When you hear the word “stress,” do you automatically associate it with something negative? Many people are surprised to learn that both negative and positive experiences produce stress. Stress is just a response to change, whether the change is good or bad, welcome or unwelcome. Every life situation that requires us to change or adapt creates stress.
While the holiday season is certainly one of the good stresses in life, it can feel like—or become—a bad stress if we overdo it. During such a busy time of year, we can all use a few ideas for reducing holiday stress. Here are six practical holiday stress-busters:
- Plan ahead. The trick to avoiding the exhaustion and stress of “holiday overload” is planning ahead. Before your schedule gets crazy, pour yourself a cup of coffee, relax, and take a little time to objectively think and plan. By planning ahead, you’ll be able to set priorities that will allow your time and energy to be spent on the things that are most important to you.
- Recruit some help! Decorating, shopping, cooking, and memory-making holiday activities can be fun, but also exhausting if you try to do it all, all by yourself. When you need help, ask your family or friends to pitch in. Some of the sweetest holiday memories with friends and family are made while “on the journey” together on the days leading up to the big day. But if others can’t or won’t help, reconsider how much you really want to do.
- Accept your feelings. Sometimes holiday stress comes from inside of us instead of from without. Holidays can trigger all kinds of memories and feelings, both good and not so good, from childhood or from recent sad or tragic events in your life or the life of your family. Remind yourself that you don’t have to feel “merry” or “jolly” or any other certain way during the holiday season. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel.
- Schedule time to rest. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, try to set aside at least 20 minutes of downtime for yourself each day. Spend that time soaking in a bubble bath, listening to relaxing music, taking a walk, or however you like. You’ll have more energy, more patience, and less stress if you take good care of yourself while you are doing so much to make everyone else’s holiday experience special. (Remember, you’re special, too!)
- Get practical about gift-giving. Here are options for you and your family to consider:
- Draw names. If your extended family is large and gift buying has gotten out of control, see if your family will agree to draw names instead.
- Take shopping shortcuts. Shop early from catalogs and Internet stores. Many online retailers will now wrap your gifts and ship them directly to your out-of-town family and friends.
- Shop year-round. You can relieve a lot of holiday stress by shopping year-round. Instead of waiting until after Thanksgiving to start shopping, pick up gifts while you’re on summer vacation, whenever you’re out of town, or any time local stores have sales throughout the year.
- Last but not least, don’t expect a perfect holiday. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate Christmas Eve, Christmas day, Hanukkah, Kwanza, New Year’s Eve, or any other holiday. All of us have childhood memories, impressions from the media, and ideals of our own about how we think a holiday “should” be. In reality, an ideal holiday is one that is celebrated in whatever ways work for you and your family!