Prioritizing Your Sanity

StressWith Thanksgiving just around the corner, we are headed into the winter holidays which, although wonderful, tend to contribute their own brand of overwhelm. Aside from the disruption to our normal schedule, the extra cooking and cleaning, the added expense, and the strain of either traveling to see relatives or having them as house guests, there are often a lot of unpleasant family dynamics that go on.

So how do we deal with this seasonal overwhelm?

Feelings of overwhelm usually have three major sources: deadlines, misguided martyrdom, and competency issues.

First, deadlines. When we start to feel emotionally overwhelmed, it’s often because we feel we don’t have enough time. There’s nothing like the pressure of having to prepare dinner for 12 before all the relatives show up on Thanksgiving Day. Particularly when the baby’s been sick and your niece just informed you she’s a lacto-vegetarian and is expecting you to please make sure there’s plenty for her to eat.

The solution to deadline overwhelm is to ask yourself, “What time constraints really exist here?” Maybe dinner doesn’t need to be on the table exactly at 6 (especially since a few relatives are always notoriously late). The first step to overcoming this type of overwhelm is to not make deadlines any more hard and fast than they need to be. Then prepare ahead of time so you don’t have so much to do at the last minute.

Second, misguided martyrdom. This is based on thinking we’re the only one who can get something done, or the only one who will get it done right. Or that we only have one chance to do it so we better make that one chance really good.

None of these thoughts are true. Botching a Thanksgiving get-together won’t be the end of the world. And besides, who says you’re going to botch it? Start delegating and spread the responsibility around so it’s not all on your shoulders.

Third, competency issues. We’re worried that we won’t be able to pull it all off. We think we lack the knowledge, skills, or abilities to handle all that’s on our plates.

We may or may not be right, but we’ll never know how competent we really are until we get in there and try.

Prioritizing Our Sanity

The most important thing we can do during this busy time is prioritize our own sanity. If you’re like me, you are probably the glue holding the whole holiday thing together for your family, so give yourself permission to take care of YOU so you don’t become “unglued.” Otherwise you will wind up stressing yourself out even more.

Some of the ways you can prioritize your own sanity are to:

  • Build “resets” into your day. Every hour or so, close your eyes for at least 5 minutes and breathe deeply 10 to 20 times. Closing your eyes acts as a “reset” for your mind and breathing deeply oxygenates your system at a time when you’re probably taking shallow breaths because of the stress.
  • Do the Wonder Woman power pose—OFTEN. Studies have shown that just standing in a Wonder Woman power stance for two minutes can release positive hormones and reduce negative ones so you feel less stressed and more on top of your day. Take 2 minute breaks throughout your day and stand like Wonder Woman. In fact, you can combine your “resets” with power stances for maximum effect.
  • Drink lots of water. When you’re super busy, you may forget to keep yourself hydrated and this tends to make you fatigued and cranky. This also applies to not skipping meals and trying to eat as healthily as possible. You already know you’re probably going to binge on sugar and junk food, so just go with the flow and try to counteract that by making sure you get enough water and decent food.
  • Set your intention for the day before the day begins. Ask yourself “What am I going to face today that might trip me up/stress me out?” and “How can I deal with it?”
  • Meditate twice a day. Two 10 – 20 minute meditation breaks throughout the day can work wonders. There are lots of free meditations on YouTube you can try, but a good all-purpose one is called the “Release” meditation. You can find it HERE.
  • Lower your expectations. The whole point of family get-togethers during the holidays is connection, not perfection. Accept that the people who have always gotten on each other’s nerves will probably continue to do so; the house is going to be messy; the food may not be as delicious as you’d hoped; you and your kids are going to eat way too much sugar and junk food; and everyone around you is probably stressed out too. So don’t expect everything to run smoothly or be as organized, happy, peaceful or rewarding as you’d hoped.
  • Rank the people in your life. The tendency is to try to remember everyone during the holidays, which is a good thing, but only if it doesn’t pull you away from the people who are the real priorities.
  • Be patient. Understand that almost everyone you meet will be stressed this time of year. Be allowing when people freak out or don’t live up to expectations. And don’t expect people who have never gotten along to magically put aside their differences just because it’s holiday time.
  • Try not to take things personally. Don’t take things personally or assign meaning when people aren’t their best selves towards you. Not many of us are our “best selves” this time of year. If family members are picky, critical, complaining, resistant, unappreciative, argumentative, etc., it doesn’t necessarily mean anything about you. It probably just means they’re being picky, critical, complaining, resistant, unappreciative, argumentative, etc.
  • Allow more time. There’s just so much to do and often not enough time to do it. Try not to stress yourself time-wise. Plan a cushion of time in everything you do. That way you won’t be overwhelmed when the traffic is horrendous, the turkey takes extra long to get done, the house is a mess and people are coming in 15 minutes, and so on.
  • Find things to be grateful for. While this time of year can bring out the worst in people, it can also bring out the best. Look for it and appreciate it.

What are some of your favorite ways to prioritize your sanity?

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