Holiday Stress --- Tips for Helping You to Overcome!
Give Holiday Stress The Heave “Ho-Ho-Ho”!
Christmas is, indeed, "the most wonderful time of the year.” Celebrating the birth of our Savior is ALWAYS a great thing. That being said, Christmas has a tendency to be one of the most stressful times of the year as well.
We all know what's about the holiday stress that’s about to happen:
- Gift lists
- Shopping lists
- Trips to the stores
- Parties and party planning
- Christmas Cards
- Trips to the post office
- Finding enough money
- Finding enough time
- Kids home every day
- Crowded stores
- Crowded parking lots
- Gift Wrapping
- Who goes to what family for Christmas, etc., etc., etc.!!!
And, that's on top of your already busy daily schedules! No wonder people look worried, frustrated, grumpy and unhappy. Anxiety is written all over most people. When you add the troubled economy, with many people unemployed for facing unemployment, the odds seem insurmountable.
I'm no stranger to the holiday stress this year. The economic downturns have affected me and my immediate family as well. Like a lot of people, my tendency is to compensate with less sleep and eating comfort foods (usually high in calories and sugar). None of these are recipes for good health, Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year!
As the Serenity Prayer says, I am seeking this Christmas season "To have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
I can't change the economy, work-related pressures or make the holiday season go away. However, I did follow my own advice and chose to focus on what “I can do,” not on what “I can’t do.” I sat myself down and made a list of things to accomplish that will make a difference and reduce my holiday stress now and for years to come.
This holiday stress page is my “Christmas gift” to you. Hopefully, you will use some or all of these tips to have a more relaxed and “stress-less” Christmas.
Make a Holiday Plan No one plans to get over-whelmed. This typically happens when we fail to plan and don’t say “No thank you.” The best way to over come this type of holiday stress is to make a plan and stick to it. Write down all the important dates of things that you truly want to attend (your child’s Christmas play, a concert or ballet, office party, visiting grandma in the nursing home, get a hair cut, etc.). Be sure to include time on the calendar to be with your family. Taking time to see Christmas lights together is far more meaningful and has far greater positive consequences than some other, lesser important activities.
Make Lists and Check Them Twice! As I’ve said elsewhere on this website, making lists is EXTREMELY helpful to reduce holiday stress for a couple of reasons: (1) It helps get the mental clutter out of your head and onto the paper where you can see it and manage it. Priorities are easier to arrange when they are in tangible form and (2) It helps you create your “Holiday Plan” (see above). Here are ideas of lists to make that will help you with your holiday planning:
Christmas Card List: Create a list of cards sent and received. Check the addresses to be sure they are valid. This will save on items being returned by the post office and help you save on postage costs.
Gift List: Make a list of who wants what and where to get it. Include sizes for clothing, color choices, brands, etc. as well.
Party Planning: Make a list of menu items. Check your pantry for what you already have and make a grocery list for what you need to get.
Decorate & Celebrate with Simplicity With so many things on my "To Do" list, it's often hard for me to even know where to start. You may be that way too. My solution to reduce some of my holiday stress was to review my list and try to find at least one thing that really didn't need to be done and mark it off. I looked at my list over and over until I had it down to only the truly important items. By celebrating a little more simply, I saved money and now have more time to do something good for myself and my family. Ask yourself “Do I really need to build a made-from-scratch gingerbread nativity with the three wise men, animals, shepherds and angels?” Do I really need to hang so many outside lights that I blow a fuse at the neighborhood electrical transformer? Do I have to hang greenery from every window, railing and doorpost? Do I really need Christmas bedspreads and matching curtains and pillows? While these may be “fun,” they’re not really not necessary (I know this because I used to be one of those people—HA)! I now enjoy my simplified Christmas just as much as ever (not to mention I made money having a garage sale and selling those excess Christmas decorations)!
Get Control of The Schedule My family and I don't have to attend every party we get invited to. Time is limited. To reduce my holiday stress, I needed to revisit what was important -- Christmas is a time for worship, families and sharing. Instead of running the kids to several kiddie parties or attending dozens of office parties, I’m opting to try more simple pleasures. Bake cookies with my grandkids or look at Christmas lights together.
