If holiday stress is a regular part of your Christmas, learn how to dial it down with some simple strategies. Less really can be more.
It’s upon us! The season of too much to do and too little time. We scramble like mad and then poof! It’s all over. And we’re left sitting around a table of devoured food with our nearest and dearest—with our pants discreetly undone.
What’s taken a lot of the stress out of Christmas for me is that I no longer focus on presents. My family members have almost everything they need. For us, the focus has become sharing a lovingly cooked meal made by my son and spending time together.
But our quiet little Christmas, consisting of me, my mom, my son, and my cat, isn’t the reality for everyone. If you have children, a large family, out-of-town visitors, work in retail, make toys at the North Pole, or will be travelling to visit relatives, Christmas can be more stress than serenity.
Do you experience holiday stress?
While feelings of love, goodwill, and excitement fill the air, people say they have more stress during the holidays. Men and women feel the pressure to create that magical Christmas experience for their family.
Women experience the most stress during the holidays. The majority of activities such as decorating, shopping, wrapping, mailing, baking, cooking, cleaning, and party planning fall on their shoulders. That adds up to a lot of pressure.
How can you reduce the stress?
If your family get-together resembles National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation more than A Very Brady Christmas, these tips will help you reduce the pressure.
Create your own meaningful traditions
Christmas can be whatever you make it. You don’t have to replicate the images in those white Christmas, garland festooned TV commercials. The Canadian Mental Health Association reminds us that 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 such as A Christmas Story (“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”). Frolic in the snow if you’re lucky enough to have a white Christmas. Go for a run or walk, or hit the gym.
Plan ahead and delegate, delegate, delegate
If you’re like me, you may load your plate with too many commitments that increase your stress and zap that holiday spirit. Create a to-do list and delegate responsibilities to other family members, such as asking people to contribute a dish to the holiday meal. Have the kids help with gift wrapping and addressing cards.
Create a budget … and stick to it
This goes for grocery shopping as well as presents. Consider making presents (baked goods, small craft items, a framed photo). These are more thoughtful and appreciated than store-bought gifts. Check out the free or affordable activities offered at your local community or recreation centre. Walk around the neighbourhood to admire the lights, window shop, or attend a family skate.
Try to eliminate family drama
Almost everyone seems to have a family member who pushes all the wrong buttons. What would Christmas 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 pro-active.
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 Christmas oasis in your home.