In ten days, families across America will gather for Thanksgiving, an occasion that will result in the untimely demise of more than 50 million turkeys. Christmas, Hanukkah and the dawn of a New Year will soon follow.
That means that in addition to having campaigns to run, metrics to analyze, meetings to attend, calls to return and clients to schmooze, there are also presents to buy, menus to plan, holiday concerts to attend and cards to write.
And the pressure of all those holiday-related to-dos is compounded by a vivid reminder of the passing of time.
“There is the existential stress that comes as the year nears its end,” says life-coach Bill Scheinman at Entreprenuer. “We assess the place we’re at in our lives and decide if we’re achieving our life goals or not.”
Yes, for many, the most joyful season of the year is also by far the most stressful. But we are here to help. Below are six suggestions for ensuring you enjoy the holiday season.
1. Know it’s OK to say “no”
There will be a lot going on between now and January 1. After all, it’s a season of parties and dinners, of gatherings large and small. When you get that next invite, think about it before you decide to accept it.
“Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed,” writes the Mayo Clinic. “Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.”
2. Stick to your normal routine
Just as a key to ensuring a good’s night sleep is going to bed and rising at the same time every day, a key to negotiating the holidays successfully is adhering as closely as you can to your normal schedule.
“A change in routine can lead to additional stress,” writes Linda Walter at Psychology Today. “Try to exercise at your usual time, go to meetings that you normally go to, and stick to as normal a diet as you possibly can.”
3. Don’t fake your feelings
You shouldn’t feel guilty if you don’t feel like celebrating. It happens to everybody, and pretending to be festive can cost you more emotional energy than accepting your (most likely very temporary) negative feelings.
“There is no reason to act falsely cheerful and in contrast, no reason to be a ‘Grinch,’” writes John Tsilimparis at HuffPost. “If you can, focus on the positives of the holidays and remain as neutral as possible. And, if someone questions your lack of enthusiasm, politely explain (choose your own courteous reply here) that you are a little under the weather but will be feeling better tomorrow.”
4. Practice mindfulness
“Remember to enjoy each moment and be mindful of what’s most valuable to you,” advises psychologist Steve Orma at career-intelligence.com. “It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday – parties, gift shopping, entertaining, travel. Slow down and be present. The holidays go fast and before you know it they are over. So, relax and enjoy them, don’t rush through them or get distracted by unimportant things.”
5. Enjoy the food, but don’t make overeating a habit
Most of us eat way too much during the holidays. And then we feel guilty about overdoing it. But Jonathan Ross, a personal trainer quoted in US News, says we can relax — up to a point.
“The reality is that one day won’t make or break your health plan,” Ross says. “Unfortunately, most people start a pattern of daily ‘treats’ in some form or another or skip exercise due to visiting relatives. That routine then somehow continues from Thanksgiving through the end of the year. Enjoy the holiday, but don’t let it go from a day of indulgence to a month of indulgence that leads to unwanted habits that continue beyond the holiday season.”
6. Remind yourself to be grateful
The holiday plans of most families include watching parades and football, and of course indulging in large meals. But most of us don’t plan to do something that can have both immediate and long-term benefits – expressing what we are grateful for.
“Being grateful lowers your blood pressure, decreases stress, and lowers depression—results that we can all use at this time of year,” writes Janice Kaplan at Time. “It changes how we view the world, and how we view ourselves. Gratitude seems to create a circle of goodness. When you let yourself be grateful for what you have (at whatever level), you want to give to others. And the giving makes you more grateful.”