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  • Writer's pictureKatie Lewis

Mitigating Stress During the Holidays

As the fall and winter holidays approach, I've reflected on how holidays and general celebrations have historically been a trigger for stress and anxiety for me. As the invitations begin to pile up, I wonder: How can occasions planned with joy in mind bring about such a stressful response?

As I think back two years, I was preparing to host a Thanksgiving dinner for 18 when the invitations began rolling in. Each December weekend, and even a few week nights, were filled with 3 or 4 parties. There was the book club book exchange, the ornament exchange, the cookie exchange, the pre-holiday extended family party, the workplace gathering, the baking day, and all the noise, noise, noise, noise. (I hope someone gets that reference.) I hadn't even made it to Thanksgiving, and I was already shopping for gifts, arranging and rearranging appointments, and losing sleep over whether I'd be able to make it to everything. I felt obligated to do everything, so I wanted to do nothing.

holiday stress

Quieting the Holiday Stress

One of the first things I worked on with my therapist was quieting the noise during the holiday season. She gave me this advice: Lean into what soothes you. I took that in, processed it over time, have internalized it ever since. What a simple concept. I took it another step to further solidify it for myself: Lean into what soothes you, and avoid what troubles you. Why hadn't that occurred to me before? Why had my default been to run myself into the ground, sabotaging my mental health?

I took the advice my therapist gave me and put it to work in order to navigate a busy social season in a way that conserved my energy. Here's how you can do it too:

  1. Pay attention to what soothes you. Make a list. For me, that includes exercise, walking, painting, meditation, journaling, reading, and yoga. Your list might look totally different.

  2. Recharge before and/or after by scheduling some time to do something that soothes you. You might even consider actually putting these events into your calendar. Take a nap for an hour the afternoon of a late-night party; sip coffee while petting your dog the morning after. If you intentionally schedule the time, you're more likely to follow through.

  3. Attend the things you genuinely want to be at. By following steps 1 and 2, you're more likely to be present and content when you do.

  4. Excuse yourself by taking a break from or leaving situations that make you uncomfortable or overwhelm you. Get ready to leave before you're ready to leave. Pay attention to cues. When your energy begins to wane, start saying goodbye. We all know how long it can take to leave a party.

  5. Lastly, say no to events if you already have something scheduled or if you simply don't want to go.

How can you put these steps into action during this or a future busy season? Protect your peace, my friends!

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