HolidHoliday Stress Tips: Actually Enjoy the Holidays This Year

The holidays are upon us and holiday stress tips are needed for most of the people I know – including me.

The holiday season can easily get out of hand without you even realizing it. How can something that’s supposed to be so warm and fuzzy  cause so much exhaustion and anxiety?

Well, let us examine that question. Just off the top of my head I can come up with these:

  1. Too much preparation
  2. Too many events
  3. Financial strain
  4. Uncomfortable family situations
  5. The need to get everything “just right”

I’m sure you could add plenty more to this list, but this where we will start.

I have always LOVED the holidays. For years everyone in our big extended family came to our house for Christmas and sometimes for Thanksgiving. My parents cleaned the house, cooked a large portion of the meal, and then cleaned the house again when it was over. I helped with all of this to some degree and my Christmases were always warm and fuzzy, you know…..the way Christmas is supposed to be for kids.

Fast forward several years (we won’t say how many), and the holidays have become one more thing on my to do list. Actually, the holidays add MANY things to my to do list. For the last few years I have actually started to dread the holidays. And that is just sad.

Here in the United States we live a lifestyle of constant  going and constant input thanks to the internet and 24 hour shopping outlets. The holidays are the one time of the year we should be able to slow things down, but the opposite happens since the holidays add EVEN MORE to our already crazy hectic lives.

So let’s address each of the issues above, shall we?

Too Much Preparation

This is a biggie for almost everyone.

I have personally stopped doing several things that used to be on my list. For example, I no longer send out Christmas cards. I loved sending and receiving cards, but my list had grown so long that I would download the addresses onto a spreadsheet and then print them on labels. This part was quick, but I had to actually write something inside each card…..so that whole activity went away a few years ago.

You don’t have to personally send holiday greetings to everyone you know.

Sure I felt like a Scrooge at the beginning, but over the years several people have stopped sending cards to me too, which means I am not the only one who wants to slow down.

I am the only child of two very sick parents so I have done ALL of their Christmas shopping for a few years now. (I have done some of it for many years.) I also wrap and tag all of their gifts. As a result I spend many hours shopping and wrapping, so I learned the joy of gift bags.

Every gift under your tree does not have to look like a page from Better Homes and Gardens.

Write down all of your responsibilities and be honest about what you can eliminate. I know it is difficult to stop some things, but think about the overall enjoyment of the season and decide if it is really worth it. You might even substitute something for a new (and easier) tradition.

Too Many Events

Just a few years ago we were invited to start attending a family get together with some extended family (in addition to the three we already attend). We thought long and hard on it, but ultimately decided it wasn’t worth the extra cooking and gift buying – so we said no. That was difficult, but my sanity was worth it.

So think about it: If you could eliminate just one event from your list each year it would make an impact on your enjoyment of the season.  If you feel that you MUST do a certain number of things each year, then try substituting   something stressful (or something that takes lots of preparation) for something simple and relaxing.

For example, you could substitute a glitzy Christmas party for a walk in the park to look at Christmas lights and drink hot cocoa.

You don’t have to attend every holiday event within a 50 mile radius of your home. 

Financial Strain

Some people overspend every Christmas. Every single one. And they pay for it each year. In fact, I know some people who barely recover from the previous Christmas when the next one comes around.

Why?

For one, we think spending all this money will make Christmas more “magical” when in reality in only makes it more expensive.

But I think there are two main reasons we do this. For one, we want our children to get everything for Christmas that all their friends get. I know I am truly guilty of this one.

I remember sitting in grade school after Christmas break when the teacher would go around the room and have each child tell what they received for Christmas. Most teachers don’t do that anymore, but I don’t want my kids to be the ones who didn’t get as much as everyone else.

Ridiculous, right?

Would it mean that I loved them less if they did get less? Of course not, but that is the typical mindset. I have been working hard to counter that in our family. It is still a work in progress.

The second reason ties in to the first reason: “Keeping up with the Joneses” or keeping up with everyone around you. No one wants to see their piece of the American Dream slipping away, so they must keep up. You don’t want to be embarrassed by not having the latest and greatest things, right?

I know it sounds silly when you actually think about it in this way, but most of us are (or have been) guilty of this. I think the Great Recession has had some impact on this way of thinking. People are going back to spending less and saving more. Just look at the tiny house phenomenon. Attitudes are changing.

You are not in competition with your family and friends.

Uncomfortable Family Situations

People who don’t get along…..almost every family has them. Or maybe it’s that one unkind person who insists on spreading their unhappiness around. Don’t succumb to the doom and gloom.

Be proactive, not reactive. Make the decision before you get there to be happy and relaxed and enjoy your day (or evening). If all else fails, there is always avoidance. Just walk away and talk to someone else when something unpleasant is going on.

Every family has unique situations, but if you think about it long and hard you can probably find some ways to handle difficult situations that come your way.

Don’t let others dictate your happiness and enjoyment.

The Need To Get Everything “Just Right”

When my youngest child started Kindergarten i went back to work for the first time in seven years (outside the home anyway). I started part time, but over time I have migrated back into working full time again.

So let me tell you something: You CANNOT work a full time job while taking care of your children, home, aging parents, bills, errands and everything else that comes with breathing and STILL make everything during the holiday season be picture perfect.

It cannot be done. I don’t care how many time Martha Stewart says it can. All you will do is make yourself a nervous wreck it you try.

Trust me, I know.

Besides, life isn’t supposed to be perfect. Nothing else during the other months of the year is perfect. So give yourself permission to be okay with that.

There is one thing I have done that has helped with that. I buy fewer gifts. That doesn’t mean that I skimp on presents, but rather buy higher ticket items of (hopefully) better quality. This is easier for me now since my kids are getting older and want more expensive items anyway.

However, everyone could still do this to some extent.

I know this sound a little crazy, but I actually put a limit on how many items can be in our stockings. You are probably thinking that sounds too restrictive and like too much work, but I think it was ultimately simplify everything.

Less shopping, less racking your brain to get ideas, less wrapping, and less stuff to throw away because they didn’t really want it (but you bought it anyway because you had to fill up the stocking).

I hope this will allow us to focus less on gift giving and more on family time.

Remember when Charlie Brown complained about Christmas being too commercial? I totally get that now.

In Conclusion

Christmas should be fun and relaxing. Start a new tradition in your home of making it that way.

I hope these holiday stress tips will truly make an impact on your holidays. No one has ever looked back on their life and said, “I wish my life had been busier and cost more.”

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