The holidays are supposed to be a time of great joy, but they can also be a time of a ridiculous amount of stress. All the parties, gift shopping and family visits can be overwhelming, compounded by the normal stress of your regular, day-to-day activities. If holiday stress has become a major downer for you over the years, here are 10 tips that may help.
1. Set Aside Time For Yourself
Whether it's setting aside a day to go to the spa, or for a leisure round of golf, make sure that you are giving yourself ample time to rest and recuperate to avoid holiday stress. It may seem like your schedule won't allow it, but not allowing yourself some time to remove yourself from the stresses of the holidays will drive you crazy and may even limit your productivity. Take at least 30 minutes out of your day for yourself, even if it's just to sip on some tea, watch some television, workout or to meditate.
Setting priorities is critical to reducing stress. This gives someone an order in which things need to get done, essentially providing a road map. Prioritize everything from house cleaning activities in preparation for out-of-town guests to holiday party invitations. For those who have a lot on their plate, multiple prioritized lists and calendars can be put in a binder so that it's easily accessible. Likewise computer software can be used to prioritize task lists and schedules.
During stressful times, especially around the holidays, people often forget to take care of themselves. Things like eating right, exercising and getting plenty of rest seem to fall by the wayside in favor of taking care of others and trying to meet the expectations, whether real or perceived, held by others. But it's important to remember that if you don't take care of yourself first, you can't take care of others. If other commitments have become so overwhelming that self-care is neglected, it's time to check your priorities for the sake of reducing holiday stress before you suffer a nervous breakdown.
High ranking military officers and powerful executives know the importance of delegation, so why not follow suit? Delegating tasks to other family members can help reduce stress by reducing the workload on one person, which is usually on the parents. Everyone in the family, including the kids, can pitch in with the cleaning and even some of the cooking if that needs to be done, because as the saying goes, "Many hands make light work."
5. Party Right
There is nothing wrong with having some fun over the holidays, but it's important to party right. Excess carbohydrates and alcohol might feel good at the time, but the crash will inevitably come later, making the stresses of the season even worse because someone is physically ill. Tying one on once or twice a year, is fine, just make prudent decisions. Remember that good friends and good food are just as much fun as an all night bender, and no one has to worry about the photos ending up online after the fact.
6. Don't Overspend
There is perhaps nothing more stressful than debt. By planning accordingly and shopping early, people can avoid a lot of frustration and overspending that often accompanies the holidays. It's important to prioritize gift giving based on a budget and stick to it. It's better to cut back on gifts than to spend years stressing about paying off credit cards with high interest rates. Remember that the holidays are about being with family, not about giving the best gifts.
7. Take Control
It's unfortunate, but often extended family is one of the biggest contributors to holiday stress. It can feel like being pulled in a hundred different directions at once and trying to meet everyone's expectations can be extremely stressful. The only way to stop this is to take control. The choices of which relatives to visit and which events to attend are individual choices, and people shouldn't feel obligated to do everything. Likewise, they shouldn't feel obligated to do anything at all if they don't feel like it or can't make it fit into their schedule.
8. Set Boundaries
Many a parent knows the dread of walking into a store during the Christmas season and hearing "I want...." or being invited to the office Christmas party on the same day as the school pageant. The keyword here is "no." While there is no need to be rude, it is perfectly fine to refuse to do something in favor of doing something else that is more important. Again, prioritizing is key.
Boundaries are also a must with children and gifts. As parents, it's natural to want to give children everything under the sun, but that is usually not possible, and trying to do that will just drive you crazy. By setting boundaries and sticking to them, children can learn a deep set of values that can be a much more valuable gift that they will need later in life.
9. Give Back
According to the American Psychological Association, connections with other people are important, and one of the best ways to reduce stress and connect with people is to give back to the community in some way. Whether it's volunteering at a soup kitchen or visiting people in nursing homes, doing something to help others can reduce stress. It also teaches children the value of helping others, another lesson that they will find useful later in life.
Finally, it's important to consider the holidays in the long term perspective. Children also need to be taught to keep everything in perspective, especially their gift expectations. The holidays are a very brief time of the year and should be about being together as a family, not who gets the greatest number or most expensive gifts. So relax and enjoy the time with family and friends. Everything else is just needless worry.