How to Manage Uncertainty This Holiday Season
Not feeling so merry and bright this time of year? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
While the 2020 holiday season may look and feel decidedly different, that doesn’t mean the usual stressors aren’t lurking around the corner (holiday shopping, anyone?). In fact, it may very well bring about a different set of stressors.
So whether it’s taking time for you, practicing mindfulness or managing your expectations (both personally and professionally), we’re here to give you four solid ways to maintain serenity this holiday season.
Take time for yourself & establish routines
While the pressure to RSVP yes to every holiday invite may be off the table this year, fewer social obligations won’t necessarily lessen your stress load.
A great way to counteract any stress you may be feeling is to take time for you.
The Mayo Clinic recommends 15 minutes of solitude every day to clear your head. Now is also an excellent time to start establishing some routines. Sure, we can’t control the world around us but we can control how we spend our time.
This means eating at regular intervals, sleeping regularly, and doing the activities you’re allowed to do (e.g. getting that half-hour run or walk in). Speaking of exercise, CDC research shows that moderate exercise (at least 30 minutes every day at home or outside) can have a remarkable effect on both your physical and mental health.
Don’t forget to make time for “fun” routines, too. (Yes, we know, exercise is considered fun by some!) This could be watching your favorite movie, taking up a new hobby, or taking part in a group activity with those you share a roof with. Establishing routines, or even starting new ones, may help to ward off stress and leave you with a satisfied sense of accomplishment.
Practice gratitude & mindfulness
Most of us have certain ideas of what the holiday season should be like, or how it should play out. Instead of imagining how things could be, try accepting things for how they are.
In other words, don’t mull over what’s not working (or what’s not happening) this year and try to focus on what is. Is it your Sunday evening Skype call with family members, both near and far? Is it having the opportunity to work from home and using your lunch break to curl up on your sofa for a quick cat nap?
When you start to look at things from a place of gratitude, suddenly things don’t seem quite as dire. You may also decide to pick up a gratitude journal, which gets you into the habit of jotting down the positives in your life while also reaping the benefits of journaling (or blogging, if you decide to do this online).
This is where mindfulness comes into play. To put it plainly, mindfulness is bringing your awareness to the present moment, without any judgment. It’s realizing that when you get caught up in your thoughts and concerns about the past or future, you can always turn to the here and now.
Why not use this time, then, to get back into or start an activity that captures your attention in the present moment? It could be practicing yoga, reading a book, interacting with your pet, cooking a new recipe or listening to your favorite music. You’ll quickly discover how hard it is to stress when you’re actively enjoying something.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Feeling overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the holidays? That’s totally normal. But make sure to ask yourself: How does this fit into the grand scheme of things?
If it’s something minor, like a long grocery store line or a traffic jam, remind yourself of its insignificance. Even saying it aloud can help you to process things better, making you realize it shouldn’t be something that spoils your entire day.
If it’s something major, such as your small business is slowing down, allow yourself to feel all the feels. Make sure to acknowledge the bad days, e.g. fewer projects/less money coming in, just as you would the good days, e.g. many projects/more money. See this time as your chance to reflect on what went well this year and what didn’t.
Something else that can be particularly stressful during the holiday season is feeling like you have to be perfect all the time. Whether that’s giving the perfect gifts or cooking the perfect holiday meal, we often set the bar extremely high for ourselves, only to feel disappointed when things don’t live up to our expectations.
Remind yourself that it’s OK that things aren’t perfect; in fact, imperfection is par for the course. By starting to surrender your ideas of perfection, you’ll maintain a more realistic perspective about what can and cannot be accomplished. And whatever happens, try to see this as an opportunity for growth and learning.
What this boils down to is that it’s time to be kinder to yourself. Believe it or not, self-kindness is a practice, and it takes time to develop and nurture. So what if you didn’t achieve last year’s resolution or you strayed slightly from the path? Let these things go, without any guilt or shame. Slip-ups are an inevitable part of any human’s day.
If you’re going through a particularly stressful or uncertain time this year, remember that your loved ones (and perfect strangers) may be as well.
Even if you can’t physically touch or hold someone you love, you can reach out, thanks to the wonders of modern technology. Making a phone call, sending an email, or talking over a video-calling platform can boost anyone’s spirit this time of year. This allows you to find solace in each other’s company, allowing you to cope better with any uncertainty at hand.
Now is also the time to think about those who may be alone this holiday season. See if you can extend an act of kindness, whether that’s donating gently-used clothes to the charity of your choice or offering to run errands for your elderly neighbor. You can still give back, even if you can’t give a lot.
With a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of open mindedness, the holidays can still be a time where people come together, even if they’re physically apart.
And while you can’t change how someone else responds to uncertainty, you can. Remember that the holidays are inherently about celebration, and if you can’t muster enthusiasm or interest, don’t be afraid to opt out. That’s OK, too!
By identifying your own boundaries, and recognizing what obligations you’re willing to fulfill, you’ll feel much more certain (and confident) in yourself.
What are your tips to managing holiday uncertainty? Share with us in the comments below!