It’s time we all admitted it: The holidays are stressful. The average American spends about 42 hours on holiday activities. Money concerns and hectic schedules are typically the top sources of stress.
This time of year is truly magical. From Thanksgiving to Christmas and New Year’s, we spend time with family and friends, making delicious treats, listening to seasonal music and enjoying the spirit of the holidays.
Then, why does it make us so crazy? For most of us, we want the holidays to be perfect. We want to impress our families or make magical memories for our kids. Yet, if we turn into a screaming shrew while trying to decorate the tree and fix holiday dishes, it definitely takes some of the joy out of the holidays.
Here are 12 tips to help you manage your stress and create a truly enjoyable holiday season:
Lower your expectations
For those of us who tend to be perfectionists, we are stressed all year round. We set expectations for ourselves – and those around us – that are so high that it’s unrealistic they will be met. Then, we feel like we failed and become more anxious and stressed. The holidays only amplify these feelings.
What can you do? Lower your expectations and focus on what is realistic. Think about what really matters and simplify your to-do list. You will be able to accomplish what you want without sacrificing your sanity.
Take a breath and “let it go”
When you feel your mind is racing and things are out of control, take a deep breath and let it go. Focus on your breathing. Stop what you’re doing, close your eyes and concentrate on breathing in and out until you feel more relaxed. Let go of the things you cannot control and ask yourself if the things you’re stressing about really matter in the grand scheme of life. Most likely, they probably don’t.
Delegate part of your list
Another way to lower your stress level is to delegate part of your to-do list. You don’t have to do everything by yourself. You can delegate your house cleaning to a cleaning service. You can give everyone in your family a holiday job, such as putting lights on the house, wrapping presents or addressing holiday cards.
Get a handle on your finances
One of the most stressful parts of the holidays can be worrying about money. Your job situation may have changed and money may be tighter than normal. Doing everything you want during the holidays can put a strain on your budget. Set a shopping budget – know who you’re buying for and how much you want to spend on each person. Also, plan for extra groceries, decorations and travel expenses. If your budget is really tight, consider making homemade gifts. When you receive a handcrafted gift, you know it comes from the heart and it often means more.
Learn to say no
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it may be time to exercise your right to say no. People will understand if you can’t participate in every project and activity. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and anxious.
Switch up your traditions
You used to take the kids caroling and then watch old holiday movies. Now, no one wants to do it with you. You may need to make adjustments to your holiday traditions as time goes by. It’s not about the event itself, but spending time with your family and making new memories. Drop the stressful family traditions and do something simple, like having hot chocolate and waffles while you decorate the tree.
Family misunderstandings and conflicts are only magnified during the holidays. Think of some ways you can head off any bad feelings or disagreements before they go too far. If you have house guests, consider planning time for you or them to be out of the house for a few hours. You can go to yoga class or take a walk around the neighborhood. Your guests might be able to visit other relatives or go see a movie.
Give yourself a break
It’s important to take time for yourself during the holidays. Block out a couple of hours every few days to rest or do something you enjoy. Treat yourself to a massage or manicure. Take a bubble bath with scented candles or read a book.
Food is a big part of the holiday season. Make sure you are eating foods that help decrease stress. You can improve your mood and energy level with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dark leafy greens, beans, fish and nuts.
Enjoy your exercise
Find a physical activity that will help you clear your mind and energize your body, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Dance around the living room to holiday music with your kids, play sports-related video games or do kickboxing. Go outside for a walk and soak up the sunshine.
Call a friend
If you’re feeling stressed out, call a friend to vent. Your friends can help you feel better and relate to your problems. Just be sure to return the favor and listen to their holiday woes.
Go to bed
While you may feel like you need to deprive yourself of sleep to get more done, lack of sleep can turn into a vicious cycle. The less you sleep, the more tired, out of sorts and overwhelmed you feel. Try to get 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. If you don’t get things done, it can wait until tomorrow or not get done at all. You may need to adjust your expectations so that you can stay rested and healthy.
By planning ahead and preparing for the chaos of the holidays, you can keep your stress under control. Make it a point to manage your stress and enjoy the holiday season.