Every advertisement, movie and song we encounter at this time of year tells us the holidays are meant to be a time of joy and peace. But if you have children, a large family, out-of-town visitors, work in retail, make toys at the North Pole or will be traveling to visit relatives, the holidays can be more stress than serenity.
Research backs this up. While feelings of love, goodwill and excitement fill the air, people say they have more stress during the holidays. Most of us feel the pressure to create that magical holiday experience for our family.
If holiday stress is a regular part of your life these days, learn how to dial it down with these simple strategies.
1. Create your own meaningful traditions
The holidays can be whatever you make them. You don’t have to replicate the images in those perfectly decorated, garland-festooned TV commercials. The season is really about spending time with our loved ones. Try not to take things too seriously. Watch the holiday movies that make you and your family laugh. Frolic in the snow if you’re lucky enough to have it. Go for a run or walk, or hit the gym together.
2. Plan ahead and delegate, delegate, delegate
Many of us load our plates with too many commitments that increase our stress and zap that holiday spirit. Create a to-do list and delegate responsibilities to other family members, like asking people to contribute a dish to the holiday meal. Have the kids help with gift wrapping and addressing cards.
3. Create a budget … and stick to it
This goes for grocery shopping as well as presents. Consider making presents (baked goods, small craft items or a framed photo). These are more thoughtful and often more appreciated than expensive gifts. Check out the free or affordable activities offered at your local community or recreation center. Walk around the neighborhood to admire the lights, window shop or attend a family skate.
4. Try to eliminate family drama
Almost everyone seems to have a family member who pushes all the wrong buttons. What would the turkey dinner be without Scrooge? Well, peaceful. When the Scrooges who sit around our dinner table have the potential to spoil the day, it’s time to be proactive.
First of all, be realistic about your relatives, yourself and your relationship with them. Make a mental note of button-pushing conversation topics to avoid. Set healthy boundaries and get comfortable with saying “no” to unrealistic demands. Ask a friend to help you role play a conversation with a troublesome relative to give you perspective and confidence when you actually have to deal with him/her.
Good luck! And remember: less stress is more peace of mind. Don’t just pay lip service to “peace and goodwill.” Create a peaceful holiday oasis in your home.