We all have an image of the perfect holiday season. The tree should be tall and straight—and preferably cut down on a family outing to a farm. The food should be home-cooked, including cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning that were prepared late the night before (after everything else was done). The kids should have matching holiday jammies and fancy wear-once clothes for photos. Stockings should be handmade by grandma and don’t forget the dog! Gifts must be perfect, yet bills also must be paid.
It can be stressful. Really stressful.
Indeed, the American Psychological Association found that nearly half of all women experience heightened stress this time of the year. While we don’t have stats, it’s a good bet men are feeling it, too.
But it’s tradition! You’ll work harder, sleep less and get it all done.
That’s one option, but if you find that the holidays are more stress than fun, you might want to try one of the following ways to alleviate holiday anxiety and bring back the jolly.
1. Give up on perfect.
Maybe you have young kids and you’re doing everything you can to make the holidays magical. Sounds good, right? Now imagine your children all grown up and stressed out just like you are—all in an effort to put on the same kind of show you did. Instead, why not …
2. Find a balance.
Say yes to homemade stuffing, but no to making cookies to give away to family and friends. Buy your daughter a new dress, but don’t sweat the shoes (she’ll probably be wearing boots around anyway). String lights around the front door, but skip the roof.
3. Add meaning, not money.
Yes, it’s always festive to have a few presents under the tree, especially for younger kids. But adults have so many more options. They all can agree to skip the gifts and donate to a favorite charity. Or you can keep it simple (and creative) by limiting gifts to favorite books or local food products.
4. Don’t force the merry.
Not all stress is about being busy. Some is about the heightened emotions that come with the holidays, including sadness or loneliness. Realize that you’re not alone in your emotions and acknowledge them. You don’t have to attend every event you’re invited to and you don’t have to be the happiest person in the room. Instead, find joy and meaning where you can, be kind to yourself and talk to someone you trust about your feelings.
5. Shop online.
A lot of us have gotten the hang of this by now, but if you haven’t, it’s an easy way to get the best price without running all over town. Plus, you’ll be avoiding exposure to crowded areas and germs that come with them. What’s more, many local grocery stores are adding online food delivery service—often for just a small fee or even free if you spend enough.
6. Get moving.
There’s a reason you put your own oxygen mask on first. You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of everyone else. Thirty minutes of exercise relieves stress and releases your body’s natural feel-good chemicals. That’ll boost your mood and help keep your inner Grinch at bay. Even better? Exercise outdoors for a dose of vitamin D.
7. Have a wrap party.
Do you really want to be wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve? Instead, grab your spouse or a friend and make a night of it (at least a week before the big day). Open a bottle of wine, play your favorite holiday movie and get the job done while having fun. (If you have young kids, send them to a favorite relative’s for the night.)
8. Keep a stash.
Think back on previous holidays. Does it seem like you were always rushing at the last minute to buy a little something for a teacher, coach, yoga instructor or hostess? If so, find something that will work for everyone (maybe a nice candle, jar of local honey or book of poems) and buy a half-dozen of them to have on hand.
9. Don’t mail cards.
Instead, use Google Photos Editor to spruce up your family photo and share it on Facebook. Gasp! We know. This feels like the ultimate sloppy shortcut. If mailing cards is your thing, keep it up. But if you need to save a few hours and a couple hundred dollars, give yourself a break. You can always pick it up again next year.
10. Break tradition.
Traditions shouldn’t become something you dread. If preparing a huge sit-down feast every Christmas Day for extended family has become a burden, for example, try something new. Go out for a nice lunch with your spouse or a friend and host an open house for family later on. You can have appetizers, desserts and all the fixings for sandwiches, and people can come and go as they please.
There’s a time when we all need help—and the holidays are no different. Maybe you’re feeling blue or anxious and it’s interfering with your life. Or maybe that nagging cough just won’t go away. Whatever’s holding you back, we’re here to help. Contact us today and we’ll come up with a plan, together, to get you feeling great in the holiday season.