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Mental Health

Expert Advice: How Do I Stop Feeling Overwhelmed by the Holidays?

Less stress, more joy.

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It might be the “most wonderful time of the year” — but it’s also the most stressful. From juggling busy travel or vacation schedules to trying to keep everyone in your family happy, it’s easy to feel frazzled this season. But take heart: We’ve collected some tricks that’ll stop you from feeling overwhelmed by the holidays, so you can get back to enjoying yourself. Read on for six simple ways to spark serenity, courtesy of our experts.

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Meet our expert panel

  • Megan Logan, LCSW, author of Be Kind to Yourself and Self-Love Workbook for Women is in private practice in Florida. More at MeganLoganLCSW.com.
  • Trina McNeilly, author of Unclutter Your Soul: Overcome What Overwhelms You, is the founder of the popular lifestyle blog, La La Lovely.
  • Ruth C. White, PhD, is stress management expert and mental health activist. She is Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Carbon Five, a a small software development firm based in San Francisco.

Take a step back.

Often, the pressure we feel this time of year can be hard to define. “Do a quick inventory of what’s stressing you out so you can focus specifically on that,” says expert Megan Logan. “Perhaps it’s negative self-talk, your expectations to please others, or simply the demands of a flurry of activities.” Just pausing to reflect on what’s bothering you puts stress in perspective and helps you focus on the steps you can take to feel more in control.

Let go a little.

Some of the most beautiful aspects of the holiday season are its rituals, but when we’re overwhelmed, they can feel more like obligations. “If you’re burned-out, give yourself permission to let go of a tradition or two — without feeling guilty,” suggests expert Trina McNeilly. Simply ask yourself: Does this activity bring me more stress than joy?If the answer is yes, consider skipping it this year. “This small shift in mindset creates a sense of freedom.”

Make your own rules.

To dial down stress, consider what is most important to you during the holidays, encourages Logan. “For example, it may be spending time with family or getting to relax on vacation — pinpointing your values makes it so much easier to say no to external pressures and demands from work and elsewhere,” she says. In other words, you get to make the rules that work best for you.

Savor the moment.

Simply engaging your five senses allows for a more mindful holiday experience. “Take time to smell the aromas associated with the season, be it the scent of evergreens or the chimney smoke from your fireplace,” urges Logan. “Delight in the sights of sparkling lights and holiday colors. This may be a time of bustling activity, but we can relax our mind by observing the special sensations we experience this time of year.”

Tap the power of play.

This season is magical for kids — and recapturing that whimsy goes a long way to melting the stress we feel as adults. “The pressure of high expectations is instantly tamped down when we let ourselves play,” says expert Ruth C. White, PhD. “Last year, I bought festive pj’s for my daughter and me, and we had a pajama party. Now it’s becoming a tradition.” Anything from playing board games to singing songs together releases worry and creates memories you’ll always cherish.

Do something for you.

Self-care is even more important during the hubbub of the holidays, notes White. “We often say we don’t have time for ourselves, but being kind to ourselves gives us back time, by revitalizing us.” Simply doing one small thing for yourself every day, like calling a friend or listening to your favorite podcast, lets you embrace the joy this season is all about.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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