With the pressure lifted, we became more productive. We now knew we had a bit more time to think and do our best work, instead of just pushing “good enough” stuff out to get it done.

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All told, it’s important to remember that we can be our own worst enemies when it comes to holiday stress. This year, may we all take a moment to remember not to put too much pressure on ourselves this holiday season. Instead, let’s focus on rediscovering the simple joys and wellbeing that just being together and taking time for ourselves can bring.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to cultivate energy, wellbeing and fulfillment year-round in life and work, follow us on social media to be the first to get updates on our Fulfilled Leader course when it open for registrations in the New Year. 

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