The Holiday Season often conjures up images of joy, family, and celebration. However, amidst the festivities, it’s easy to find ourselves overwhelmed with a to-do list that seems endless. With that comes stress and, as you know, stress is a huge trigger for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
When you have an autoimmune disease you want to minimize stress as much as you can. As we navigate the holiday chaos, it’s crucial to prioritize what truly matters to us. Today we’ll explore strategies to minimize stress and create a meaningful and joyful season.
What do you think of when you think of the Holiday Season?
- Work Parties
- Church Programs
- School Programs
- Gifts (wishing, buying, giving, receiving)
- A to-do list one-mile long
Daily life doesn’t stop during November and December. We just add to it.
How can you minimize your stress during the Holiday Season?
Step 1: Decide what is important to you.
This is number one for a reason: the other tips hinge on this one.
Your first priority is sitting down with a piece of paper and pen. While you can do this on a screen, pen/pencil and paper allow both halves of your brain to work together better and this exercise will be more effective.
Once you have paper and a pen, list off the top priorities for you and your family. This might include things like:
- decorating the house
- spending time together
- volunteering time at a charity
- Christmas dinner
The list will look different for each person but should include the items that mean the most to you. Laughter is on the example list although it’s not something that can be scheduled on a calendar—but I want my boys to look back on our Christmas seasons and remember joy and laughter.
The Foundation for a Stress-Free Holiday
You’ve heard the classic story about the jar with rocks, pebbles, and sand, right? If you put the sand in first then the pebbles, there will not be any room for the rocks. If you put the rocks in first, the pebbles will fit around the rocks and the sand will fill in the gaps. They all fit.
The list you just created is the “rocks” within the jar of time. You cannot expand time (the jar) so be sure to put those rocks in first.
Balancing Personal Priorities with External Commitments
Look at the calendar and determine obligations. What obligations do you have this year? You might have family events like your child’s concert at school or the Church Sunday school program. You might have an annual office party that you are expected to attend. (Some work parties are optional—you know what it is for your place of employment.)
While I use an electronic calendar, I like a paper calendar for this. After I have my paper calendar filled out, I put the data into my phone. But when it’s on paper, I can see at a glance that I have too few days “off” in a week or that the family will be go-go-going too much one week.
Making Time for What Matters
Before anything else goes onto your calendar, look at your “rocks” again. Schedule those into the calendar.
Is driving around, singing Christmas songs, and looking at lights something you love to do, but it got missed last year because December filled up? Schedule it now.
The important thing is that you treat these things with the same respect as the obligations in step two. Plan those “rocks” and fit them in before the busyness that is “sand.”
Make a Budget to Decrease Stress
Your money is finite. Your bank account doesn’t magically re-fill when you spend too much. Money stress is one of the biggest stressors in our lives.
To prevent money stress, tell your dollars where to go.
A budget doesn’t have to be overwhelming nor constraining. In fact, a budget gives you freedom. Instead of having that niggling fear in the back of your mind, wondering if you have the money for something, you’ll know.
If you do not have a budget currently in use, I recommend starting here: How to Create a Zero-Based Budget
In essence, you are going to write your income at the top and then subtract your tithe, housing, food, and utilities. After that, you’ll subtract the rest of your bills. You are hopefully left with some money to play with.
What if there’s no money left?
If there is no money left at the end of the bills then it’s time to either cut down on some of the bills (Netflix, Pandora, eating out frequently, etc) and/or increase the income. Thankfully, there are tons of things you can do at this time of year for a seasonal part-time job or making things for craft-sales.
Setting Boundaries for a Stress-Free Season
“No” is one of the hardest words to say. We don’t want to let anyone down. You don’t want to look like a party pooper. We want to be included. You want to spend time with others. The reasons are endless.
This is why you started with your list of what is most important for you. Then you filled out your calendar. You have your rocks in place.
If you are asked to help with/attend/give to something that does not line up with your rocks, time availability, or budget, you can say no. In fact, to lower your stress, I’d even go as far as to say you need to say no.
If you say yes to something that is in conflict with your holiday priorities, time availability or budget, your stress level will go up.
No is a complete sentence. If someone asks you to help/give/attend, you do not have to provide a reason. You can say “no” or “no, sorry.”
As you navigate the Holiday Season, remember the importance of prioritizing what matters most to you. By deciding on your “rocks,” managing your calendar, budgeting wisely, and setting boundaries, you can create a season filled with joy and meaning. Embrace the spirit of the holidays on your terms, making it a truly special time for you and your loved ones.