Low-Stress Holiday Checklist

The heart of winter marks the holiday season for cultures in many areas of the world, and no matter how you celebrate it, including family and friends is part of the tradition. Still, for every smile and laugh you’re able to share, the occasion can be hectic for all parties involved.

Especially in the age of COVID-19, many people are apprehensive about travel, accommodations and family get-togethers. Here are a few tips that can help keep stress to a minimum.

Remember the Reason for the Season

It’s easy to get caught up with the more demanding aspects of the holidays and let every little stressor compound the last. When we give in to the weight of all the negatives—picked-over shelves, travel hitches, the house overrun with guests—we can lose sight of our motivations for coming together in the first place.

We need one another, and spending time together strengthens our bonds. Humans are social creatures. Holidays are a good excuse to drop everything that generally gets in the way of extended bonding time and genuinely enjoy another’s presence.

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, winter means fewer hours of natural sunlight. Remember that vitamin D, which most of us get plenty of during the warmer months, is one of the building blocks for serotonin and melatonin—brain chemicals responsible for our sense of well-being and ability to sleep at night, respectively. Traditionally, the holidays were likely a way to raise people’s spirits during the darkest month of the year, when seasonal depression was (and is) most likely to have hit.

Frame the Days With Gratitude

Overwhelm over massive to-do lists can take center stage during this time of year, and when that happens, it can cause us to view the world through warped lenses. We end up allowing an inordinate amount of energy to go toward all that has and could go wrong, which can leave us with very little left for everything else. We end up realizing in hindsight how much time we’d wasted on tiny details when we might have invested so much more in the people we love.

When we frame our days with gratitude, we allow ourselves to focus on what’s most important in our lives. Especially during the holidays, it’s so vital that we reinforce the positives. Ask yourself if an issue will matter next month (or even next week); if not, don’t sweat it too much and let your time and energy go toward more important things. Keep a mental list, or a physical one if you need it, and refer to it as needed.

Don’t Forget the Self-Care

The holidays can sap us of every last bit we have to give, so it’s important that we keep up on the self-care. We each have a personal well of energy, and when we don’t have ways to feed it as we use up our reserves, we can be left feeling empty. Few approaches will top it off effectively, although some of us might try shortcuts that merely keep levels just above a full drain.

No matter the circumstances, find ways to refill that well—even if it’s just a few minutes each day. Listen to some soothing music, set aside a half-hour for a hobby, take a hot bath or just insist on a small amount of time alone. If need be and weather allows, take a walk and meditate. You’re deserve a moment to recharge.

And, when you need it, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If tackling the whole dinner by yourself is too much, for example, delegate the sides and dessert. Whatever the demand, there’s a way to see it met without losing your sanity in the process.

The holidays are supposed to be fun, so try to let go of all the imperfections, overwhelming plans and unexpected hurdles. Even if nothing goes as planned, the memories you’re able to make with friends and family are what really matter.

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