Shanina Carmichael encourages us all to take time to honestly assess our stress levels during this holiday season, acquire a unique self-care plan and adjust our gears effectively to reduce resistance as needed. Photo by Max Van Den from Unsplash

My Self-Care Plan to Manage Holiday Stress: Shift Gears, Reduce Resistance

I wanted to write a piece about managing stress during the holidays, but my emotions, ailments and family needs snowballed, causing me to question my ability to write about something I was flailing through myself. Truth is, I was barely keeping my head above water with a regular routine, but my self-care plan helped me through.

I was standing on a manageable edge, but additional demands of the holidays threatened to push me over the cliff. The snowball effect of school spirit days, drives, holiday school closures, travel planning, and holiday shopping compounded with my seasonal mood challenges and felt like the creation of an avalanche. As a result, my body shut down with soul-shaking lethargy.

For several days in a row, my body demanded rest, and I hesitantly gave in. My anxiety grew as  my to-do list grew. Anxiety set in so tough that one morning it took hours to calm my body down. Grateful for tools, I breathed deeply, journaled and took a bike ride. During that ride, the universe delivered a beautiful message.

Shift Gears to Reduce Resistance

Months ago, I bought a used bike from a true bicycle lover. She was explaining all of the ways the bike was designed to take care of me, and requested that I in return take care of the bike. What was important during this conversation was her explanation of the gear system. She mentioned the gears saying that when you’re riding up a hill you can change the gears to “1” to reduce the resistance because going up a hill is hard enough. I stored that piece of information because I thought it would be good to know.


Fast forward to me bike riding to ease my holiday anxiety—I hit a hill with my resistance on 3, the highest setting. My thighs were burning so I thought to switch the gears to lower my resistance. That significantly reduced the strain I felt. This experience was like a message from God.

“I encourage us to assess each day of this holiday season honestly, and adjust our gears,” Shanina Carmichael writes. “Know that every day in every way, you are enough.” Photo by Shanina Carmichael

Parts of the holidays are uphill climbs, so some days we will have to turn down our resistance until we make it to level ground. It is crucial to know our personal landscape before we start pedaling in the wrong gear. We have to be willing to wake up and assess: Are we climbing uphill or on level ground? Does my physical or emotional state require reduced resistance or increased intensity?

On uphill days, resistance is not our friend—added stress such as another chore, another elaborate dinner, that extra trip with the kids keeps you at gear 3 while climbing a hill. These are the days that take out, cereal and electronics are your saving grace because they allow you to nap and rejuvenate enough to possibly switch gears tomorrow. We must allow ourselves room for imperfection without judgement. These are the days you ask yourself what is absolutely necessary and what can wait until tomorrow. Is this school spirit day more important than my peace? No, so go to bed, sis.

These duties and obligations won’t likely dissolve as you rest, but tomorrow may be a different type of day. There may be a different kind of terrain, a smooth one, more conducive for switching your gears. One where your legs, your heart and your mind can tolerate the push of gear 3. But if tomorrow is another low-resistance day, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Scan your mind for people who might be able to help you push your bike up the hill, someone willing to help you carry the load—a friend, family member, partner, co-parent or program.

I encourage us all to assess each day of this holiday season honestly, and adjust our gears. Know that every day in every way, you are enough. Your efforts are enough. Everything that needs to get done will get done, and everything that doesn’t will not. Our journeys are uniquely perfect, and we have everything we need in life or we wouldn’t be here.

Remember that you are not alone in this. From my family to yours, I wish you a beautiful holiday season!

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and factcheck information to [email protected] We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.

Can you support the Mississippi Free Press?

 The Mississippi Free Press is nonprofit, solutions-driven journalism for Mississippians and others who care about the state. 

With your help, we can do even more important stories like this one.