December can feel like the lead-up to a big performance. The weeks-long rehearsals in preparation culminate in a few intense days of togetherness and excitement.
In theory, this performance is fine-tuned, orchestrated, and choreographed with showstopping activities.
Yet it’s also an environment that can lend itself to individuals neglecting their health and well-being. Especially those of us helping professionals who already give of ourselves year-round. Check out these five tips to curb your stress this season.
1. Write down your ideal holiday plan.
The act of writing establishes intent and accountability. Consider these questions as you plan your upcoming weeks: Which events are most important to you? Who would you want to be present? Which events would you rather skip? What is an absolute must-do before the end of the year? Most importantly, how can you stick to this plan?
The unexpected can come up. This exercise helps you see the tasks and activities that are obligatory versus necessary. Boundary-building is all about communicating and reminding others of these limits.
2. Sleep smart.
Stress impacts our sleep, and our immune systems crash when sleep gets pushed off. Experts are warning this winter is on track to be the worst recent flu season in recent years, along with additional threats of surging COVID-19 and RSV.
Introducing…your new bedtime routine! Dim your lights at least 30 minutes before you hit the pillow, aiming to wake up and fall asleep the same time every day. Try listening to white noise or a guided meditation to relax.
3. Joyfully move.
Regular exercise significantly lowers levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which can contribute to stress. Maybe, like me, you’re not much of a gym person. Growing up, I trained professionally 6-7 times a week as a dancer. While that is not realistic as a working professional, I still love to dance and take an adult tap dance class. I also enjoy swimming, gentle yoga, and more.
Strive to incorporate creative, joyful movement into your holiday season. Instead of meeting a friend for drinks, take a morning walk together. Instead of scrolling on your phone or watching TV to unwind, practice some gentle yoga.
The word “help” reflects courage and strength. Embrace it! Identify moments to lighten your to-do list at work and home. Perhaps a colleague can pitch in on your end-of-year project or a supervisor can support you in determining your *actual* top priorities. A family member or neighbor might enjoy some kid-sitting time while you run errands.
Delegation means scaling back expectations of ourselves, too. Think potlucks and smaller gatherings. Consider giving handwritten, heartfelt notes to colleagues, family, and friends. Or forgo gift-gifting altogether.
5. Give yourself the gift of grace.
The harsh inner critic loves the December busyness. Its negative self-talk likes to reflect and focus on our low points of the year or how we haven’t achieved our (unrealistic) expectations.
Show yourself some grace. Recognize that preparing the “perfect meal,” being the “perfect host,” or outdoing a previous get-together isn’t the goal. What doesn’t need rehearsal or preparation? Being your wonderful you.