It’s that time of year when there’s one holiday right after another.
And for most of us the holiday season can stress us out, and at the end, it can keep us from the spirit of the season and the enjoyment of the festivities- it’s no wonder that so many of us spend the holidays waiting for it all to be over.
A recent survey showed the extent of holiday stress: 65 percent of gen Xers, 62 percent of baby boomers and 61 percent of millennials all reported that they had stressed out over their winter break.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are 12 habits that can give you a head start on preparing for the holidays and help you replace the stress with enjoyment:
1. Do something today that your future self will thank you for.
Plan ahead. It sounds simple, but it’s true. This is no time for procrastination. Planning ahead not only helps keep you on top of everything you have to do but allows you to celebrate intentionally, in ways that are meaningful to you, instead of just following along.
2. Action expresses priorities.
Spend some time thinking about what’s most important to you. That might mean hosting a festive party, travel to visit family, baking your favorite cookies or doing volunteer service. Then free yourself to say no to anything that will interfere with those priorities.
3. A time for everything makes everything run on time.
Stick to a daily organized routine and focus on what needs to get done. You don’t want to be overworked and overscheduled; instead, use scheduling to give yourself a handle on the things you need to accomplish.
4. Nurture your body, mind and spirit.
Your body, mind and spirit all require daily care. That means regular exercise, getting enough sleep, eating as healthfully as you can, and some form of daily prayer, meditation or another mindfulness practice.
5. Learn to walk it out.
The rhythm of walking has a tranquilizing effect on the brain. Walking decreases anxiety and improves sleep, and it helps you stay alert and calm throughout the day. Set a timer to remind you to get up and take a little walk–even if you just go down the hall–every hour.
6. Do less-not more.
Most of us tend to get overwhelmed when we have too much work to get done, and many of us go overboard to please others during the holidays. Instead of trying to make everyone happy, learn to do less and take care of yourself more.
7. It’s not a big deal unless you make it one.
Learn to laugh it off. When we make light of things we cast out the shadows. Laughter reduces stress hormones. That, in turn, helps immune cells function better and makes us feel more relaxed. When things get dark, learn to get light and laugh it off.
8. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
If you’re the kind of person who obsesses over doing everything perfectly, if nothing you do is never good enough, this is the perfect time to begin practicing letting things go.
9. Never be afraid to try something new.
If trying to carry out all your old traditions leaves you feeling stressed and anxious, try something new. The change-up will be invigorating–and who knows, it might be the start of a new tradition.
10. Slow it down instead of speeding it up.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, learn not to overschedule your time and take on more than you can manage. Remember: It’s OK to slow down a bit and keep things on a calmer pace.
11. A positive mindset will lead to positive outcomes.
Don’t focus on the things that are making you tense and unhappy–negative thinking can trigger your body’s stress response. Try to think only positive thoughts. An optimistic outlook may even help you cope with any challenges that might come your way.
12. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
This is a true saving grace–and it’s one that works throughout the year. Take time to be grateful and you’ll be happier and more centered all day.
The holidays don’t have to get the best of you. Instead, get the most out of what you have to offer by learning these simple new habits–or some of your own–and putting them into practice.