Tag Archives: holiday stress

Slowing Down

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Last week while I was organizing our closets in an effort to make a little extra room for baby items, I was struck very suddenly by an overwhelming, full-body exhaustion. I felt that if I didn’t immediately stop what I was doing to take a short nap, I would surely pass out right where I stood and fall into the kind of deep, comatose sleep usually reserved for Disney princesses and fairytale characters. I only needed about 20 minutes of rest to feel like myself again, but the whole experience left me a bit unsettled. The following day, I was out walking the dog when I was hit by a wave of dizziness that nearly knocked me off my feet. Everything around me started to blur and spin, and I had to stop and prop myself against a tree for a few minutes because I was genuinely worried that I was going to faint. Once I was sure I could move safely, we slowly made our way back home and eating a little food helped the feeling pass for the most part, but I felt uncomfortable and off for the rest of the day.

I have been moving at top speed for a couple of months now. I am trying to fit in as many massage appointments as I can physically stand while I can still physically stand. I have doctors appointments and birth classes filling up my otherwise free hours. There’s so much to organize and clean, and prepare for. That nesting instinct that everyone talks about is strong in me, and I feel an insatiable urge to get as much done as quickly as possible, while fully acknowledging that being woefully unprepared for a baby’s arrival is pretty much inevitable. I feel like I am forgetting things, so I’m constantly double checking all of my work, being sure I actually did reply to that email I meant to respond to, or that I went through with ordering a Christmas gift rather than just thinking about ordering it. Add holiday preparations to the top of the pile of all the other stuff I have going on, and well, it starts to make a bit more sense that I suddenly found myself running head-on into a wall of exhaustion.

I need to slow down a bit. Not only for my own health and sanity, but as practice for the months and years to come. In two months, there’s going to be a baby in my house and I know that while my husband and I may struggle to get through those early weeks and months, we’ll also want to savor them, to be more fully present for both each other and the tiny human that will rely on us for its most basic survival.

I am not the only one that needs to pump the brakes this time of year. So many of my clients are coming in complaining of high stress and lack of sleep. Everyone is trying to push through and finish off just a couple more tasks, or a few more assignments before they get a break for the holidays. There are things that need to be wrapped up by the end of the year. There are upcoming cross-country flights that they haven’t packed for yet. There are gifts to be purchased. Appointments to squeeze in. Activities and responsibilities that were designated as specifically 2016 concerns, and only a week left to tackle them. Everyone seems to be telling themselves the same things I keep repeating to myself: just make it through this week and then you can relax. Just finish off these one or two things, plus those two or three over there, and you can start the new year with nothing on your plate and all the free time in the world.

It’s time to take a step back and realize that not everything needs to be accomplished, at least not right at this moment. When you really evaluate your life, you’re likely to find that only a few things have very specific due dates, and that we tend to create a false sense of urgency for everything else. Take a moment to prioritize the items on your to-do list. Pick a few that really must get done by a certain date or time, and put your energy into those. Write the rest down so that you don’t forget about them permanently, and then put the list away and try to release those items from your mind. You’ll get to them in time. If they don’t require immediate action, they don’t need to be draining your mental and emotional energy right now.

Yesterday, I went over to a friend’s house and spent an hour and a half holding her three-week-old baby. As I drove home afterward, I realized that it was the first time in months that I’ve sat down for that length of time and done nothing without my mind churning and worrying about all the things I should have been doing instead. It was so relaxing just to sit there with this tiny bundle of a boy sleeping in my arms and know that the only thing I needed to do in that moment was be still and let that baby sleep.

As the year winds down and we dive deep into the holidays over the next week, give yourself the gift of stillness. Take a little time to pull back from all of your responsibilities and concerns, and just fully relax in a moment of quiet or leisure. It’s time to let this year go, and rest up for the next one.

Managing Holiday Stress & Moodiness

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With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror and the 34th St. holiday lights display up and running just a block down from my studio, it definitely feels like the holiday season is upon us (despite today’s unseasonably warm temperatures).

It’s always the case that my mood plummets a bit right after Thanksgiving. I feel tired and worn down from traveling, and getting back to my regular routine after being off for a while is more of a slog than a welcome return to normality. This year it seems like I am not the only one feeling a little dragged down by the weight of the holidays. Whether it’s the shorter days, the dreary weather that greeted us this week, or just general end-of-year malaise, it seems that everyone I encounter is feeling especially worn out and a bit down in the dumps this week. It’s as if we are all experiencing a little post-holiday letdown before the rest of the season really kicks into high gear.

