The holidays are stressful for a lot of people, me included. There is so much to do, and the kids are counting on us to make this time of year magical… we try and do as much as possible for them.

We do Christmas light tours through town, we go to the light display at Botanica here in Wichita, we decorate our house and watch Christmas movies, and try and buy them every little item on their lists, but somehow it still doesn’t seem like enough.

But why not?

My kids aren’t complaining. They’re excited about the magic of the season.

They are looking around wide eyed at beautiful light displays, and they are happy to open just about anything on Christmas morning. In fact, my daughter ASKED for socks from Santa for her stocking.

So what’s my deal? The fact is that I know what the problem is. It’s the holiday stress and the resulting anxiety from it all that makes me feel as if I haven’t done enough, bought them enough, or spent enough time with them. I beat myself up when I really should just be enjoying this time with my wife and kids.

So here are five ways that I’ve found can help me deal with stress, and I hope you find something here that will work for you as well.

1. Wake up Early

As a sufferer of ADHD, this one is hard for me, and I will admit that I fail as often as I succeed. But on the days I do rise early, in my case between 4 and 5 am, my days are significantly lower stress and I can focus on what is in front of me.

Why?

Because I’m able to take some time for myself in the morning. I’ll sip my coffee and read, do some light exercise, meditate, listen to music, clear out my email inbox from the night, and get some work done long before the kids are awake. And when they are awake I’m ready to go, which makes it easier for me to focus on them and their needs in the morning instead of trying to get myself ready at the same time, which is always a disaster.

2. Make Better Food Choices

The holidays are filled with amazing treats, and of course we need to indulge ourselves from time to time, but I truly have seen some amazing results from limiting my sweets intake and focusing on preparing balanced lunches and dinners that are high in lean proteins, leafy greens, and lots of mushrooms… because I love mushrooms. 🙂

And it isn’t just the sweets. The hectic nature of the season means we have a lot of obligations… school performances, dance recitals, local theatre productions, family gatherings, work parties, and on and on. This means that it is hard to take the time to cook and quick deliveries and fast food drive-throughs become the norm.

How do we fight this?

My wife and I have found that cooking easy to heat meals that are still healthy on Sunday means we can easily be on the move while still getting to all of our obligations on time. Also, packing some snacks like roasted nuts or dried fruit in your bag will keep you from grabbing a side of french fries when you get hangry running errands in the middle of the day.

3. Focus on Mindfulness

Mindfulness is everywhere these days, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Much like the CBD boom, mindfulness has gone from something that seemed to be purely for the hippie set, and has become something that everyday people are finally talking about. But what is mindfulness?

mind·ful·ness
/ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/

  1. noun the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
    “their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Pretty simple really. And practicing mindfulness doesn’t take much. In fact, you can easily work it into my first tip, waking up early. Instead of spending time meditating and trying to block out the world and focus on simply being, you can practice mindful awareness of all you have around you. Take the time to accept where you are in this moment and simply enjoy what is happening during this season.

4. Get Some Exercise

This one is obvious, yet it is so easy to ignore it on busy days. But you don’t need to hit the gym for an hour to feel the benefit. Simply taking a walk around the block, doing some light yoga, or even simply stretching and taking the stairs instead of the elevator is enough to get our heart rate up a bit.

Just 10 minutes of exercise has been shown to increase oxygen levels to the brain, decrease stress, increase blood-flow and calm the mind. So find some time to get moving each day if you want to lower the effects of those holiday stressors.

5. Focus on the Why, Not the What

Finally, I want to challenge you to focus on the why and not the what. For many of us this time of year is filled with Christmas wishlists and trying to get everyone something they want and stay on budget can be incredibly stressful. I will also admit that I love buying gifts and if I could would spend an infinite amount of money on gifts for my kids, nieces, nephews, and other family members… but that isn’t realistic.

So instead of focusing on what you’re giving, simply remember the why. The winter has long been a time to reflect on the past year, both the good and the bad. So focusing on why you are giving someone a gift instead of worrying about how much it costs has some real benefits. I find that most of the time, people are just happy that you thought of them at all, and that is what really matters.

I hope this list has been helpful, and if you have any tips for dealing with holiday stress, leave them in the comments below.

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