Let’s face it. As much as we’d like to believe the holidays are a fun and joyous time for all, it’s usually the most stressful time of the year for many.
It can bring out the worst in the best of us.
The holiday season adds to your already busy schedule with shopping, parties, decorating, dinner planning, spending money you don’t have, and dealing with crazy family. Ugh! Just writing that is exhausting! But enough with the Bah Humbug. Here are some tips to take the stress out, and bring the jolly back into “the happiest time of the year.”
1. Let go of Perfectionism – If you’re anything like my family Christmas isn’t Christmas unless the decorations are flawless, everyone gets the perfect gift, and the appetizers are perfectly lined up on perfectly polished silver trays. As much as we appreciate all the work that’s put into it, this leads to pulling out hair and quite a few squabbles. Stop obsessing over the little details. No one is going to care or remember if the house is a little dusty, or if you didn’t make that extra dessert.
2. Accept Change – Don’t try to force tradition. Things change as families grow and children grow up. Accept that some family traditions may not work anymore, or that it may be time to incorporate some new ones.
3. Stick to a Budget – Be realistic about what you can afford. Don’t try to buy happiness with gifts, especially if your not in the financial position to do so. Nothing causes more stress than debt, and Christmas debt-stress can carry on well into the new year.
4. Get Creative – If your looking to save a few bucks look for creative alternatives to gifts like baking treats or self-made coupons (babysitting your sister’s kids, or a back massage for your mate). Research shows that one is more likely to achieve sustained happiness with memorable activities over material things. So, why not schedule a fun outing for the whole family rather than buying gifts this year?
5. Write it Out – Make a schedule for shopping, baking, and visits. Writing it down will show you in black and white if your plans are realistic or not. Make sure to schedule in some “Me Time” for you to rest and unwind. Plan out meals ahead of time and make shopping lists.
6. Simplify – If it doesn’t fit into the schedule learn to say no. Don’t sacrifice your “me time” for an extra outing. If it is a must, try to cancel something else that isn’t as important. DON’T add on! Friends understand that the holidays can be overwhelming. Schedule a date with them after the rush dies down. They may even thank you for it!
Simplify tasks too: send out Christmas emails instead of cards. Avoid the mall craziness and shop online –> The gifts show up at your door! Sounds good doesn’t it. 🙂
7. Holidays Don’t = Free for All – I know things are hectic, but that doesn’t mean you should set aside healthy eating habits, proper sleep, and exercise. Don’t use the holidays as an excuse to pig out or drink too much. Trust me, you’ll hate yourself for it. It only leads to more stress, weight gain, and embarrassment. In addition, research found that exercise can boost your mood for up to 12 hours. So if you’re feeling a little Grinchy just exercise it away!
8. Think positive – Try to focus on what the holidays are really about – family time, togetherness, and love! If you feel negative thoughts taking over, stop, breathe, and instantly try to replace them with something you’re grateful for. If you’re dealing with difficult relatives try to accept them the way they are instead of getting frustrated about how they “should” behave. Put aside ongoing feuds till after the holidays. If you must, it’s okay to limit your interaction and time with difficult people to spare yourself. Know your limits. Kindly excuse yourself, and move on.
9. Stomp Out Loneliness – If you are one of the many who doesn’t have family to celebrate with, don’t get yourself in a funk. Friends can be the family you always wanted! Most people are so caught up in their own thing during the holidays, so don’t be afraid to mention that you’re alone, or invite them over to your place. If you can’t find anyone to hang with why not volunteer? Studies have shown that helping others helps one to feel better about themselves. *If you’re really depressed you don’t have to fight it alone. Please seek professional help.
10. Breathe and Relax – To relax tense muscles try tensing each large muscle group one at a time for a count of 10, and then releasing. Start with your feet and work your way up. To relax your mind and body try deep breathing. Lie on your back with your eyes closed. Concentrate on your breath and breathe slowly through your nose and into your belly. It should take at least a count of 10 to fill your belly. Hold it for a couple of seconds and then release the air for a count of 10 through your mouth, making sure to empty your lungs. Repeat the process 10 times.
The good thing about holiday stress is that unlike other stressors we can see it coming, and therefore plan for it. Remember, it’s easier to prevent stress than to have to come out of it, so start working on it before the stress is even triggered. Follow these 10 tips and you’ll be sure to have a merrier holiday.
BONUS TIP: Sniff your Christmas tree! That’s right, you heard me! Research shows that the smell of pine relaxes the mind and improves mood. So stick your nose in it!
Resources: psychcentral, mayoclinic, webMD, USAtoday