Every year I am struck by how stressed out everyone feels at a time that is supposed to be all merry and bright. Whether it’s the melancholy and introspection that inevitably accompany the transition to a new year, or simply the weight of expectation that the holiday season brings, it’s a time of mixed emotions, high demands, and all too often is rimmed with a sense of disappointment and sadness.

If  you tend to struggle during the holidays and can’t muster up the appropriate level of good tidings and cheer, first off don’t beat yourself up for that. You’re not alone. The holiday season is rough for a lot of people, and no matter what time of year it is, you’re not required to feel or act any particular way. It’s okay to be a grinch. I think that poor guy was misunderstood and unfairly maligned. You don’t owe anyone joy or cheeriness just because holiday songs and obnoxious commercials tell you it’s the most wonderful time of the year. But you do owe it to yourself to try to make it out of this season without too much damage to your physical, mental and emotional health. Here are a few suggestions for how to reduce your holiday stress and celebrate in a healthy, manageable way.

Avoid holiday overload.

This weekend hosts the lighted boat parade and Fells Point Christmas festival, the Mayor’s Christmas Parade, a bunch of holiday craft markets, and I’m sure a ton of other stuff that doesn’t hit my radar. It’s only the first weekend in December. Between parties, shopping, and festive gatherings of all kinds, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the holiday spirit before the season even has a chance to get cranking. It’s important to remember that with the holidays, as with all things in life, you cannot see and do everything. It’s okay to skip out on some events, or RSVP no to a few party invitations. Pick a couple of key holiday happenings that you’d like to attend, and let the rest fade into the background of tinsel and lights. If you miss something that you really wish you could have gone to, just remember that you’ll have another chance in the years to come. Christmas comes back again each year, no matter how hard Starbucks tries to kill it off with its solid red Satan cups.

Create some solo traditions.

Maybe it’s just me, but one of the hardest things about the holiday season is the forced merriment with large groups of other people. I need my alone time and feel quickly overwhelmed by too much holiday socializing. That doesn’t mean I prefer bah-humbugging it up from my couch and pretending it’s June; I just need some of my holiday happenings to be solo time that let me get into the festive spirit without the necessity of small talk.

I like to make time each week leading up to Christmas Day watching movies that feature, but don’t necessarily focus on, the holiday season. My choices are always movies (or tv episodes) I’ve seen a dozen times, so that I can do other things while watching, like fold laundry, bake, or desperately try to catch up on my end of year filing and finances for my business. It’s a simple nod to the holiday season that allows me to celebrate quietly and peacefully on my own, leaving me recharged and ready for more daunting social celebrations.

Do not listen to Christmas music until at least one week before Christmas.

Why must the radio and every shop you step into have Christmas music blaring away weeks in advance of Christmas? If you find that you are feeling really agitated and ornery, it may be because you’ve just heard Sleigh Ride for the 9 thousandth time. One thing that seems to be sorely missing during the holiday season is blissful silence. Seek out quiet spaces and try to reduce your exposure to the overstimulation of lights and carols, and bells ringing incessantly.

Intentionally do something that has nothing to do with the holidays.

I saw Christmas decorations in stores back in early October. It made me want to scream. The holiday season really does seem to get longer and longer every year. Try setting a specific date for when you wish to acknowledge the holidays and begin celebrating, so that you limit the season to a more manageable, digestible timeline. Or take a break from all the chaos by intentionally ignoring it and focus instead on maintaining activities and routines that you do all year long. Be intentional and mindful in your practice of your regular life to keep the holiday spirit from encroaching upon every part of your daily existence. There’s no rule that says you have to celebrate all month long, or that you have to celebrate at all. Be strong and continually bring your attention back to those activities that help you feel grounded and centered.

Remind yourself that this is only temporary.

The holidays can be really genuinely hard for many people. We are often reminded of people we have lost, find ourselves feeling isolated and lonely, or are forced into difficult family situations that try our patience and zap our emotional energy. Oftentimes, these hardships cannot be ignored and just need to be endured. Give yourself permission to feel sad, frustrated, annoyed. Give yourself permission to experience the season in whatever way is needed for you at this time, and know that you don’t have to make excuses for the benefit of others. “The holidays are hard for me,” is a perfectly valid statement that should require no additional explanation. You don’t have to be cheery for fear of dampening other people’s spirits. Your lack of celebration isn’t keeping anyone else from embracing the season in whatever way works best for them. Remind yourself repeatedly that before long it will be January and the holidays will be behind us. Time actually moves quite quickly, even when we’re feeling trapped and stuck in place. Hang in there, and take care yourself.