The holidays can be a joyous time to celebrate and connect with family. But it is also a stressful time. Why? We have high expectations for the holidays—often higher expectations than at any other time of the year. Planning for the holidays can leave us feeling impatient, cranky, and even depressed.
Stress and depression can not only ruin your ability to enjoy your holiday celebrations, it can also damage your health. But there are things you can do to help avoid stress and better manage it when it comes, because it will.
1. Keep Your Expectations Realistic: The holidays don’t have to be perfect. They also don’t have to be identical every year. Families change and grow, and so do traditions. Plan for things to go wrong and be flexible and react with grace and patience.
2. Plan Ahead: From planning holiday menus to gift ideas, planning ahead can help you avoid a lot of last-minute stress. Make shopping lists and plan what days you will do your shopping.
3. Set a Budget (and Stick to It): The excitement of the holidays can quickly snowball into over spending and over giving. Some things to budget include: grocery shopping, gifts, and charitable donations. There are also ways to limit spending this time of year like setting up a family gift exchange or making homemade gifts.
4. Don’t Over Commit: It’s okay to say, “no”. You don’t have to say yes to every party invite. Take the time to think about the people and events that truly bring you joy, and fully commit to all of those. Express your gratitude for the invite to the others, and move on. I promise your friends and family will understand if you can’t attend this year, and you’ll get even more out of the events you do say “yes” to.
5. Stick To Your Healthy Habits: As much as you can, at least. Now is not the time to skip your yoga class, morning run, or healthy meals. Those things will help you fight off the looming holiday stress. You can also sign up for your local turkey trot or other holiday-themed races. You’ll get involved with your community and can get the whole family involved.
6. Take A Break: Spend a little time by yourself. Meditate, do some relaxation breathing, listen to your favorite music and have a dance party, or go for a short walk. Taking a break can go a long way in helping you maintain balance.
7. Ask For (And Accept) Help: When Aunt Susie asks if she can bring anything to Thanksgiving dinner—accept. A neighbor offers to take your kid to school? Accept. And if they don’t ask, give yourself permission to ask for help. This can also be asking for professional helping. Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength.