How can I relieve stress?
Simple answer—avoid stress instead of relieving stress. Easier said than done. Procrastination is putting off things, but eventually I have to take care of the things I put off. God blessed me with a phlegmatic personality type, and I’ve yet to overcome one of the worst weaknesses of my personality type. Procrastination sticks with me, and it causes more stress-induced headaches than anything else in my life does.
How do I overcome procrastination and reduce Christmas stress? Here are five suggestions for a less stressed holiday season.
Some people make lists because they love them. I make lists to keep me focused on the most important priorities. A list helps me know what I need to accomplish today, this week, or by the end of the month. It works not only at holidays, but all year long. After creating a list, I then determine what I can do ahead of time instead of waiting until the last minute. For example, the night before Thanksgiving I create a list of the foods I wanted to make and then determined what I could do in preparation. By baking a few items that evening, I cut out a big chunk of stress the next morning. Many items I want to make for Christmas freeze well, so I can bake ahead of time and reserve the last days for relaxing and enjoying family and friends.
Keep it Simple
Admittedly, the KISS principle is cliché. But it also holds a lot of truth. The more complex I make things, the more I tend to procrastinate. Complex tasks seem overwhelming and lead me to choose other activities first. For those larger projects I can’t avoid, I keep it simple by breaking them down into smaller chunks and accomplish one piece at a time.
Shop early, preferably with a list in hand. With so much technology I can keep a list at my fingertips, and when I stop for something pick up an item or two off my list. My second option includes setting aside one day to complete purchases for everyone on my list. Then, I sit down and wrap the gifts while watching a Christmas movie. If money is an issue, don’t stress over it. Those who love you sometimes appreciate homemade gifts more than store bought ones. Next week’s blog will feature some ideas for handcrafted gifts.
In the middle of a busy day, how can I possibly stop and take time for myself? Studies suggest ten to fifteen minutes of down time actually increases productivity. Use the time to meditate (I choose meditating on Scripture), read, go for a brisk walk, utilize a massage cushion or chair, or simply sit with eyes closed and taking deep breaths. My personal favorite—lie in the floor with knees bent and propped on a sofa. Ten minutes in this position relaxes my body as much as a thirty minute nap.
Take Care of Yourself
My body needs about seven hours of sleep per night to function well. While I can get away with less rest occasionally, continued nights of five or six hours sleep leave me stressed. Eating junk stresses my body as it tries to discard unneeded fat and sugars, yet I tend to eat on the run when I get busy. Eating healthy sit-down meals must become a priority. And I can’t forget that dirty word—exercise. An active lifestyle not only improves my health, it decreases stress levels, releasing hormones that provide a sense of well-being. Look for fun ways to get moving and do them regularly. I can’t take care of others without taking care of me first. And don’t feel guilty about saying no. Doing every single activity this time of year doesn’t leave much time for taking care of me. In the end, my stress leaves those around me wishing I didn’t say yes.
Try some of these suggestions and see if they help. Now it’s your turn.