Manage Holiday Stress
The year has just flown by and it is once again December, the most stressful month of the year. Why, I ask myself, it contains all of the things I love and enjoy like decorating, planning, cooking, parties, giving, and spending time with my family. While this all sounds wonderful, it is all compacted into just a few short weeks with no time to spare, and an empty wallet, no wonder I’m so stressed. I remember one December I had a headache the whole month, I don’t remember anything about that Christmas except that terrible headache I suffered from all the stress of trying to make the holiday something it couldn’t be.
If your like me and have a blended family, or live many miles away from family it’s hard, if not impossible to get everyone together to create that Norman Rockwell kind of picture that lives in all our minds. Cooking two or three Christmas dinners to try and create that feeling is crazy, but I have done it more than once. The only feeing I created was resentment, anger and exhaustion on my part. So that tradition went out the window and I cook one Christmas dinner and that’s it. The point I’m trying to make is don’t expect perfection, be open to changes.
Now that the holidays are here, and all the demands of the season are upon us I have put together a list of 10 ways to help minimize stress and enjoy the holidays a little more.
Get in touch with your feelings
Recognize and acknowledge them. Feeling sad if you can’t be with your loved ones because of distance, death or divorce is ok. It’s important to take the time to express your feeling of sadness and grief and yes, it’s ok to cry. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because its the holiday season. Make a list of what really stresses you out about the holidays and what you can do to change that. The number one thing for me is the christmas tree. It takes me forever to pick one out, it takes days to decorate it, the whole house is a mess until it’s done, the dog takes the ornaments off of the tree, everyone loses interest after the first 10 minutes and its left for me to finish. Then when the holidays are over, it’s a mess to take down and dispose of it. This year I bought a 4 foot tree so that I could take pictures of the ornaments that I have made for my blog. I planned on putting it on the stair landing when I was done. I love that little tree it was so stress-free and without even knowing it I solved my biggest stress of the season. It has become our Christmas tree even though it’s artificial and small it fits the bill.
Don’t expect perfection
Get that Norman Rockwell picture out of your mind. Families, and traditions change. Be open to creating new ones and new ways to celebrate. If you can’t all be together, Skype is the next best thing. It is a great way to see and communicate with each other. Set aside grievances and be understanding that others are stressed out too. Try to accept family members and friends as they are. It might be a good idea to limit the amount of alcohol you serve if it’s a trigger for some of your guests. You don’t want to add fuel to the fire if it can be avoided.
Make a budget and stick to it. Don’t attempt to buy happiness with excessive gifts, that’s not what Christmas is all about. Creations from the kitchen are wonderful gifts to give. Giving of your time. A coupon book for babysitting, favorite treat, meal or a movie night would be something anyone would enjoy. I use to make a coupon book for my daughter each year with something for each month, she loved it and still talks about it years later.
Set aside days to bake, shop, wrap gifts, etc so that you are not trying to do it on one day at the last minute. Scrambling to get it all done creates extra stress. Buy a gift card each month and by the time Christmas arrives much of the shopping is done. Whether you give the card or purchase a gift with it the money has already been spent, it’s an easy way to budget for the holidays.
Learn to say NO
I know this can be a hard one but remember you are no good if you are feeling resentful and overwhelmed. If you are unable to fulfill all the commitments you have made everyone will be unhappy. Don’t add extra stress to an already stressful time.
Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, admitting that you can’t do it all is not a crime. Ask for help preparing the house for your quests. Have each quest bring something to add to the meal. Ask for help with the clean up. Don’t cook at all and go to your favorite restaurant. Have your gifts wrapped at the mall.
Continue or start with healthy habits
Don’t let the holidays be a free-for-all. Overindulging will not only make you feel terrible but you will feel guilty and stressed. Get plenty of sleep, get regular physical activity, have a healthy snack before holiday parties, and drink plenty of water.
Make time for yourself
Take 15 minutes a day to meditate or just spend some time alone without distractions to free your mind. Slow your breathing and restore inner calmness. A 20 minutes power nap maybe just what you need to regroup and restore energy. Get a massage, a pedicure or manicure or both. Listen to soothing music, do something just for you. Remember if you don’t take care of yourself no one else will.
Count your blessings
It is important to give thanks. Our local newspaper has a Christmas for all fund and each day of December they feature a story of someone who has written to the press asking for help from the Christmas for all program. I read them each day and realize how blessed I have been and how small my problems are. Suddenly the stress of planning a Christmas celebration, wrapping gifts, endless shopping trips, what to buy aunt Nell don’t seem like a problem at all.
Seek professional help if needed
Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. If despite your best efforts, you find yourself feeling persistently sad, anxious, depressed, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, overwhelmed by physical complaints or unable to start or complete routine chores. If these feelings last for a while it’s time to talk your doctor or mental health professional. They can help to discover the source of your stress and give you useful coping skills. With a little planning and preparation this can truly be the happiest season of all!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.