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A Three-Part Plan to Enjoy the Festive Season

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Author: Lisa Martin

A few years ago I read a story that gave me a new perspective on the holiday season. In this tale, a fictional town was experiencing the worst yuletide in its history because all the female residents were on strike. This reminded me that, often, women are the foundations, the unsung heroes, of the holiday season. 

For many us, the non-fictional holiday story goes like this: Every year, you promise to get a better grip on the holidays but somehow, you always get caught up in the stress of the season. No wonder you get tense at this time of the year. You have a lot to do. In the midst of planning parties, meeting year-end deadlines, making travel arrangements, attending school concerts, baking cookies, buying presents and doing a multitude of other tasks, you want to be composed, have fun and not gain weight.

Follow this stress-prevention plan to experience a festive rather than frazzled season.

1. Identify stress-relief tools

It's easy to become so preoccupied with taking care of the daily urgencies of the season -- the cooking, the visiting, and the organizing -- that no space, time or energy is left for you. When your needs and self-care fall to the bottom of your list, this is a one-way ticket to a tired, cranky, impatient you. The best gift you can give your family and yourself this season is a healthy, happy you. The secret to making this happen is to give yourself permission to put the quality of your own life at the top of your holiday wish list. To do so, identify three holiday stress-relief tools you can use to take better care of you, such as taking a bath, practicing meditation, going out for a walk, reading your favorite book, renting a video, sleeping in or performing breathing exercises. Write these ideas down and when you feel like you are reaching the edge of comfort, make a pledge to engage in one or all three stress-relieving activities.

2. Ask for help

Asking for help can be extremely difficult. But if you don't request assistance during the holidays you may find yourself at your wit's end. If you think you need to do it all, think again. Acknowledge that support will ease your load and make things happen faster. Just becoming aware that you could use some assistance and getting comfortable asking for it can be the toughest part. But once you get over your inhibitions of seeking support, you'll find that folks really want to help you in your efforts to create a wonderful holiday season. Resist the temptation to go it alone or take on more than you can reasonably do. Draft a list of activities you want to commit to this season (nothing more) and write the names of the people you'd like to help out. Then start making calls.

3. Eliminate holiday stressors

You know what and who they are -- the physical and emotional stressors that consume a lot of your holiday energy and space. This season, take a few minutes to think about the things that may be a source of stress and list them all. It will feel so good to get these worries out of your head and down on paper. Once you've completed this "stressor inventory" make a conscious effort to eliminate each one. If you know cooking a traditional dinner for 25 is high on your list, don't commit to it this year. Either say no, ask another family member to host or prepare that seafood buffet you always wanted to experiment with. It is in your control to say "yes" to the things that fulfill you and make your holidays happy, and "no" to your "shoulds" and ''have tos."

A joy-filled festive season awaits us all. Choose what you want your personal experience to be. With the wisdom and power to create stress-free holidays, tap into what you really want and give yourself permission to enjoy it. And if you are skeptical that no matter what you do, you'll still feel stressed out this season, remember that you can always go on strike.

About the author

Lisa Martin, PCC, is the author of the acclaimed Briefcase Moms: 10 Proven Practices to Balance Working Mothers' Lives. She lives what she writes and talks about. Mother of a six year-old son, a certified executive coach with 20 years of corporate and entrepreneurial experience, and the founder and president of Briefcase Moms®, she is all too familiar with the tug-of-war and challenges of work-life balance. Lisa has helped thousands of career-oriented women and men define, establish and maintain work-life success via her proprietary learning systems - 90 Days to a Balanced Life and Briefcase Parent Solutions™.

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