Holiday Stress, Be Gone

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By Liz Clearman

When you hear the words “self care,” visions of bubble baths, massages, and yoga probably dance through your head. But what if I told you that self care could involve regular moments scattered throughout your day to help you cope — or even just reframing how you think about your to-do list — and doesn’t always have to consist of spa-like activities? During the holidays, it seems like stress and activity levels triple due to parties, shopping, decorating, events, gift wrapping, end-of-semester activities at your kids’ schools, thinking about and prepping for your holiday menus … the list goes on and on. I’m preaching to the choir, I know. (Note: I am most decidedly NOT an expert on self care, but I know what works for me, and I get overwhelmed by the holiday season just like anyone else, so take these tips with a grain of salt. Or a glass of wine.)

1. Embrace the policy of “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.” I can’t take credit for this phrase; it was said by entrepreneur and author Derek Sivers — but it’s a favorite of mine and applies to everything, and I use it liberally. You can’t attend every holiday party, dinner, event, and school program and still have time to decompress. Choose the things that are genuinely important to you and your family and let the rest go. “No” is a complete sentence.

2. Make mealtimes as easy as possible during the busyness of the season. HEB has a phenomenal prepared meal section with their signature Meal Simple collection, or you can explore offerings from a prepared meal or personal chef service (try The Dinner Dude on Memorial or Belong Kitchen on the Katy Freeway). Alternatively, pull out your crockpot (a personal fave) or your Instant Pot and dump in the makings for a simple taco soup, chili, or potato soup. Instant comfort.

3. Binge a show on the streaming service of your choice. Seriously — nothing helps you to turn off that holiday to-do list in your brain for a few hours (or a night, no judgment here) like curling up on the couch with a cozy blanket to catch up on that show you’ve been meaning to watch. Some of my favorites recently have been “The Empress,” “Heartbreak High,” and “Manifest” (all on Netflix).

4. Decide on the most treasured family traditions and stick to those.  Do you go to a Christmas tree farm to get your tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, have a massive holiday baking day, or watch a specific holiday movie while eating Christmas cookies in your pajamas? I love nothing more than getting into the spirit, and I’m often tempted to create new traditions so that I can fully saturate myself with the fun of the holidays since it goes by way too fast. There’s nothing inherently wrong with incorporating fresh events and activities into your holiday routine, but remember tip number one up above — it’s okay to delete, reorder, or “toss” traditions that are no longer working for you and your family and to try new ones.

5. Stick to your personal budget and don’t go overboard. Yes, I consider budgeting and being financially prepared for the season to be self-care. The holidays aren’t a competition to see who gets the most gifts or spends the most cash. I set aside money every month so that come November, I know I have the means for Christmas shopping, new decor pieces, food for parties, or buying gifts for charitable occasions. This eliminates the stress of that January credit card bill and allows me to really immerse myself into the spirit of Christmas without the added monetary worries. I also keep a detailed gift list on my phone for my loved ones, and buy when I see good deals so that I’m not scrambling at the last minute for gift ideas (well, most of the time).

Of course, if taking a hot bubble bath, getting a well-deserved massage, or doing yoga is what you do for self-care, don’t stop doing those things. However, sometimes true self-care involves a mindset revamp — especially during the holiday season — so don’t forget to take care of your mental health as well as your physical well-being.