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12 Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

christmas-lights-1435376-mIt’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.

Practice peacemaking
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.

Eat well
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.

9 tips to surviving holiday relationship stress

Holiday table relationshp stressI love the holidays – that magical time from Thanksgiving to New Years. At the same time, a little part of me dreads the holiday season.

It can be one of the most stressful times of year, especially when it comes to our relationships. We have more tasks to get done, we’re pulled in multiple directions, we want to make everything perfect, and we tend to lash out at those closest to us.

Here are 9 tips to make sure you maintain healthy relationships and have an enjoyable holiday season this year:

Have realistic expectations
The biggest mistake many of us make is wanting to have everything perfect and create the best holiday ever. Whether it’s the food, the decorations or the holiday gifts, you probably have something that is your favorite part of the season. I have a friend who puts up eight Christmas trees in her house every year. My mother enjoys cooking the holiday meals for our family.

If it’s something you enjoy doing, then keep up the tradition. If you find yourself stressed out and snapping at everyone, then it may be time to tone it down. More than likely, your family doesn’t care about it nearly as much as you do. They would be happy with less extravagance if it means you are able to fully enjoy the holiday season.

Ask for help
I am a control freak. I am the worst at asking for help when I get overwhelmed by all the things I need to accomplish. Your family and friends would rather help you than see you stressed. You can actually spend quality time with friends and relatives by asking them to pitch in with holiday traditions. Kids especially like to feel they are part of the festivities. You may even be able to create new traditions.

Say thank you
When you’re in “get it all done” mode, you may forget to show others your appreciation. Go out of your way to thank your spouse, kids, family members and friends when they do something for you. You may assume they know they are appreciated, but it’s always nice to hear “thank you.”

Set your priorities
Decide what is most important to you. I used to make handmade Christmas cards to send to family and friends. I loved creating the card design and putting them together. I would get together with friends, and we would visit and work on our cards. At some point, I began to dread doing my holiday cards. The stress of getting the cards done outweighed the joy of sending cards, so I stopped doing it.

You have to prioritize what is most important to you and make sure you have the time to do it all. If you don’t, then cut back. Your spouse and children will be much happier about living in the same house with you.

Divide and conquer
During the holiday season, we have more events to attend. You may have work commitments, gatherings with friends, and family festivities. On top of that, you and your partner may not necessarily like attending each other’s events. Your spouse may have an annual party with his old college friends, and you may like to trim the tree at your grandparents’ house. It’s okay to go to events by yourself if it will eliminate relationship stress. Or, you can take separate cars so that one of you can leave earlier.

Make family time count
It’s so easy to get caught up in running everywhere and fitting in as many activities as possible. You may forget to include some downtime into your schedule. Plan an evening to hang out at home watching movies with popcorn and candy. Go out to eat and give the cook a break. Have family game night. Your family should know they are the most important part of the holiday season.

Learn to say no
It’s hard for many of us to say “no,” especially during the holiday season. You feel like you’re a bad person if you don’t help out with the annual office party, neighborhood charity event or holiday program at your kids’ school. You can say no. Think about your priorities and decide what you can do without sacrificing quality time with your family and your own happiness. If you feel anxiety instead of joy and excitement, then politely decline.

Spend time with friends
Our friends can give us a reality check. Set aside time to hang out with your good friends during the holiday season. Not only is it fun, but they will also be honest with you and help you decide what matters and what to let go. And, spending time with friends is just good for your health.

Give yourself a break
If you start to feel overwhelmed by your to-do list and responsibilities, give yourself a break. Set aside some time to do something you enjoy. You can take a walk, go for a drive, window shop or play with your kids. Just give yourself a break so that you can relax and recharge.

The stress of the holiday season can strain our relationships. Cut yourself some slack and remember to take the time to balance your commitments with maintaining healthy relationships with your family and friends.