Learn to Say: “No Thank You!” Often we feel that we have to accept every invitation that comes along. We feel bad telling people “no” because we don’t want to hurt their feelings. If the invitation comes from your boss, you may feel pressured and/or obligated to go. In order to reduce our holiday stress, we have to come to the realization that we can’t be “all things to all people all the time!” Setting priorities is a MUST! We have to limit the number of things that you say “yes” to and realize that most likely we won’t hurt anyone’s feelings if we simply tell them that we appreciate them thinking of us, but we’re are already over-committed. If the invitation is something you would like to attend next time, ask them to invite you next year and you can add it to your holiday plan.
Simplify Your Gift Giving My family has grown to the point it's not reasonable to get everyone a gift. My husband's family has also grown too large for individual gifts. His family opted to have a holiday breakfast and to get presents only for the members of their immediate family. My family took a different twist. We still have our big family get-together, but we do a Chinese gift exchange instead. Everyone who participates brings a gift of a designated amount and then . . . let the “friendly” gift stealing begin! Everyone had a great time and enjoyed it immensely. Another option is to get gift cards to movies, bookstores, etc. in equal dollar amounts for everyone on your list. It may not be as personal, but will be appreciated and it eliminates any gift comparison.
Shop Smart Some people love to shop while others dread it worse than a root canal at the dentist! To avoid some of the holiday stress associated with shopping try the following suggestions. Shop early and shop smart. Shop during “non-peak” times at the mall. Shop when the store first opens or during the dinner hour when they typically slow down. Do your research ahead of time by going online to get information and call stores to see if they have what you need. Be sure you have all the information you need (sizes, color choices, brands, etc.) before you head out the door. If you shop early, you can online or via catalogs/phone. Then you can relax and wait for the items to arrive instead of driving all over town hassling with traffic and parking!
Wrap It Up Early Some are more “gifted” at wrapping presents than others. Whether you enjoy it or not, you can make the task easier by making sure you have what you need all in one place. Check your supplies of bags, boxes, tissue, wrapping paper, gift cards, ribbons, bows, tape and scissors. Purchase only the items you’re out of. Put everything all in one place and leave it there until all the presents are wrapped and under the tree or on their way to the intended recipient. Don’t try to wrap everything all at once on Christmas Eve. Wrap as you purchase and the task will not be as huge and feel like a burden instead of a blessing.
Stock Up & Be Prepared Be prepared by keeping your pantry stocked with necessary ingredients to put together simple meals, appetizers and snacks (soups, crackers, cheeses, little smokies, chips, dips, bottled water, eggnog, apple cider, hot cocoa, etc.). If unexpected guests arrive, you have something you can pull out. You can also keep one or two small gift items on hand for “emergencies.” Don’t overlook your fridge! Be sure to clear out anything old and expired to make room for the holiday food.
Take a Breather This will not only help with holiday stress, but stress in general. Breathing exercises help reduce all types of stress. When you feel stressed, the "fight/flight" mode kicks in. We tend to shallow breathe and tighten up. Take some relaxing breaks and do some deep breathing and stretching. It always makes me feel happier and invigorated afterward.
Get Tickled This is a really fun way to reduce holiday stress. Laughter is, indeed, the best medicine. The endorphins that are released during laughter have been scientifically proven to make you feel better and reduce stress levels. Laughing also stimulates circulation, helps the immune system and works the abs! Hummmm . . . I think I'll sit down and watch a funny movie!
Eat Right and Exercise What's that? Did I hear a "Yeah, right! Maybe after New Years?" This is one of my big problems. But, why wait? Exercise is a great stress buster. Whether it’s holiday stress or the every day kind, like me, most women have a tendency to neglect their own health in order to get everything done. While I'm not about to join a gym, I can choose pass on the sugary treats and eat a piece of fruit instead. I can be prepared and pack a lunch and put non-fat pretzel sticks in a baggy and keep them in my purse in case of a hunger/snack attack. I can make better choices. I can park further away from the store. I can walk the dog or just sit outside with my coffee (when it's not too cold). Being outside in the fresh air and sunshine lifts my spirits. Eating right and getting at least “some” exercise will also help keep my holiday guilt in check and lift my self esteem. As my doctor told me recently, you don’t have to run a marathon or get it all done in one hour. Studies have shown that doing little bits of exercise throughout the day is just as healthy and beneficial as those who get it all done at the gym in an hour.
Hopefully, I will follow my own advice and you will too. Make this Christmas season stress-less and enjoyable this year, bad economy and all!
Here's hoping you and your family enjoy your time together and celebrate the birth of our Lord (who is, after all, the "reason for the season").
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