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It's the Happiest Time of the Year. So Why Am I So Stressed?

The holiday season can be exhilarating. All stores are decorated, neighborhoods shine up the night with Christmas lights, there is a briskness to the air (depending on where you live), and we look forward to seeing family and friends.

There is a flip side to all the splendors; this can be a time of stress and anxiety. I could list all the things that can make us wish for January 2nd, but I want to focus on one where I can provide some practical help. Many of us become overwhelmed because we have additional tasks that need to be taken care of (holiday shopping, menu planning, booking flights, baking, wrapping, decorating, etc.), and we end up running in circles trying to get everything done while remaining sane.

I am sure you have heard these suggestions, yet somehow you may not be implementing them. That is why I am reminding you of simple but effective ways to tackle your to-do list. The first thing you need to do is – make a to-do list! Writing down what needs to be done gives you an idea of what you have ahead of you. With all the items in front of you, you can decide which needs to be done immediately and which can be put off for another day. You may need to alter your list if some chores (such as cleaning the house) are more significant than others. Depending on the size of your abode, you may need to chunk it down into manageable steps. If you need to clean a large room, break down what needs to get done and start by doing one first. If you are still full of energy, go on to the next one, and so on. For instance, maybe start by picking up if it is messy. After that, you can dust. If there are wood panels and floors, clean them in an appropriate manner. Give yourself a break when you get tired, and then go back and finish it. I have found that once I get started, I will keep going until it is done. It makes me feel very accomplished, but not exhausted because I knew I could have stopped when I needed to.

That leads me to another tip – don't do it all yourself! If you have family, delegate some of the load. There were many times I helped my mom wrap gifts, including mine. They were in non-descript boxes, so I wouldn't know what was inside. More obvious items she wrapped herself. If you are wondering, no, I did not peek; I love surprises! Look at your list and see what you can pass on to someone else. If it keeps you from turning into a cranky bitch (like I can be, lol), I am sure they will be happy to help you.

If you work, which most of us do, you may need to utilize your calendar and block out time when you can concentrate on priorities. Businesses don't stop because of holidays; that can be the busy season for many organizations. If you plan and put things on a calendar, either on your phone or a physical one, it will help prevent you from forgetting to do something essential for your job or personal life. Use alarms if you tend to forget to check regularly.

This next suggestion gives many women pause – the idea of saying "NO." We cannot be everywhere and do everything that others ask of us. Sometimes, it is physically impossible, which makes the refusal a bit easier, but if it causes emotional and psychological stress, that is just as good of a reason. You don't have to go into extensive explanations. A simple "no, that just isn't doable right now. I'm sorry" works if you stick to your guns. By learning how to do this gracefully, you will decrease your anxiety and create a better balance in your life.

The above are simple, easy-to-implement methods that I hope you will try. I will share two more unusual but no less effective ways to manage time during the holidays.

1.      The Pomodoro Technique: Created in the 80s by Francesco Cirillo, this method is beneficial if you find it hard to focus and often procrastinate. Here are the steps.

  •        First, identify a task that needs to be done. Set a timer for 25 minutes, and work on whatever job is at hand until the timer goes off.

  •        Take a five-minute break.

  •        Repeat this process thrice, then take a more extended break (about 30 minutes.)

  •        If the task is unfinished, start again from the first step.

This process has been shown to decrease anxiety and the feeling of being overwhelmed.

2.      Brian Tracy's "Eat the Frog" Method: This technique earned its name from advice from acclaimed author Mark Twain, who said, "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest first." Do your most pressing task first thing in the morning before you do anything else. You will feel relieved to have completed it and feel accomplished and optimistic about the day ahead.

I hope these ideas help you smile through this merry time of the year. I have one more tip: don't forget self-care. Find some time for yourself to breathe. Incorporate mindfulness and meditation into your day if you can. If not, being calm and still and clearing your mind for a few minutes can help you refocus.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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