The spirit of gratitude and giving fills the approaching holiday season. Most grown-ups describe their childhood holiday memories as joyful, carefree times they looked forward to with longing and excitement. However, with today’s fast-paced lifestyles, there’s no denying the stress that accompanies the holiday season. Stress comes in many forms, but studies show that two of the top stressors cluster around financial concerns and chaotic schedules. With this in mind, four practical tips will guide you through the holidays with minimal stress and greater peace of mind.
- Accept change. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals can change as well. Choose a few traditions that are most important to you and be open to changing others. In fact, you might start a new family tradition, such as sharing tasks that go along with hosting a gathering.
- Learn to say no. People tend to over commit, saying “yes” when they should say “no,” which leaves them feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Family and friends will understand if you can’t participate in every party or event that comes up. Make clear decisions and prioritize what you cherish most so that you are not caught up into a long list of extra expectations – parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining. Setting boundaries and planning ahead will help you identify areas where you might cut back. If no one in the family enjoys certain functions, clearly this is a place where you will want to RSVP with a polite “no thank you.”
Learn to say no to out-of-control gift giving and shop for gifts earlier in the year. You don’t have to go into debt to make the holidays special. Many large or extended families choose to draw names so that each person buys for only one family member rather than buying a gift for all family members. Other families agree to exchange low cost or handmade gifts, baked goods, or suggest a spending range that fits everyone’s pocketbook.
- Let things go. Make a special effort to accept the shortcomings of family members and friends when they do something that annoys you. Set aside any bad feelings or grudges to be addressed at a later, less hectic time. Also, try not to take things personally. When a friend or family member gets upset or seems distressed, remind yourself that it says more about them getting their needs met than anything you might have done or failed to do.
- Take time for yourself. Spending just 15 or 20 minutes alone doing what you like to do on a regular basis may refresh you enough to handle any stress that comes your way. Take a warm bubble bath or a walk in nature, meditate, listen to soothing music or take part in your favorite type of exercise – anything that will reduce your stress and restore your inner calm.
With this inner calm, a more realistic vision and clear boundaries, you are now on the path to truly enjoying your family and friends all the way through the holiday season.