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‘Tis the season to be jolly! (or almost anyway). So why do so many of us cringe a little bit, or even a lot, when thinking about the coming holiday season? I love the holidays but all the extra stuff that needs to be done can seem overwhelming and dampen anyone’s holiday spirits. So I’ve put together 7 game changing ways to relieve your stress this holiday season!
These are things you can do this year, right now, to give yourself one of the best gifts ever – a relaxing, joyful holiday season!
Rather than wondering why your husband is never on the ball with helping with the holiday decorating or why your aunt Agnes is always pushing her deadly dry bourbon balls on you, or why your uncle Harry always has to have the football game turned on at top volume, or the kids are wound up and zooming around the house like tops and feeling like everyone is being unhelpful or annoying on purpose, just assume that they are doing their best.
The holidays come with a lot of expectations and traditions. We each come from a family of origin that may have had very different ideas about how the holiday should go. It’s important to remember that many people had bad experiences at the holidays that they are trying to forget.
We can’t always know what is behind someone else’s actions and we don’t have to. For your own sanity, just assume everyone is doing their best. Grace is a wonderful gift to give others (and yourself) during the holidays.
If you’re the “Super Mom” or “Super Hostess” and everyone (including you) has come to expect you to do everything to create a wonderful holiday season, don’t be afraid to take off that cape, climb off the pinnacle of perfection and ask for help.
If your sister-in-law makes fantastic stuffing, ask her to bring it. Or if your Mom makes an awesome sachertorte, ask her to bring it. If you hate wrapping presents, ask if your spouse or partner can help. Sure, they might say no, but you can always ask someone else.
Or buy your desert from a bakery and use gift bags to make the wrapping go faster. You don’t have to do everything. And if you are having a big family gathering it’s unrealistic to think you can.
There are a lot of opportunities to eat, drink and be merry during the holiday season. You don’t have to accept every invitation, eat every cookie you’re offered or put up every decoration you have in storage just because you’ve always done so. It’s O.K. to say no and it’s O.K. to trim back.
If there are people you really want to see during the holidays but fitting them all into a 24-hour period has you in your car for more time than you’re in front of the fire catching up with the people you love, Spread things out a bit. Try a “Boxing Day” get together on the 26th or a New Year’s Day brunch or better yet a potluck and game night in the 3rd week of January when the winter blahs are setting in.
Earlier I mentioned that our family members may have difficult holiday memories or bad experiences that make them less then optimally functional during this season. Many of us do as well. So be gentle with yourself and if you know something is likely to set you off into a dark or sad mood, do what you can to avoid those triggers.
Sometimes we know certain people are likely to push our buttons. If your brother talking politics is going to make you fume. Have a couple of topic changing sentences at the ready so you don’t get stuck listening to him go on and on. If your cousin always brings up the same embarrassing moment from your childhood, think of a light and funny comeback so that you can pivot away from that without getting mad or red in the face.
Our families are experts at tripping our triggers. Now that we’re grown up we have a lot more options for changing how we react to what they do.
Just because you’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean you have to do it that way this year! The winter holidays are just packed with tradition so I don’t want to sound like a heretic, but you can make gentle changes to create a holiday you really enjoy rather than one that you’ve inherited.
Consider what parts of your holiday traditions you enjoy and what parts you’re just doing because you always have. If you don’t want to host Christmas Day dinner anymore (after doing it for the last 11 years) and would rather just host a Christmas brunch, it’s O.K. Or maybe your sister-in-law would like to be hostess for a change. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
If you’re sick of sending out a ton of cards every year, you can let that go. You might get a little push back, but maybe just say you want to try it this way this year and see how it goes. Where’s the love in doing something you are sick of or resent?
Even if it’s freezing out a short walk or any kind of exercise can really help clear your mind and boost your mood. If you want to know more about how this works check out this page from the Mayo Clinic. If we’re super busy we may not think we have time to exercise (or we may feel like we’re running around so much we’ve gotten our exercise in). But taking the time to exercise can make a big difference in your stress levels and mood.
Try not to burn your candle at both ends even if it does feel like you have a million things to do. Schedule in enough time to rest. You can even put your bedtime on your calendar if you need to.
Water that is. 🙂 Alcohol consumption can contribute to dehydration and so can being cold or being out cold weather. Blood vessels constrict when we’re cold to conserve heat and keep our blood in our core. When this happens our body doesn’t signal that it’s thirsty or needs hydration as much. So we may forget to drink water when we’re cold.
There are studies that show that staying hydrated can help keep our immune system functioning well. During a season when we’re bound to be interacting with a lot of different people and maybe even kissing under the mistletoe, it’s important to keep our resistance to germs as high as we can.
Good is good enough. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. There are often a lot of high expectations around the holidays and how they should be and how we should feel. Don’t should on yourself. Face it, you’ll never get everything 100% perfect. Someone won’t like their gift or the potatoes will be too salty or the rolls will get left in the oven and not be discovered until after the meal (true story – more than just once!)
So focus on the bigger picture and what’s really important…being able to be with those we love. That’s the important thing and that’s enough. That’s what will make it a truly happy holiday.
Stuck on what to get everyone for the Holidays? This post can help! Holiday Gift Giving Made Simple! 7 Tips to Save Your Budget and Your Sanity!
Want more ideas to help keep stress in check during the holidays and all year ’round. Check out this post on the One Tool You Need for Inner Simplicity and this post on 3 Simple Habits for a Calmer & Happier Life
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