Soucheray: Solid plans can reduce holiday overloadWith the holiday season getting underway last weekend, we know there will be added stress over the next few weeks.
With the holiday season getting underway last weekend, we know there will be added stress over the next few weeks. Whether it will come from the extra pounds we’ll gain, due to the additional goodies and treats we so love at this festive time of year, to the money that will just seem to evaporate from our wallets and bank accounts, due to overspending on gifts, these next few weeks can be the most stressful of the entire year. So it makes sense to take a moment, push the pause button and determine how we want this time to unfold in our lives, so we can look back at a holiday season that enhances our lives rather than diminishes it.
To begin, daily exercise is important on many levels, from keeping our body healthy and fit, to releasing endorphins into our brain, which are natural feel-good hormones that assist us in managing stress more skillfully. Because let’s face it, the holidays, with all the added demands on an already hectic schedule, can tend to turn us from barely-keeping-up to instant-overload in a snap. There’s really nothing we can do about the concert that was announced for the same evening as the office party and the Brownie troop’s field trip to an outdoor petting zoo. Whew! Where do we begin to set our priorities so we can lighten our load, helping us attend to the essentials and feel that we have satisfied our responsibilities to everyone in our lives?
Stress has been defined as something that puts pressure on us, or strains us, so we have mental tension that is difficult to manage. This can often be the result of demands that require more of us than we are capable of giving. It may be that when we registered our children or ourselves, for that matter, for the really great classes, teams or groups, we did not anticipate how they might overlap with other important commitments, causing this mental tension and less ability to cope with the stress than usual. At this point of overlap, we can’t simply pull our children or ourselves out of the group, or stay home with a pillow over our head. We have to make a decision, which potentially could cause more stress and tension.
Begin today to take a look at the entire holiday season. Take your home calendar, or the calendar on your phone, and ask each person for his or her December commitments. If your kids aren’t sure, take a few minutes and go to their school’s website and find out when each concert, field trip or other engagement is scheduled. Next, put everyone’s commitments on the same calendar. Some people like to color code this step by having a different color for each family member so you can see at a glance which adult will be needed to stand in as a chauffer, attendee at a concert or show, as well as how you will squeeze in getting groceries, haircuts and yourself ready for your holiday party.
What you may find is that you will need to enlist the help of grandparents, who are very busy in their own right these days, or neighbors for car-pooling and helping each other out with the last minute problems that are sure to arise. Whatever and however you arrange it, having the schedule in place beforehand will help reduce the unanticipated stress of the moment, which we know we must factor into the schedule, as well.
At this time of year, I think of Stephen Covey’s comment, “The enemy of the best is another good.” So often we confuse the best and the good. It is essential that we have ascertained what we have to do, make sure we have the overlaps covered and that our family members remember how special and important they are to us.
At the core, this is what our children will take away from all this busyness and fun. Making sure we have strategies in place from the beginning of the season will help us manage the stress that will certainly ensue. These strategies may also provide the much needed “ahh” moments we have dreamt of but were too afraid to hope for as we become the family we have thought about and hoped for. Today is the day to take charge of the holiday stress and decide how you will allow it to affect you and your family in the weeks ahead.
Soucheray is a Woodbury resident and a licensed family therapist