Now that we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving, it means we’ve already kicked off the winter holiday extravaganza here in the United States. Holiday displays and shopping opportunities have been up since before Halloween. The continuous holiday carols, light displays, and commercials are enough to drive anyone to distraction.
All of the constant stimulation revolving around the winter holidays can cause stress. People are worried about work and family commitments, attending events, and buying the perfect gifts. According to Prevention.com there are a number of things that cause people in the U.S. to become stressed over the holidays.
- Big crowds and lines
- Weight gain
- Debt from holiday spending
- Not getting along with family
- Holiday music
- Attending parties and events
Holiday stress tends to disproportionately affect women who are struggling to do it all. Often faced with a delicate balancing act between work and family, even during the rest of the year, the added burdens of ensuring a perfect holiday can be overwhelming.
But the holidays don’t need to be mired in stress, anger, or anxiety. By shifting the focus and mindset, the holidays can become a time to relax with friends and family and recharge during the long nights of winter.
To reduce holiday stress, you should practice the following.
1. Be in the moment
People who feel stressed around the holidays are also more likely to experience stress other times of the year. It is important to separate the actual holiday from the feelings you have. Rather than focusing on the past or fretting about the future, try to spend more time in the present.
2. Take ownership
Often the reason for added stress around the holidays is the incessant need to please everyone. You have obligations to parents and grandparents on both sides of the family. You want to make sure your kids get everything they’ve asked for. Friends throw parties and even your office will have holiday events. Rather than saying yes to everything, take some time to figure out the things you really want to do and focus only on those. Feel free to say no and create a holiday that you and your immediate family can enjoy.
3. Involve the whole household
You want to get everything right but you simply can’t do it all. Instead, make sure everyone in your home has their own list of jobs to do to help with the planning and execution of a stress-free holiday event. Kids love to help and even little ones are capable of a number of small tasks. Husbands and wives or partners should be willing to help each other out with anything that is necessary.
4. Take focus away from gifts
People who spend more time worrying about getting the right gift or spending enough money are less likely to report feelings of being in the holiday spirit. Gift giving is great if it is something that makes you feel good but as soon as it becomes too stressful it should take a back seat. Instead of trying to buy everything for everyone try drawing names from a hat and only buying a gift for one family member.
5. Play games
The most important thing to focus on during the holidays is your connection to your family. Playing games is a great way to get everyone involved. It also engages people more than just eating or opening gifts. You can pull out family favorite board or card games or you could create a scavenger hunt, trivia night, or something more creative.
6. Take a break from anger
Many people are stressed around the holidays because they will have to face uncomfortable situations that they would rather avoid. Family feuds are not uncommon but can make the holidays painful. There are expectations of behaviors and bad feelings that can fester. Before the holiday gathering, take time to talk to the person with whom you disagree, if you feel comfortable doing so. Ask them to call a truce just for the event so everyone can be stress free and have a good time.
7. Create fun family traditions
Decorate your house, make cookies, tell stories by the fire; anything that relaxes the whole family and puts the focus on the spirit of the holidays rather than the consumerist ideals we’ve come to expect. Spend time together sipping hot cocoa and talking about all the reasons you love the winter holidays just to relax and take time out of the busy schedule.
8. Don’t give up your typical stress-relieving routines
The holidays make us want to rush around making more commitments. This often means that our regular routines get out of balance. We have a hard time eating right or exercising when we feel we have to do everything. Make a schedule and don’t give up your weekly yoga class. While avoiding holiday eating can be difficult, make a commitment to healthy food when you’re between parties.
9. Give to others
Volunteering and charity actually makes us feel better. The holidays are a time when many people in the community feel more vulnerable. Make helping and giving to others a priority for your holiday season. It is also a great lesson for kids and will help you better understand the meaning of the holiday spirit.
10. Focus on joy
The primary take away for being able to enjoy your holidays with relatively low stress is to focus on the joy of the season. Make a plan for joy by deciding what is most important to you and letting go of the things that don’t work. Recognize that failure happens sometimes and what is most important is what we do with the lessons we’ve learned from it. Also know that you’re not being selfish by wanting what is important to you or focusing on keeping yourself healthy and happy during the holiday season. Winter will turn to spring again and the holidays will come around once a year whether we want them to or not so we don’t need to make sure every single year is picture perfect.
How can you reduce your stress this holiday season?