The most wonderful time of the year is often the most stressful time of the year as well. You might be wrapping up end-of-the-year projects or battling crowds of holiday shoppers at work. Perhaps you have guests to host, parties to attend, or relatives to travel to. You could have exams to study for.

Stress can easily steal the joy and magic of the holidays. When your capacity to handle life’s pressure is at an all-time low, you can’t take care of yourself or anything else on your to-do list.

The tips below will help you lower and manage your stress levels this holiday season. You’ll have more control over your life and more time to relax during your celebrations.

4 ways to manage stress during the holidays

1. Lower your expectations

When your standards are unachievably high, nothing you do will ever be enough. Give yourself a break and set expectations that you can both reach and feel good about. Try:

  • Breaking each task down into smaller pieces – Listing each individual to-do makes the work easier to handle. Plus, you can set specific goals rather than trying to meet vague expectations.     
  •       Example: Don’t just say you need to clean your home. Identify the specific tasks you need to do (vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, etc.) so you        know when you’ve achieved your goal rather than worrying you forgot something.
  • Asking about expectations – Anytime you’re doing something for someone else, ask for specifics about what they want from you. You’ll know exactly what to do and won’t waste time trying to meet an unclear standard.
  • Thinking about your expectations – Take the time to think about your expectations for each task. Outline a specific goal so you have something to work towards and meet.

Most importantly, give yourself grace. You can’t do it all and, honestly, you’re the only one with that expectation. Be kind to yourself in your talk, thoughts, and actions. You deserve love and care, regardless of how much you get done.

2. Prioritize your schedule

When you’re busy and stressed, it’s easy to focus on the urgent over the important. Prioritizing your events and tasks can help you stay on top of your schedule. You can get more done without increasing your stress.

1. Identify the tasks and events you can’t avoid – This can include work, school, your kids’ holiday performances, Christmas shopping, family holidays, and other things that have to get done. Focus on these items first. 

2. See where you can fit in the things you want to do – Now you can see where you have the time and margin for the fun stuff. Schedule in time for traditions, vacations, and hangouts. These items are important for your mental health and stress levels, so make space for them where you can.

3. Determine what you’ll have to say no to and stick to it – With your schedule set, you now have to protect it. Learn to say no, even when it’s hard. You can’t always deny a change in schedule, but remember that your time and stress levels are just as important as everyone else’s.

Schedules may seem rigid, but they can help you organize and prepare for everything you have going on. You’ll spend less time stressing over last-minute emergencies and more time relaxing.

3. Ask for help

No one can do everything alone. That’s where the beauty of community comes in.

Lean on your trusted loved ones during this busy season. They are just as eager to support you as you are to help them. 

Ask for help with studying or end-of-semester projects. Request a meal or even a cup of coffee. You can also see if someone can help with holiday shopping, cleaning, borrowing a car, babysitting, and anything else that will relieve your stress.

Don’t let pride or fear ruin your holidays. Give your friends and family the chance to love on you in any way they can.

4. Take care of yourself

Taking care of your mental health is the most important part of relieving stress. If you can’t mentally and physically release your anxiety, your other efforts will have a limited effect.

Self-care looks different for everyone, but common stress relievers include:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Practicing breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Regular exercise
  • Taking breaks
  • Listening to your body’s physical needs
  • Speaking with a trusted loved one or counselor

More than anything else, remember that you are strong, capable, and worthy. Unexpected circumstances may set you back, but nothing is as hopeless as it seems in the moment. You can do this.

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