Many people look forward to the holidays because of the festivities – food, entertainment and coordinating schedules to attend events. Many people dread the holidays for the same reason. Yes, Christmas shopping and family gatherings can be incredibly stressful.
But with a few simple steps, you can make your holidays less stressful and more enjoyable.
Acknowledge the Stress
One of the most important steps is simply recognizing that stress is a problem. It’s a normal, natural thing for many adults to experience around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and being aware of the stress and where it stems from will help you take steps to avoid it.
It’s important to keep your expectations realistic for the holidays, too. Not every holiday event has to look like a Hallmark card or Norman Rockwell painting, and not every year has to be exactly the same. Or uniquely different.
If you find yourself with too many things on your holiday to-do list, consider paring back. It’s better to attend or host a few small events that you actually enjoy rather than spending your holidays stressing out over too much work.
Christmas comes on the same day every year. If you find yourself rushing around too much at the last minute, get out a pen and mark your calendar with specific dates to do your baking, shopping, visiting friends and family, and so on. Be sure you set aside time for preparation and clean-up of holiday events, too.
Budgeting can be a big part of the planning process. You should decide on a dollar amount for every holiday category — food, shopping, entertainment and charity — and stick to it. Giving at Christmastime should be a source of joy, not a source of stress, and budgeting for it ahead of time can help reduce your anxiety over money.
Focus on You
The holiday spirit is all about helping other people, and that can be a good thing. But if you give so much that it’s detrimental to your own health, that can mean trouble.
Make sure you don’t stop paying attention to your own healthy habits. You should continue eating healthily, exercising and getting plenty of rest.
If you occasionally overindulge on food during the holidays, that’s OK, but making it a regular thing can add considerably to your stress levels. Consuming healthy foods will keep you feeling better about yourself.
It’s also a good idea to schedule some “me” time. Block off some mornings or nights to do something that you find relaxing — watching the sunrise, reading a book, going to a movie — whatever helps you stay calm and sane at the busiest time of year.
Spending time with your family is a big part of the holiday season, but you need to work on managing expectations if you find family is becoming a source of your holiday stress.
Don’t overcommit. There’s nothing wrong with simplifying or reducing your annual traditions. Talk with your family about what’s most important to you all and focus on those few things. There’s a good chance other family members will appreciate the chance to de-stress, too.
Communication is an important part of that. Make sure other family members know your holiday commitments so they have realistic expectations for your time and energy. And make sure you schedule some time to relax and recover from family gatherings.