It’s that time again: the most wonderful time of year. At least, it’s supposed to be. While we love the parties, the chance to spend quality time with family and loved ones, and the gift-giving that goes along with the holidays, let’s face it: the holidays are stressful. With so many commitments, endless to-do lists, and the pressure to feel cheery about it all, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Taking the time to consider others is always a virtue, but it’s also important to make sure you’re paying attention to your own needs. That’s why we’ve collected our favorite tips for minimizing stress this holiday season. Read on for ways to make this holiday festive, not fretful.
Make a List
They say the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. That’s true for everything you have to do. It may feel daunting, but the best place to start when you have a million things to do is to make a list. Knowing what you’re in for will help you prioritize and set goals. And you’ll feel a little weight lifted off your shoulders each time you check another item off of your list, as well as a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Once you’ve made a list, you can make a plan for how to accomplish each task you’ve included. Creating a plan will also help you map out your schedule for the weeks leading up to the holidays, and will give you a sense of how much time you’ll be spending. It will also help you create efficiencies. For example, if you have a bunch of things to buy that all come from one area of town, knock it out in one go so it’s done and you don’t spend time driving back and forth to pick up items in a one-off fashion.
Avoid Crowds When Possible
The early bird gets the worm, and that’s especially true during the holidays. Sure, it can feel fun to be part of the mix, but what you’re really looking at is long lines at checkout, messy store floors, and reduced inventory. And of course, traffic. So do yourself a favor, get up a little early and get your errands done. You can reward yourself with a nice quiet lunch or afternoon cocktail.
Try to Maintain Your Usual Health Routines
This is probably the thing that will make you feel the most centered and balanced during the frenzy that is the holidays and will leave you with the fewest regrets come January. We’re not saying avoid all of the cookies, candy, cakes, and eggnog on offer—that would be crazy. But try to practice moderation and, if all else fails, squeeze in an extra walk, yoga session, or hike. The fresh air and “you time” will help keep you grounded. And bring a friend with you—the more, the merrier!
Prepare for Those Relatives
If the thought of spending hours, or worse, days with that uncle, cousin, or distant relative brings out the Grinch in you, take a deep breath. You can’t avoid seeing them, so you might as well prepare to be your best self in their presence even if it’s a struggle. Figure out a coping mechanism that works for you and will help you avoid a confrontation. Plan to go for a walk with another relative after dinner or step outside and regroup a few times while you’re together. If you can’t leave, excuse yourself to help out in the kitchen, or play bartender so you’re distracted. Whatever you decide, make sure you remove yourself from the situation before it escalates.
Old habits die hard, and the holidays are all about tradition. But it’s also fun to mix things up, try something new, and have different experiences. So if your family proposes serving something different for your holiday celebration, or going somewhere new, get on the train and embrace it. Variety is the spice of life and beginning new traditions creates another shared experience that will bring your family closer. And if that new recipe turns out to be a complete disaster, you’ll laugh about it for years to come.
Don’t Go Into Debt
Gift giving is one of the purest joys in life. There’s nothing like seeing someone’s eyes light up when they open your present. Unfortunately, the commercial nature of the holiday season has made it far too easy to get wrapped up in the need to find the perfect gift that often just means it’s expensive. And these heightened expectations can lead us to make poor financial decisions that stick with us long after the act of gifting has passed. That’s why it’s important to work with the budget you have. If funds are tight this year, it’s time to get creative. Plan a day at the museum followed by a picnic in the spring, or go for a bike ride followed by lunch at a hidden spot of your choice. This has the added benefit of giving you an opportunity to get together a few weeks or months down the road. And besides, the best things in life are free!
What are you doing to minimize holiday stress this season? Tell us about it in the comments below!