Does the holiday hustle and bustle raise your stress level? You are not alone. The American Psychological Association recently 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 added stress because of a lack of time
- 62% felt added stress because of a lack of money
- 47% felt added stress because of pressure to give gifts
- 44% felt added stress because of pressure to attend family gatherings
Sadly, stress levels for women and low-income and middle-income families during the holiday season were even higher than the average.
Although stress can never be completely eliminated from life, here are nine ways you can cut down your stress this holiday season.
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 #9—keep reading!).
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.
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.
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.
This is a biggie. Be sure to put all holiday events on your calendar. Color code them to help you prioritize. You might want to use a traffic light color code. Green can mean going; yellow for might go; red for nope, not going. If you have scheduled your tasks already, adding holiday obligations can cause some shifting of 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 a bit more about this shortly.
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 merely camouflage for reconnecting.
Are you tired of the “same-old-same-old”? Start a new tradition of hosting every other year, and be courageous—go on vacation. Or join someone else’s celebration. Or choose a volunteer opportunity. Bored with your own traditions? 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.
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.
Spend the “me” money you entered into your budget. Give yourself permission to take a relaxing vacation instead of staying in town. If you do 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 the actor Jean Reno so simply yet eloquently states, 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!