We all know deep down inside that the only constant is change, though most of us don’t like to admit it. Change is hard. We don’t like uncertainty and even if we are not planners or “type-A” personalities, most of us want to know what is coming next so we can at least prepare mentally for what is on the horizon.
I love fall (and Halloween) because it is a stunning reminder—especially if you are able to visit states where the weather and leaves change—that change is coming. As Halloween approaches we all know that just after that comes Thanksgiving and after that the mad rush between Turkey Day and Christmas Day commences known as the “holiday season”…or in my house, “Crazyember” (instead of December).
The fall and winter holidays are wonderful for so many reasons—family, friends, food and gifts—but they can also be challenging. This season brings more commitments, more monetary spending, more face time with family members we purposefully avoid the rest of the year and just “more” in general. I recently watched a CNN special on the Philippines and learned that they begin celebrating Christmas at the beginning of September. My first thought was, “I could never survive that.” So much is expected of me from November 25ish to December 25, I could never stretch it out that long. The “more” lasting 3 months instead of 1 sent my mind reeling.
After watching that documentary, I started thinking about the upcoming holiday season and how to reduce the feelings of stress associated with it. Specifically, I wanted to deliberately “get ahead of the stress” to try and curtail it and avoid being blindsided by expectations and commitments. And here is the truth that emerged in my mind and heart: We set the expectation. We control the commitments. We are in charge of how little or how much we do, and that is a big responsibility.
So, with that idea in mind—that we set the expectation for the holiday season—here are some practical things you can do going into the fall and winter months to reduce stress.
1. Make a list of all possible upcoming commitments, parties and events and decide now which ones you will attend. And do not say “yes” to every little thing or you will probably find yourself overwhelmed.
2. Make a list of all physical things you will need to do over the next few months (errands, gift buying, cooking/baking, decorating, etc.). Delegate each activity to a certain month, week or day. And, do whatever you can now instead of waiting—for example, order gifts online, order Christmas dinner from a local deli or supermarket, etc.
3. Make a holiday budget of all gifts, meals and decorations and stick to it! Overspending is a huge source of stress. If the new year begins and you are shouldering extra debt from Christmas you will feel stressed.
4. Consider all events you will be asked to attend in which you have emotional ties and decide what your role will be. For example, you could not attend, attend for a short time, and/or decide beforehand what you are willing to talk about and NOT talk about with certain people/family members, etc. Set your emotional boundaries in your head.
I will speak more about prep and planning for the busy holiday season in the personal blog on this topic, but this list is a good start of what to do if you are wanting to curb stress over the next few months. If you are dealing with any major life stressor at this time, or are feeling overwhelmed by anxiety or depression, a licensed mental health counselor can help you. Call an Orlando therapist today at 407-443-8862. Life Enhancement Counseling Services is ready to help you.