The word “holiday” is synonymous with the word “vacation,” however holidays are rarely as relaxing as vacations. Once costumes are put into storage after Halloween, it seems like holiday planning is in full swing. Much of the stress associated with the season is the result of unmet expectations or an attempt to be perfect. Perfection isn’t realistic, so let that go right now. Then, take time before the busyness of the season to prioritize what’s meaningful to you and your family as you celebrate, from the events you like to attend to the foods you enjoy and the way you prefer giving gifts. Determine what supplies you and your family the most joy and do just that. In this process, you may identify things you do every year not because you want to, but because it’s simply what your family has always done. Let those traditions go. According to research, it’s experiences, rather than things, that truly make us happy, so focus on experiences this season. Go to a farm to pick out your tree, or decorate cookies as a family rather than one person carrying the burden.
Here are some tips for reducing seasonal stress:
- Create new traditions. If grandma always made her famed stew and you feel pressure to replicate it every year, make your specialty instead. Living up to past expectations can be exhausting.
- Revamp your rituals. As families continue to grow and change, so will holiday celebrations. Be flexible with family traditions rather than holding on to experiences past. If you’re unable to be together for the holidays, find ways to connect virtually.
- Embrace the idea that less is more. If you’re hosting a party, the less you’re running around attending to details, the more available you are to spend time with loved ones.
- Allocate a budget for the holiday season to reduce financial stress. Homemade creations or fun experiences are thoughtful gifts.
- Host a cookie swap instead of making several types of baked goods to provide variety for your holiday feasts.
- Get creative with gift-giving. Draw names instead of buying for everyone or, as a family, choose a charity to support.
- Move your celebration date. Traveling on the day of the holiday is often cheaper. If you move your Thanksgiving celebration to Saturday, you’ll benefit from cheaper fares and fewer crowds travelling on Thursday and sales on food items on Friday, all while getting a few extra days to leisurely prepare for the family feast.
- Know when to say no. Don’t say yes to anything you’d be resentful doing. Only agree to help if you’re able to do so joyfully.
- Accept differences between family members and let go of past hurts. Holiday celebrations are not a time to address grievances.
- Continue to exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet. Exercise is a great way to fend off holiday stress and anxiety. To avoid overindulging at gatherings, have a light snack beforehand so you don’t show up hungry and gorge yourself on sweets.
- Don’t skimp on sleep. Getting ample rest can boost your immune system so you stay healthy for holiday festivities.
Remember, holidays aren’t about perfection; they’re about community. Focus on setting the stage for creating cherished memories. Whenever you start to feel stressed, take some deep breaths. A 15-minute relaxation break can do wonders to help you proceed with holiday cheer.
“Stress, Depression and the Holidays: Tips for Coping,” Mayo Clinic Staff, mayoclinic.org, Oct. 3, 2014.
“31 No-Stress Holiday Entertaining Tips,” Health Staff, health.com, accessed Oct. 5, 2015.