IN BALANCE — Rethinking Holiday Stress

November 3, 2018

By Susan Johnston

You may be finding yourself slightly more stressed recently. That’s normal. With the holidays approaching you are most likely shopping for food and gifts, planning and attending parties, and attempting to keep your house clean, to name a few of the typical end-of-the year stressors. On top of that you are dealing with the energy of everyone around you and many of those are also feeling overwhelmed.

Kids are getting really excited. There are fewer daylight hours and more illness is going around. Feeling tired and worn down right now should be expected.

You may find yourself talking a lot about how stressed you are.

But what if you chose to shift your perspective? What if you accepted that these next couple months will be more packed with things to do and actually embraced it? You can use stress as a motivator. Try to approach these months with the excitement of a child but the knowledge of time management and self care of an adult. Are you asking how you could possibly do that? I figured.

First, write down everything you think you want or need to get done. Take a look at it, take a deep breath, and determine which things you feel are essential. Cross off nonessentials. (Trust me, this feels great.) Next, determine what is most important for you and your family and put those at the top of your list. Maybe it is decorating together, attending a play, seeing family, whatever. 

Make sure to schedule downtime, time for spontaneous activities, and time for self care. This helps everyone feel more calm and happy. Accept that not everyone will be happy all the time and nothing will be perfect (including you). Embrace that. Some of the most amazing moments in life are the really messy unplanned ones. 

Keep in mind your list is an organic, fluid entity. Creating this loose framework will help you stay grounded and focused, so that simple or unexpected tasks don’t become large and unmanageable. Ask for help. Loved ones enjoy helping and being part of something. Some like to plan, some enjoy decorating, some shopping. Things are more fun and fulfilling when you do them together. They may also bring a new perspective or suggest new and even better ways to complete tasks. Embrace that also. This small step of creating a list won’t take much time but will save you a ton of time in the long run.

Don’t forget self care. This is important. Determine how often you need to take an hour for yourself to regroup. Take this time to unplug so you don’t get sucked into reading that other people are doing even more things during these months, making you feel like you need to add more to your list. You don’t. You are doing great!

There are many things you can do to take care of yourself. My favorite is acupuncture. Acupuncture treatments give you the chance to sit still for an hour in a quiet, relaxing space. That is healing on its own. In addition, acupuncture helps to balance the body’s organ systems, improve immune function, calm the mind, and increase the quality of your sleep. Most people walk in feeling anxious, irritable, and exhausted, but leave feeling calm, happy, and knowing if they need to stop and rest the remainder of the day or if they can head out and do a few more tasks. It really does bring that type of clarity. The best part is you don’t have to do anything other than show up. 

So, during this holiday season make sure to take some time to prioritize what is most important for you and your family. Give yourself a break. Know it will still get stressful and messy at times. Remember to breathe and enjoy yourself. And take time to care for yourself. It will be the best present you’ll ever receive.

Susan Johnston, L.Ac., is as an acupuncturist at Milwaukee Community Acupuncture, a local clinic dedicated to providing affordable
and accessible acupuncture to those in the
community and beyond. For more information about Milwaukee Community Acupuncture, please visit

Disclaimer: The information provided in this column is for educational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or care.

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