‘Good Stress’ — Have a Happy Holiday

This year I plan to have a ‘good stress’ Christmas.

For too many years, this holiday meant rushing through the days of December with anxiety about entertaining, panic as I searched for the right gifts, worry about what to wear to obligatory parties, and concern about food preparations. I used to joke that I needed a wife to get through the holiday.

I tried to re-create the ‘perfect’ Christmas as portrayed in the media and in my fantasy.  In retrospect, I was trying for something that never existed!

When the holiday arrived, I was exhausted.  Too often, I collapsed with a bad cold or the flu on, or, just after, christmas day.

I plan on a ‘good stress’ holiday because I realize that It’s not realistic to plan for a ‘stress-less’ holiday.  Negative or bad stress  robs us of ‘joie de vivre’, drains precious energy, causes sleeplessness, weakens the immune system, and endangers health.

Good stress, however, results in positive life benefits.  In small doses, stress can boost thinking capacity and motivation.  Most people experience enhanced feelings of well-being after meeting challenges and deadlines.

To date, I’m succeeding.  With days to go, I’m confident that I’ll get to the 25th in a positive frame of mind.

Coping Strategies for a Good Stress Christmas

  1. Starting early.  I baked my Christmas cakes, on the first weekend of December. I began shopping at the end of November and I did most of the shopping online.  With a couple of evening marathons, the gifts were wrapped, complete with ribbons!
  2. Making lists. Writing ‘to do’ lists and scheduling time to complete tasks helped with staying on track. Using a combination of lists and scheduling allowed me to  worry less about whether I had forgotten something important. As a bonus, the schedule also allowed for breaks, for goof-off time at the cottage, and for time just to sit quietly with the music and lights of the season.
  3. Down-sizing the entertaining agenda. A luncheon for bridge club buddies, a visit with neighbours, a Christmas Eve dinner for family, and a Christmas morning brunch are the only events  on the agenda. This gives time to socialize and connect with people who are important in my life. No overnight guests except for our son, daughter-in-law, and grand-daughter. No travelling. I also refused several invitations, especially to parties with large numbers of guests.
  4. Using simple decorations. I’ve used a planter of Christmas shrubbery at the front door, battery operated candles in the front windows, fresh flowers indoors, and a pre-lit artificial tree that was easy to set up and doesn’t shed needles.  I miss the smell of a real tree, but not the fuss.

    Good stress Christmas -- image courtesy of John Statford
    Good stress Christmas
  5. Managing the gifts. I asked people what they wanted/needed for Christmas instead of trying to surprise them.  I also decided what I wanted so those who buy gifts for me can choose from a list of things I would like.
  6. Eliminating Christmas cards and the family Christmas letters. Some traditions need to end! Hand-written notes to a few people, telephone calls to others, and email greetings will suffice.
  7. Staying with exercise routines. When I get  moderate exercise three or four times every week, I have more energy and a better outlook on life.  Christmas movies mean more couch time. If the movie is on television, I try to do squats or lunges during the commercials.
  8. Eating healthy foods every day.  I’m determined to maintain my weight over the holidays by continuing to eat fruits and veggies that give lots of vitamins and minerals. This doesn’t mean that I resist  the lovely truffles, or other Christmas treats, but it means using good judgement. I’ll indulge in small portions of those high-fat, high-carbohydrate, and high-sugar treats.
  9. Getting enough sleep. Too often, sleep gets compromised in the effort to get things done before the big day. Lack of sleep leads to anxiety, bad moods, and over-eating. It depletes energy and compromises the immune system.
  10. Thinking about what Christmas means.  The advent season of hope, peace, joy, and love brings a special message each year. A bit of the sense of wonder experienced as a child comes back when I indulge in spiritual reflection.

Planning for a good stress holiday is a form of compassion and self-care. Instead of a frenzied month, Christmas 2015 has been a time for gratitude, togetherness with family and friends, and love for my neighbours.

I close with wishes for a happy holiday for all postworksavvy readers.  Merry Everything!

Good stress Christmas image courtesy of John Stratford


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