The holiday season is truly in full swing, and no matter what holidays you and your family will celebrate, this time of year brings places to go, people to see, and gifts to buy galore.
And so much stress.
For me, with two preschoolers and an array of family nearby and out of state, surviving the stress of the holidays is NOT easy.
The to-do list is LONG. And yes, most of it is actually fun. But just because something is fun doesn’t mean it isn’t stressful. It doesn’t mean that you won’t have anxiety thinking of all you have to do. Add gifts, cards, parties and travel to the typical daily routine and it can almost feel like adding a 2nd or 3rd job in the winter months.
So, how can we survive the stress of the holidays? Or even better, not just “survive” the rushed, anxious days and worries over spending, but actually ENJOY the holiday season.
I’ve thought long and hard about what I do personally to try to manage holiday stress. My mental health can definitely suffer with the extra worries, and the dreary weather of the winter months doesn’t help much either.
I also asked you guys. I posed the question on Facebook and Twitter to see what you do to manage the holidays. And I got a lot of great ideas! There was also lots of sarcasm, so its clear that I’m not the only one who feels the stress this time of year. Sasha said “Move. Don’t leave a forwarding address!” And Christine said, “Avoid any and all people at all costs until March.”
While those ideas probably aren’t exactly doable, there are other ways to make things easier. The amount of “obligations” we choose to accept during the holidays can make it overwhelming. Abby said, “I loathe the holidays. So stressful, too many perceived obligations.”
And therein lies the biggest issue I see for surviving the holidays, our “perceived” obligations. So let’s start with that one.
Below are my Top 10 Tips for surviving (and thriving) during the stressful holiday season:
- Re-evaluate our perceived obligations during the holidays. Often-times we feel like we have to be everything for everyone. That we HAVE to follow every tradition. Be at every party. Buy gifts for everyone. But we just can’t and really truly we don’t have to. Say it with me. “It is OK to NOT do EVERYTHING this holiday. I am still a great mom. My family will still have a great holiday.”A couple of my twitter friends agree. Margaret @whole_patients said: “Conscious choices are important: Take control over the holidays rather than have them control you.” Kat @katjnz said: “Do it on your own terms and don’t give into other people’s demands.
- Focus on your immediate family first. Of course we love our extended family. Of course we want to be with them. But they live across the country (or across town). Once we had kids, my immediate family became my priority. That doesn’t lessen our love for the rest of the clan. Really, it doesn’t. I promise. We rarely travel during the holidays and it is wonderful. Sarah on Facebook said: “Don’t try to do everything and be everywhere especially once you have kids. Combine celebrations and have grandparents, parents, in-laws, friends come to you.” @Becs said: “Be selective in accepting invitations.”
- Don’t forget about you! You deserve gifts too. Eileen @calandro5 books strategic nights out with friends, phone calls or a massage, for example, when she knows she’ll need them. Pearl makes a point to take time for herself, even if it means separating from the family for a while, take a nap, have a hot shower. Khalil @kk074 enjoys some spiked egg nog. Yum.
- Behave in the spirit of the season. Smile. Be extra nice to people. Give compliments. Make others feel good and you’ll feel good too. If you can, you might even try volunteering, or doing something special for someone in need. @b303tilly volunteered at a soup kitchen on Christmas Eve last year and said it was awesome! My family is “adopting” a Starlight Children’s Foundation family to buy holiday gifts for the holidays. Info is here is you’d like to do the same.
- Exercise. Even though our schedules are extra busy, its a huge stress reliever to exercise, even if you just take a 10 minute walk.
- Be practical & efficient with gift giving, without sacrificing thoughtfulness. We are Amazon Prime members. And I love it. (And I am in no way affiliated with Amazon.) I just think its a beautiful thing to be able to buy gifts (you can find almost anything on Amazon) for our myriad of out of state family and friends online and then ship it for FREE 2-day. Or find other online sites that you love like Etsy.com (handmade & vintage marketplace). Not only will you be supporting small business and purchasing a one of a kind gift, the Etsy shop owner can handle wrapping and shipping for you. The post office is a nightmare during this season. Try to avoid it if you can. Or make your shopping even easier like Kelly @_CityMom by drawing names with extended family. “One thoughtful gift and you’re done.”
- Avoid situations you know will be stressful. Do you have a family member who always causes you stress? Try to avoid spending too much time with him or her. Do you hate crowds? Don’t go to the local holiday festival.
- Be creative yourself! One year I made jewelry for all of my female gift recipients. It was cost-effective, and taking the time to enjoy my hobby was also stress-relieving. Do you love to bake? Who wouldn’t enjoy a batch of your yummy cookies as a gift. Do you crochet? Make everyone a cozy winter hat. Kate @katelollar agrees: “I like diving into an art project (calming and cost-saving if for a gift.)”
- Ask for help! Everyone understands the demands of the holidays. Its OK to ask for help. Marissa on Facebook said, “Don’t feel like you have to do everything yourself. There’s always a family member who really would love to be asked to participate in the preparations.”
- It is OK to not send traditional holiday cards. Sending a mass mailing of holiday cards while nice, doesn’t HAVE to get done. If its one more stress that you just can’t handle, give it up. With social media and email at our fingertips, we CAN still send holiday cheer to our love ones in less expensive and less time consuming ways.
So there you have it. My top 10 ideas for managing holiday stress. Do you agree? What would you add or subtract from the list?