Does the holiday hustle and bustle raise your stress level? You are not alone. The American Psychological Association conducted a study on holiday stress. Participants were asked a number of questions and the following statistics reflect the top areas causing elevated stress levels: 67% felt a lack of time, 62% a lack of money, 47% pressure to give gifts, and 44% pressure to attend family gatherings. Sadly, stress levels for women and low- to middle-income families during the holiday season rose exponentially. Although stress cannot be eliminated completely, our guest blogger Tanynya Hekymara brings you nine ways you can cut down your stress this holiday season.
* * * *
Tanynya’s 9 Ways to Maintain Holiday Calm
“I’m a minimalist. I don’t really need much to enjoy a good holiday — just my family and the bare essentials.” Jean Reno (actor)
- Know your budget. To plan effectively you will need to know your budget capacity. Your budget should include an allotment for gifts, decorations, food, home projects, cleaning and "me"money (for tip number 9).
- Shop early. Once you set a budget, it’s time to shop. Don’t wait until November or December to start shopping. Enjoy shopping for gifts all year long. For instance, when on a summer vacation, budget some money for interesting gifts. Use holiday sales for sweep gifts — in other words, gifts you are unable to acquire throughout the year.
- Get a calendar and use it. There are a number of ways to keep track of tasks and obligations. You need a calendar that fits your lifestyle. You can use the good, old, trustworthy paper calendar, or your email or phone’s default calendar. If you want a calendar app, you can find one by searching the app store on your tablet or phone. Start by putting the big event date prominently in your calendar. Then begin to fill in dates that certain tasks must be completed to ensure a smooth event. Spread them out. Do some tasks earlier in the year to free up time during the last 3 months of the year.
- Make lists. Lists can be rewarding. There is a certain sense of satisfaction to crossing tasks off of the list. I like to preserve the entire list so that if I feel my holiday planning process is moving too slowly, I have my list to remind me how far I have come. A strong list should include each person you are purchasing a gift for; projects you would like to complete prior to guests arriving, such as reorganizing the pantry or purchasing a new microwave; grocery shopping; food preparation; and decorating projects. If you have been shopping all year long, by the time you get to October you will have already checked several tasks off of the ‘to do’ list. Progress.
- Don’t over-schedule. This is a biggy. Be sure to put all holiday events on your calendar. Color-code them to help you prioritize. You might want to use a street-light color code: green can mean going; yellow for might go; and red for nope, not going. If you have scheduled your tasks already, adding holiday obligations can cause some shifting of task target dates. That’s OK. There should be wiggle room in your calendar because you have spread out your tasks, allowing for adjustments. Finally, you will want to schedule a "pamper me" day. We will talk about this a bit more shortly.
- Let go of perfection. Think of your holiday tradition or dinner as perfect to begin with. Adopt the belief that all is as it should be, and perfection is at your fingertips. Remember that the only person who knows that something didn't get done, bought, or cooked is you. Enjoy instead of obsessing. This is a time to visit with family and friends. Whatever tradition you use to get folks in the room is merecamouflage for reconnecting.
- Create your own traditions. Are you tired of the "same-old-same-old"? Start a new tradition of hosting every other year, and be courageous—go on vacation. Join someone else’s celebration. Choose a volunteer opportunity. Bored with your own tradition? Add Karaoke or a dance-off to the evening’s festivities. Include others in your preparation for the big night. Give yourself permission to add a new feel to your festivities.
- Keep your daily routine. It is important to stay healthy during the holiday season. There’s not much worse than getting the holiday flu. Keep your exercise routine, eat breakfast, eat healthy balanced meals, and sleep, sleep, sleep.
- Breathe, relax, and pamper yourself. Spend the "me" money you entered into your budget. Give yourself permission to take a relaxing vacation instead of staying in town. If you stay in town, schedule a pamper day. Get a massage, facial, or mud bath, or golf all day. You deserve a gift planned by you—because you know you best. Meditate and be mindful.
As Jean Reno so simply yet eloquently stated, in the end the holiday season is about family. You are part of the family. Create traditions that please you and others. Most importantly, give yourself the gift of time by planning effectively.
Enjoy your holiday!
- Mom's Guide to Family Health: New Year Food and Fitness by Joanne Barker, reviewed By Hansa D. Bhargava, MD, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/family-health-12/reduce-holiday-stress
- 5 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress by Lisa Cappelloni, November 18, 2010, http://www.healthline.com/health/holiday-stress-management-tips#1
- Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping by Mayo Clinic staff, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544