Wishing you a happy, stress-free holiday

Tanja Shaw offers a simple exercise to make your holiday to-do list more manageable and give yourself permission to relax a little.

Tanja Shaw offers a simple exercise to make your holiday to-do list more manageable and give yourself permission to relax a little.

Christmas is less than a month away, are you excited?  Or are you a wee bit stressed?

With the exception of those who still believe in Santa Claus, most people seem to err on the side of ‘feeling stressed’ around the holidays.  Small talk about the weather (we like talking about the weather in Chilliwack) is replaced with “Are you ready for Christmas?”

So what does, “being ready” really mean?  Does it mean preparing brilliant Christmas entertaining platters, getting that perfect gift for the ‘hard to buy’ people on your list, celebrating the season with a new glittery outfit, baking all 12 family favourite Christmas cookies, preparing the perfect, plump turkey (on one or more occasion) and yes, sticking to your workout and diet regime?

I think this time of year is wonderful, but if you fall into the holiday trap of trying to do everything for everyone, it can also be incredibly stressful.  If you love doing all the Christmas-y activities, and feel like it’s very manageable, then go ahead and enjoy it.  However, if you feel overwhelmed with all that needs to be done, know that you don’t have to do it all.  Do this simple exercise to make your holiday to-do list more manageable and give yourself permission to relax a little.

The exercise is called a brain dump.  This version is geared toward the holidays, but you can do it anytime of the year.  I do, and it’s wonderful!  Here’s how it goes:

•    Write a list of all the tasks and activities you need to do around the holidays.  Separate the tasks into a ‘daily list’ (things you do daily such as preparing meals, work, spending time with family, commuting, workouts, etc.).  Create a weekly list (things you do 1-2 times per week) and a ‘one-off’ list (things you will likely only need to do only a few times, such as holiday shopping, writing Christmas cards, preparing holiday meals, decorating, holiday parties, baking, etc.).

•    Allot an amount of time to each activity.

•    Now you’re ready for the fun part.  Place a star beside all the tasks that are important to you, that you enjoy doing.  Be honest- do you really have to do everything on your list?  Do you really need to bake 12 different kinds of cookies?  Will your family really suffer? If you really want to attend all the Christmas parties you’ve been invited to, then great!  But if you really don’t want to go to a few, it’s not ‘star-worthy’.

•    Now ask, can you ‘simplify any of the starred activities?  If you need to spend an entire day preparing a holiday meal (and don’t truly enjoy it), are there ways to simplify the task?  Can you get help?  Block time in your calendar to do the star-worthy activities.  Maybe you’ll decide to go Christmas shopping next weekend, or go grocery shopping for the big day on the 23rd.

•    For everything that is not starred, you get to delegate or dump the task.  Again, be honest.  If you don’t need to do something (for example, someone else is capable of doing the task), delegate it.  No one to delegate it to?  Then dump it.

This holiday season, I hope you can enjoy the time spent with loved ones rather than worrying about how you are going to tackle your ‘to-do’ list.  Focus on the things you like to do, and have a relaxing, stress-free holiday season.


Tanja Shaw is the owner of Ascend Fitness Inc., a private training studio.  Tanja and her team of expert fitness professionals work to inspire and educate Chilliwack residents to make positive and power changes in their lives through physical fitness and sound nutrition.  For more fitness tips go to www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com.

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