It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but let’s be honest–it can also be the most stressful! And holiday stress can turn magical into miserable! Between the holiday crowds, overbooked schedules. added obligations, family drama and financial strain, the months of November and December can quickly turn into the most stressful time of the year.
So what can we do to maintain the holiday magic and manage holiday stress?
First and foremost, give yourself grace. The more expectations we set on ourselves, the more stress we invite into our lives. So slow down and follow these tips to create a simple, meaningful, heart-filled holiday season you and your family can enjoy together.
How to Reduce Holiday Stress
1. Create and Follow a Budget
A budget is like a roadmap, and just like any journey, it can be made easier with the right directions and a plan. This will help you feel in control and in return reduce holiday stress.
Before you start holiday shopping, take a realistic look at your budget and what you can actually afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t forget to budget for classroom and teacher gifts, as well as gifts for employers and gift exchanges at the office.
Additionally, make sure to budget your big holiday meals and your annual baking projects (like your cookie exchange with friends).
Moreover, let’s not forget holiday travel. Remember to include fuel costs, airline travel, accommodations and any seasonal clothing you may need to buy for different climates.
Now that you have your budget, make sure you are sticking to it. Track what you spend and adjust accordingly.
2. Prioritize Holiday Traditions and Activities
De-stress the holidays by prioritizing holiday activities and traditions. Call a family meeting and determine which traditions, functions and activities are most important to everyone.
You might be surprised to find out that the annual trek to the expensive drive-thru Christmas lights park, with traffic worse than rush hour in LA, is not something everyone looks forward to. As Elsa wisely sang, “Let it go.”
Do you dread the chore of holiday cards? Does it cause anxiety and stress? Make a deliberate decision to NOT send cards this year. This way you avoid the stress and the guilt when it’s December 22 and you still have not mailed out your cards yet.
It’s OK to let some of the traditions go. You might discover that the traditions you do keep become more meaningful.
Similarly, be intentional with how you spend your time. The holidays are full of parties, concerts, events and other commitments. It can quickly become busy and overwhelming trying to attend everything.
As a family, decide which holiday events and activities are important to you. Then include those in your holiday schedule and politely decline the rest. This helps avoid over-committing or feeling stretched too thin.
3. Keep Holiday Cooking and Baking Simple
If you love cooking and baking during the holidays, do what makes you happy. However, if it causes undue stress, scale back and simplify the cooking and baking.
Keep meals simple and have guests bring a side dish or dessert. The less time you spend in the kitchen allows you more time with the people you love.
4. Plan Ahead
Keep a holiday planner to help you plan ahead and stay organized. Calendar all of your important dates including classroom parties, in-law visits, Friendsgiving. etc.
Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list.
Planning everything in advance is a great way to avoid last minute stress and chaos to help simplify the holidays.
5. Set Boundaries and Say No
Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Set appropriate boundaries and realize that it’s okay to say no. If you don’t have time to help plan the classroom party, that’s OK! Is just the thought of throwing your annual New Year’s Eve party too much to bear? Don’t do it this year. Are your in-laws expecting you to cook the entire Thanksgiving meal? Volunteer to do the turkey, assign side dishes to each guest and enjoy store-bought dessert. The world WILL NOT END! And you will be less resentful and frazzled.
6. Don’t Forget To Practice Self-Care
I cannot stress this enough, make time for yourself over the holidays. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Clear your mind, slow your breathing and restore inner calm. Moreover, do something exclusively for you. Here are 12 self-care ideas to inspire you!
Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
Don’t let Holiday Stress Steal Your Joy!
Your holidays may not be perfect this year, but taking the time to plan ahead, being proactive about finances, taking care of yourself and setting boundaries, will go a long way in reducing stress and allow you to enjoy the spirit of the season! And if you feel the anxiety creeping in, try these science-backed remedies to reduce anxiety.