It should be the happiest time of year, right? After all, the Yule season is when we celebrate the return of the sun, and the days start to get a little brighter. The mundane world is observing Christmas and Hanukah, gifts are being given all over the place -- it should be a season of great joy. Yet for many people, late fall and early winter are a time when frustrations begin to build, and anxiety (and often depression) set in. Between getting together with family, preparing big meals, shopping for gifts, decorating the house, and spending money on others, for many people Yule can be a time of overwhelming stress. Here are a few tips on reducing your stress levels during the Yule season.
Set your limits.
Are you in charge of the community coat drive, the local toy roundup, and getting your entire PTO's fundraiser up and running? Step back! Be willing to say "No" when someone asks you to commit more time and energy than you have to give. We all want to help others at this time of year, but if you take on more than you really are capable of, you'll become resentful and angry - and that's no way to spend the Yule season. Learning to say "No" might be the best gift you can give yourself this year.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the eighteen boxes of Yule décor in your basement? Fine -- put the kids to work. If you don't have kids -- or if yours are too young to decorate -- put on a pot of wassail and invite a few friends over for a decorating party. It will take the stress out of the situation if you're surrounded by people whose company you enjoy. Likewise, if you're hosting a holiday dinner, ask others to show up early to set the table or to bring part of the meal as a side dish. I've learned that if I plan ahead, and just ask, I can usually get someone else to commit to taking care of cleanup afterwards!
One of the biggest holiday stress-outs is the knowledge that you'll be paying off Yule until June. Don't let this happen. Make a budget, and stick to it. For more on how to do this, read about How to Have a Budget Friendly Yule. Also remember, you don't have to go crazy with the gifts. Do you want to teach your children about the value of the holiday season, or that whoever gets more stuff wins? In many families, parents have learned to limit the number of gifts each person gets -- in mine, each kid gets one really big gift, and then three smaller gifts such as a DVD, a pair of cute winter pajamas, and a game to play or a book to read.
A lot of people stress out over family relationships during the holidays. If you're one of those people, you need to decide ahead of time how you're going to deal with family members who aggravate you. Got a non-Pagan family member who just won't leave you alone? Brush up on coping strategies at Surivivng the Holidays with Your Non-Pagan Family.
When you're feeling overwhelmed in the middle of the season, and you know you still have things that need to get done, take a break. Turn off the phone, shut the door, and go have some Me Time. Take a one-hour power nap, enjoy a bubble bath with some nice scented candles, invite a friend out for a quick coffee date. Set aside a few minutes each day to meditate and get yourself grounded. You'll appreciate it in the long run.
A big problem many people seem to have is they just fail to realize they're burning themselves out. Stress creeps up on us, and then we tend to justify it by saying, "Well, it's the holidays." Learn to recognize the signs of burnout, and react accordingly. Some signs include:
- Depleted levels of physical energy
- Lowered immune system, feeling run-down or ill
- Lack of interest in things that you normally enjoy
- Decreased sex drive
- Negative, pessimistic outlook
- Anger directed at people who don't deserve it, like kids and sales clerks
If you start seeing these behaviors in yourself, it's time to take a step back and recognize that you're stressing out. Now that you've discovered the problem, take time to fix it, so that you and the people around you can have a happy and healthy Yule season.