During the holidays, especially for parents of young children, there is a lot of pressure to create that picture-perfect holiday magic. But is that truly what makes the holidays memorable and enjoyable? Sure, a few extra decorations, a dozen more cookies, another gift for the kids, are all certainly nice, but are they necessary? And are all of those extras causing unnecessary stress?
Questions to ask yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed around the holidays:
- What if I say no or don’t do it? What’s the worst that can happen?
- Does this really matter to me or my family?
- Does it add joy to the holidays?
- Do I enjoy the process?
- Is the financial investment worth it?
Instead of pushing through…take a moment to ask yourself these questions and decide if it’s really worth doing or not. Make a list of the traditions that matter most to you and your family. You might be surprised what you can let go of.
Here are 5 simple ways to limit your holiday stress:
1. Plan ahead
Block off time
Start by blocking off time for holiday get-togethers, especially the ones most meaningful to you. It’s easy to say yes to too many events and book yourself solid between work, friends, and family parties.
To limit your stress this holiday season, block off time to recharge your batteries and leave some wiggle room for unforeseen surprises. If you or your family is traveling, plan time to pack as well as unwind after you return to try to make the trip as enjoyable as possible. And plan for travel changes – always have a backup plan in the event a plane is delayed or the weather isn’t so jolly.
Shop in advance
If you’re not already using an online wish list service like Giftster, it can really help get your whole family organized when it comes to holiday shopping. Make a wish list to share with your family group and encourage them to do the same for you as early as possible to beat the rush and allow everyone to score a few deals on gifts.
Plan your baking and holiday menu
Planning on baking holiday treats or hosting a dinner? Plan your menu in advance and make sure you set aside the time you need to enjoy the act of baking and cooking. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when hosting. If it’s going to be too much, ask everyone attending to bring a dish to take some of the pressure off.
2. Ditch unrealistic expectations
One of the key ingredients of holiday stress is unmet and unrealistic expectations – for yourself and of others.
No holiday event can be what it was in years past – no matter how badly we might want to try to recreate a past memory. People change and families grow in ways that may make it difficult to enjoy the holidays the way they once were.
And while there may be a strong urge to go out and buy that incredible gift for a loved one, even if it exceeds the shopping budget, it’s not worth the future financial strain.
3. Indulge in simple traditions
Some of the simplest traditions are the most memorable. For example, every year my mom would play Kenny G’s Christmas album while we put up the Christmas tree and decorated the house together. It’s not about having the most brightly lit house on the block (I think Clark Griswold might disagree…), but the simple traditions that make the holidays feel special.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on holiday decor. Sometimes the process of making DIY decorations can be more enjoyable than over spending. And the results are often just as good, if not better. I know I personally cherish the decorations I made as a child and now the ones I make with my daughter more than any store bought pieces.
Check out this video of 5 super cheap and easy DIY Christmas decorations below.
Here are a few more examples of simple holiday traditions:
- Taking a walk together as a family when it’s snowing out
- Making homemade holiday cards
- Doing a Secret Santa gift exchange instead of buying a gift for every person in the family
- Baking or cooking something new or familiar that you love
- Drive around looking at Christmas lights
- Go ice skating or play a sport you enjoy with friends and family
- Play video games and watch movies – get in a little rest and relaxation time (after all it is vacation…)
- Volunteer and help those who need it most
- Enjoy your favorite holiday drink (cocoa, egg nog, peppermint latte).
4. Let go of what you cannot control
Family is well…family. We may not always see eye to eye on everything and we most certainly can’t control what our family says and how they act during the holidays. Accepting one another’s faults and differences for face value can be quite freeing.
During the holidays there may be things that come up such as missing travel plans, cancelled events, burned cookies or side dishes…and likely a meltdown or two from the kids.
If everything went to plan…what fun would that be?
Chances are a few things might not go to plan. And if you do say no to attending an event or two, try not to let the family guilt you into feeling bad about it. Especially if it’s in your best interest and your families to decline.
If you’re feeling like too much is out of your control jot down a list of the things that are bothering you and cross off the items you have no control over. This can help direct your energy towards things in your power to change.
5. Give yourself an outlet for stress
If you know something is going to stress you out and you cannot avoid it or say no to it then plan to do something for yourself afterward to release the tension.
It could be as simple as cozying up to a good book or spending a few hours binging your favorite feel-good TV show.
Healthy outlets for stress-relief:
- Enjoying a sweet treat
- Spending time doing a favorite hobby
- Listening to music / playing an instrument
- Time at the spa or book a massage
- Practicing mindfulness & meditation
- Indulge in some extra sleep
The holidays can be a joyful time for your and your family. Just take a hard look at what’s most important and go from there.