Too much to do; Not enough time?

That is the biggest complaint I hear from clients this time of the year. Just when you think life can’t get more stressful, it does. “How can I shop, travel, cook holiday meals, and buy gifts, in addition to everything else I do?” Taking care of ourselves and nurturing our relationships tend to fall to the bottom of the list.

The good news is that with a little awareness, you can do things to keep yourself and your relationship less stressed during the holidays. Remember, little things can make a big difference.

Here are five hot tips to keep your cool during the holidays:

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1) Observe your stress.
Take a moment during the day and before bed to think about your level of stress. Determine where the stress is coming from – not enough sleep, too much to do, feeling disconnected from your partner. Then do something about it. Plan to get more sleep, delegate tasks, do connecting things with your partner. Practice mindfulness meditation to de-stress. Just 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference. There are many sites that have free guided meditations.

2) Focus on what you can control.
Having awareness of the specific source of the stress allows you to take charge. It’s easy to get caught up focusing on all the things we can’t control or sink into victimhood. Consciously put your mind on areas where you do have control. It can be as small as taking deep breaths, listening to soothing music, taking a bath instead of a shower. Do the little things.

3) Think outside the box.
We often get trapped in our routines and typical ways of thinking. Sit down and brainstorm other options. Last week, at the last minute, our Thanksgiving plans changed and dinner was moved to our house. Instead of getting overwhelmed and being miserable, I asked everyone to bring a dish. (I’d never done that before.) It turned out wonderful and I somehow managed to let go of my guilt. (I have to admit it was actually quite nice.)

4) Lower your expectations.
Go with the flow. Anticipate that something will go wrong. Imagine what you are most stressed about and ask yourself, “And then what…?”, until you figure out the worst-case scenario. It’s not usually as bad as you think. For instance, what if our dog ate the turkey? “And then what…?” I’d order in Chinese food or pizza and it would be a Thanksgiving we’d never forget.

5) Consciously connect with your partner every day.
At times of stress we tend to get focused like a laser beam on what we need “to do” and unconsciously withdraw from our relationship. Make a point of connecting with your partner every day, even for a few minutes. Check in, ask him his thoughts about the holidays and share yours. If you need to vent, ask him to “just sit there and listen.” Give your partner a 10-second hug every morning and every night. (10 seconds is longer than you think.) It will make you feel more connected and more relaxed.

We wish you a wonderful, low stress holiday season. More tips coming next week. Stay tuned…

Image Copyright Alexander Raths