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Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®

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« The Giving Season | Ask the Expert: Howard Gardner »

6 Tips for Stress-Free Holidays

Is it possible to find balance during the holiday season? This can be a stress-filled time between the parties, shopping, wrapping, and comings and goings of our loved ones. There’s an atmosphere of flux and movement. While perfect balance is an unrealistic goal, there are ways to navigate this time to encourage less stress and more joy.


1. Adjust – We often expect things to happen in a certain way...”our” way. Those expectations can extend to how we’d like others to behave and act. While it’s reasonable to have certain expectations (like you invite people to a party and if they say they’re coming, they’ll be there,) it’s unrealistic to expect that people won’t cancel at the last minute or ask to bring an extra guest. Life happens and things don’t always go according to our plan. Being flexible is a useful strategy. It will help reduce the holiday season stress.


2. Marvel – There are moments of joy to notice and embrace wherever we turn. From watching your children enjoy one another’s company, to seeing your holiday table filled with your family and friends, to smelling the sweet scents of burning candles, to tasting that first morsel of homemade apple pie, to laughing until the tears roll down your cheeks, the season offers many opportunities for joy-filled moments. Engage your senses and your heart. Focus on what you see, feel, hear, smell, and taste. Appreciate the joy.


3. Let Go – Especially with guests around, we want everyone to be happy, get along, and feel “festive.” Or, is that just me? Big surprise. We’re responsible for own behavior and moods, but we have no control over others. This time of year can include big transitions that are accompanied by questions and uncertainties. Our youngest daughter will graduate college soon, and our oldest daughter is making plans for the next part of her journey. While they know what they’re doing today, fast forward a few months and life will be different. We can give our emotional support, but we can’t live their lives for them. Focus on how you can help (if help is even wanted.) Then step back and let go. This will result in less stress for you and them.


4. Organize – We each have different ideas about what it means to be or feel organized. There is no one way of being, doing, or structuring our lives. However, figuring out what makes sense for you can greatly enhance how balanced you feel, especially during the holidays. For me, having easily updateable “party” lists, knowing where my entertaining supplies are stored, and making time to plan party details with my husband, help me to feel organized. Invest the energy and time in discovering the organizing strategies that will work for you. If you’d like help strategizing and implementing organizing solutions, call or email me anytime.


5. Select – We love to say, “yes,” don’t’ we? However, especially during this season (well, any season, really,) remembering the other option, “no” is just as important. There will be many invitations for fabulous events and parties. The options for fun are abundant. However, being selective about what you choose to do, will allow you to enjoy even more the events you do attend. It’s about finding your balance between “yes” and “no.” Look at your calendar. Consider your energy. Then decide.


6. Create – Getting your hands, mind, and body fully engaged in creative pursuits is a wonderful way to restore balance and reduce stress. During this season, there are many opportunities to engage in these types of activities, but you might not think about them in that way. A slight perspective shift can turn the most innocent of pursuits into creative adventures. Some of my recent creative play included making a new soup recipe, decorating the Thanksgiving table, writing in my journal, arranging flowers, taking photos, and playing Charades. There’s nothing quite like activating our creativity (in whatever form it takes) to energize us.


The holiday season is here. Do any of these strategies resonate with you? Do you have others to share? Come join the conversation.

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Reader Comments (12)

Linda, great tips you bring today to the table.
With celebrations, holidays and dinner parties I learnt two things
1. Breath and slow down. No need to rush, no need to run, no need to reach the speed of light, calm the pace before stress gets your nerves is about enjoyment not a sprint.
2. Nothing is perfect in life. Yes I want things be spot on but they can't be perfect, is unrealistic.
Holidays is about care, love and companionship with our loved ones.

December 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNacho Eguiarte

Nacho- Love the learning you share here… Slow down: "no need to reach the speed of light" and Letting go: Focus on our loved ones and let go of perfection. Just lovely.

December 3, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Ways to let go of stress - oh yes! Thanks for sharing these ways to make your holidays merrier. Truly I tap into "marvel". When we see the wonder of the season, the joy that surrounds us and the moment by moment experiences, this is when we truly let go of stress and joy comes in! Thanks for sharing new perspectives!

December 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

Ellen- Always great to activate the "marvel." It's all around us. We just need to slow down enough (as Nacho mentioned) to see and feel.

December 3, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Linda I love the Marvel section. How right you are, my husband and I have changed our plans this year to embrace just that, being with people we like and have fun with.

December 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJill Robson

Jill- Sounds like you and your husband have got a great plan "being with people we like and have fun with." I'm with you 100%.

December 3, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

This is just a wonderful list. As my children aged, I spent less time in "marvel".. wish I could get back there more. Of course, I love "organize"!! I might also add "sleep" and "hydrate"… but those aren't as glamorous as your thoughts:)

December 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

Seana- Interesting that you say you "wish" you could get back to marvel. What would make that possible? Organizer to organizer, I can understand how #4 is one you love. And great additions to the post. Thank you for offering up the important self-care tips. No need for glamor. Good strategies hold their own; no razzle dazzle needed.

December 4, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Like Seana, I find it harder to find the "marvel" now that the kids are grown up and my mother (who was a big part of my holiday traditions) has passed. I've also realized that with so many people decorating ridiculously early, I've tended to put blinders on, which never seemed to come off. This year I decided to embrace it and I'm really enjoying the lights and everything else that goes with the season.

December 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

Janet- I understand how hard it is to move on from those traditions we treasure when things within our family shifts. My deepest sympathy for the passing of your mother. We have experienced this too with the loss of 3 of our 4 parents, and other family moving away in the last few years. Many of the traditions have disappeared because those that were the tradition-drivers are gone. So we've worked on (and it's an ongoing process) creating new traditions, and learning to let go of others. I'm happy for you that you're "enjoying the lights" and all this season. A corner turned.

December 5, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Linda, These are great tips! I love the idea of letting go and not being responsible for the way other members of my family are feeling. I have one married son and one eligible bachelor, both will be home for the holidays. I'm so looking forward to having my house full and letting go will allow me to enjoy it all the more. Thank you for that!

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

Diane- Great to "hear" your voice. It's hard NOT to feel responsible for the well-being of our loved ones, but as we know, it's a slippery slope. We certainly can respectful of their varied moods, but that's about it. Wishing you all the joy of having a full house, loved ones present, and the ability to let go as needed.

December 9, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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