7 Tips to Beat Holiday Stress
The holidays are fast approaching, and you know what that means-- Food, family, friends, and… STRESS. With the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of us weren’t able to spend our holidays with family as we normally would last year. But with vaccinations being available now, you may be looking forward to hosting a small family gathering with a holiday celebration that outshines any before it. Or maybe that’s just me…
Either way, it means not only will you deal with normal holiday stress, you may also feel pressure to make this year’s events even more special. It’s an unfortunate truth that as wonderful as the holiday season may be, it often comes with a healthy (and sometimes not so healthy) dose of stress. It’s to be expected, but if you’re not careful to keep it in check, it can ruin your holiday festivities, make you dread the holidays in the future, and, in the most unfortunate cases, lead to long-term mental health issues.
Stress is a natural response the mind and body has when it feels the demands placed on it are more than it can handle. And it happens to all of us. So why is it the holidays seem to kick the stress factor up a notch? Well, it’s because you suddenly have multiple “new” demands placed on you. Any one of these demands alone may not be such a big deal, but when you compound them with all the other holiday requirements at once, you suddenly have the recipe for a stress cocktail.
Speaking of recipes, for example, you may not feel stressed out about cooking for your family on a regular day to day basis, but if you’re cooking for a larger holiday crowd you might start to feel some pressure. Now, just for fun, let’s add in the fact that you need to clean your house so no one will know how you really live, you need to get some festive decorations up and you’re trying to master a traditional family recipe. Any one of these things may not normally give you pause. However, when you throw them all together… Some of the same activities you do every day, but now they’re causing stress.
My extended family comes to my house for Christmas dinner every year. This tradition originally started because our first year here, my hubby couldn’t leave the area during the holidays due to military orders-- it was kinda like being on-call for a doctor. He had to stay within a certain distance to the unit, so holiday travel was out. So, we decided to host dinner at our house that year so we could still spend time together with the family. And eight years later, we’re still hosting! So I know a little bit about holiday stress and I think I’ve finally cracked the code on how to manage.
So how do you manage your holiday to-do list and still enjoy a stress-free holiday? Start by checking out my tips below!
1. The early bird catches the worm: This is something that I am personally implementing this year, which is why I’m posting this blog in the first week of November. I realized the reason I was so stressed wasn’t just about not having enough time to do the things that I had to do. I was frustrated because I never seemed to have enough time to do the things I wanted to do. You know, the fun stuff like gingerbread houses, holiday movies, and Christmas caroling. Who has time for that when you have to buy and wrap gifts, prepare huge holiday meals, go to the ugly sweater party your spouse’s job is hosting, attend all the holiday plays and Christmas recitals your kiddos are in and still continue living your everyday life, which for many of us includes full-time jobs? I’m exhausted just thinking about it! So, instead of trying to cram everything into a short span of time, extend your holiday season. I started wrapping gifts on November 1st this year. I’ll be done well before Thanksgiving. I’m also going to decorate my house earlier this year. That way I can actually enjoy the process. And who doesn’t want to enjoy holiday cheer a bit longer? This means I can focus all my attention on the fun things I love to do around the holidays stress-free.
2. Get organized: So, you know you’ll be starting your holiday preparations earlier this year, now it’s time to get organized. Oftentimes, we feel overwhelmed because we know we have a lot to do, but we aren’t clear on what all the tasks actually are. This can lead to us building up a vague to-do list in our minds that seems like a mountain that needs to be conquered. What’s worse, not getting organized often leads to procrastination, one of the leading causes of stress (at least for me anyway). When we don’t know exactly what we need to do, we tend to put it off. So, carve out some time, sit down, and make a list of all the things you want/need to get done for the holidays.
3. Learn to prioritize: Now that you have your master to do list, begin to prioritize what absolutely needs to be done and in what order. This year, I’ve decided I want to have time to focus more on fun holiday traditions. That means I need to get all my shopping and gift wrapping out the way early. I’m someone that always starts shopping in September anyway, but that’s really more of a budgeting thing than a planning thing. So, I’m prioritizing doing the things that aren’t quite as enjoyable when compared to snuggling with my family on the couch watching Home Alone (parts 1 and 2). Getting them out the way early gives my mind the mental space I need to enjoy family time. I’m also hosting dinner for my family, so at some point I’ll need to make the menu and do the grocery shopping, but that task can wait until closer to the day of. That can be moved lower on the priority list.
4. Trim the fat: For some reason, this time of year makes us want to turn into some type of holiday superhero, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound (or maybe just tackle every single holiday task and tradition ever created). But the truth is, we can’t do all the things. Going back to the to-do list you made when you sat down and got organized, you now need to go through the task you didn’t mark as a priority and see what you can simply take off the list. Be extremely realistic with yourself. Not everything on your list is going to get done, so make the decision up front of what to cut out. This gives you control of what’s going on, which is great, because the sense of a lack of control is a huge contributing factor to stress. But hopefully, using these tips will help you get through more of your list than usual!
5. Make it fun: Even though there are things you may need to get done for the holidays that you don’t love doing, that doesn’t mean it has to be a chore. After all, the holidays are meant to be fun. So try to inject fun into those more mundane activities. For me, that meant having the hubby build me a gift wrapping station. I now have a dedicated space to wrap and store presents until we put up the tree. I picked out fun wrapping paper and ribbon, along with fun and helpful tools that I always struggle to remember where I left them. Now they all have a home. And since I’ve started wrapping gifts early this year, I can just stop when I get tired of doing it because I still have weeks to finish. This helps to keep the fun in gift wrapping for me.
6. Take a shortcut: Remember how I said I still need to make the menu and go grocery shopping? I’ll be taking a shortcut and ordering groceries online. I’ve ordered most of my gifts that way too. This way I can avoid the crowds and work on something else during the time that I would be at the grocery store or mall. And don’t tell my family (or do, because I don’t think they’ll mind), but I plan on finding and taking as many shortcuts as possible with dinner as well. So, not everything will be made from scratch, but it’ll still taste yummy and I’ll actually be able to enjoy more time with my family! And those gifts I’m wrapping? I'm utilizing lots of gift bags, because it cuts down on the time needed for wrapping gifts. Which means more time for fitting in some Christmas movies with the hubby and munchkin!
7. Cut yourself some slack: Again, we’re not holiday superheroes, only mere mortals. If you can’t do everything you wanted, including buying the kiddos everything on their wish list, give yourself a break. While the holidays may have become skewed by shopping lists and to-do lists and living up to family tradition expectations, what’s really important is the love behind it all. Make the conscious effort to not allow the whirlwind of the holiday season to cause you to lose focus on what it’s really all about. If you couldn’t afford that gift this holiday, get it for them sometime in the following year. Bonus points if it’s a surprise on a random day! Think of how special it’ll be to them then. Don’t think you’ll be able to put up all the decorations? No big deal! It’s better to feel festive than to look festive.
So, I hope these 7 tips are helpful in helping you tame that holiday stress and get back to enjoying the time with family and friends!
What do you do to keep calm during the holidays? Let me know in the comments below!
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