7 Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress

December 16, 2023 10:44 am

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As we approach the holiday season, that sense of overwhelm and holiday stress can leave us feeling anxious, frazzled, nervous, strained, tense, and unnerved. For some, the holidays represent stress, pressure, expectations, guilt, disappointment, pain, loneliness, exhaustion … and it doesn’t have to be that way!

Take a moment this year to make decisions with intention. When choose who you spend time with, choose what activities you say yes and no to and choose where you go, decide if it is because it makes you happy or is an obligation. Your holiday season can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose to make it, and it can be a joyful and meaningful time of year if you plan accordingly.

Use these 7 tips as a guide as you make decisions and decide what is the most important.

1. Create a list of holiday rituals or traditions that are important to you.

Seek your family’s input on holiday decisions. Ask family members you care about what they liked and disliked about last year’s holidays. Write down the most important elements and activities you wish to include in your plans for this year. Then plan things into your calendar to make it happen.

Time-consuming and irrelevant traditions “just because we’ve always done it that way” can increase stress. Plan to say no to the rituals that are not meaningful to you and others you care about. Keep only those that are meaningful to you or create some new ones.

Give yourself permission to be in the moment and enjoy the smells, sounds, feel, and tastes that are unique to this season of the year.

2. Make a list of those you want to spend time with during the holidays.

Who nourishes you? Who are the family members, friends, and colleagues you enjoy being with? Who brings you down? Maybe this is not the year to get together with them!

Do you want to do any entertaining? If so, when and with whom? Plan ahead and ask for help if you want it. True friends and loved ones will not care how many hours you slaved over the stove. Spending time with you is what they’ll cherish most. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart to throw a great party!

Are you invited to holiday parties that you really don’t want to go to, but you’ve gone to in the past because you should? Be at choice — don’t play the victim! This is not about whom you should see, but rather who you choose to spend time with.

3. Holiday Greeting Cards are not a chore.

How often do you receive a handwritten card or letter these days? Make it a craft project with the kids. Use old Christmas cards or have them draw pictures and write heartfelt messages to the recipients. If crafting is not your thing there are online services that allow you to send real cards and they do all the stuffing, stamping, and mailing for you.

4. Mail packages with ease.

Mail packages early in December to avoid long lines at the post office and ensure they will arrive in time. If you mail multiple backages throughout the year the post office offers programs where you can print the postage label and the postman will pick up.

5. Thoughtfully plan your gift-giving.

Give from the heart, not out of obligation. Decide who you choose to give to and make a list. This will help you avoid overspending through impulse buying.

If you think back to the most cherished gifts you have received, they are often homemade or from the heart. Experiences are in, clutter is out. A gift of time–such as a gift certificate redeemable for an activity you can do together–can be very meaningful. Instead of exchanging gifts with friends, consider having a holiday or post-holiday party with them.

6. Spread holiday cheer with those in need.

Volunteer to serve a holiday meal to the homeless, work in a soup kitchen, or work at a food bank. Adopt a family for the holidays and provide them with gifts or holiday foods. Many churches and non-profit organizations can match you with a needy family.

Look for a Giving Tree in your local retail stores. The tree is filled with cards that list a specific gift desired by someone in need. You select a card on the tree, purchase the suggested gift listed on the card, and return the gift to the tree with the card attached. The store wraps the gift and delivers it to the intended recipient.

7. Use your calendar to help organize your time to reflect your priorities.

Once you are clear about your intentions, schedule them in. Writing them down for follow-up on a specific date will help you to remember to do it and will keep things from falling to the last minute. In other words, make appointments with yourself to follow through with specific tasks by a specific time.

Blocking out time on your calendar to follow through with your intentions can significantly reduce the sense of overwhelm that many people experience during the holiday season. Once you have a plan, you can let go of your long to-do list and can be more fully present and in the moment with whatever you choose to focus on right now.
As you prepare for the holidays, remember that the greatest gifts of all won’t be found under the gift wrap. They’ll be found during those special moments when you make a heart connection with those you care about.

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