5 Steps for Stress Free Holiday Celebrations

I was in a yoga class the other day and my instructor was talking about the craziness of life.  She mentioned that sometimes she feels like she’s living in a snow globe.  She loves it when everything is settled, but, occasionally it seems, someone comes and shakes her snow globe and everything goes crazy.

Thank got me thinking about the holidays.  I adore this time of year.  I love all the decorating, celebrating, entertaining, and I even love working in the emergency department during the holidays.  I realized that, unlike my yoga instructor, I prefer my snow globe to look more like a blizzard.  I enjoy the chaos and the crazy, but one of the reasons I do enjoy it is because I know there is a foundation of serenity underneath it all.

I set myself up for success in how I plan my holiday season.  This puts me in the position to know that if I ever get to the point where I want the scene in my snow globe to return to its peaceful resting state, all I need do is stop shaking it.

This is how I do it: I allow myself 1 hour for this process and I finished it this year during an especially slow Thanksgiving overnight shift.  Setting aside the time to do this now will save you countless moments of stress and anxiety in the weeks to come.

Step 1

You need to get everything out of your brain and down on paper.  I grabbed a sheet of printer paper and just started writing things down.  I typically start with the scheduled events over the next month and then I find my brain just goes wild from there.  Anything I think about at this point I put on the paper.  I often find that there are things that show up on this initial brain dump that don’t need to be there, but this is not the time to censor. You want to make as complete a list as possible of what needs to be done.

Step 2

Get more specific.  One of the major mistakes that I see my clients make when they schedule their time is only planning for the actual event.  One of my events is an annual Christmas party that one of my friends hosts every year.  It’s tempting to just jot down the time of the party on the calendar and leave it at that, but this party is not only a white elephant party, but I’m also bringing dessert.  I need to add all the tasks to my list related to those areas too.  It looks something like this:

• December 11th Christmas Party 6-10pm

• Decide on the gift for the exchange

• Make the gift for the exchange (I’m going to sew something this year)

• Wrap the gift

• Decide on the dessert I’ll be bringing

• Buy ingredients for the dessert

• Make the dessert

• Decide what I’m wearing to the party (I like to do this early that way I have time to schedule in clothes shopping if I need to)

• I also set aside time on the day of the party to get ready and get to the party. 

You can see how quickly one event can lead to hours of preparation and work.  If all you put on your calendar is the event itself, your brain will constantly be nagging you about all these other details.  That nagging will distract you from the many other tasks you have on your to do list this time of year and this typically leads to feeling overwhelmed and out of control.

Step 3

I edit my complete list.  This is the moment where I remove the things my brain offered up that don’t really need to be done over the next few weeks.  For instance, I’d love to reorganize the dog’s storage area, but it’s also very low priority. So I moved that task to the running to-do list that I keep at the back of my planner.  This is where I store non-urgent tasks that I will get around to eventually.  The act of writing them down allows me to free up the brain space for other things.

Step 4

I put EVERYTHING on a calendar.  I commit right now to when I’m going to do each of these things.  I also add any other nonnegotiable items to my calendar at this time too (I don’t know about you, but I’ve still got shifts to work).  This is the point where many of my clients push back, but I promise you, making this kind of commitment to yourself and your time and sticking to it will revolutionize your life.  You no longer need to worry about when you’re wrap gifts while you’re at the Nutcracker since you’ve already planned that out.

Step 5

Are you happy with the way your holiday schedule looks?  I adore the crazy and I thrive on all the activity this season brings.  My schedule is packed until after January 1st.  I couldn’t be happier, but my very active schedule won’t work for everyone.  Do you have enough time left for the self-care you need?  Do you have time left to recharge and enjoy time with your friends and family?  If not, it’s time to let go of some of the commitments. 

I recommend that you give yourself permission to make this a guilt-free purge. 

You’re the architect of your experience this year.  You’re building the foundation of your snow globe.  This is your chance to create a holiday season that allows you to get an incredible number of things accomplished, but also one that serves you and creates the experience you desire most.

I help my clients use this kind of approach to take back control of their schedules and their lives.  If you’d like to learn more, sign up for my free course How To Feel Better On Your Next Shift.  Then schedule a mini session and let’s find out if coaching is right for you.