Snow, the smell of cookies baking and twinkling lights are all things that may remind us of the holidays. So does arguments, stress and busyness. For some the holiday season represents a positive time spent with family, cooking and shopping. While others struggle with anxiety at the thought of being around relatives, the expectations of trying to be happy and all the preparation required as the holidays draw near. Most people land somewhere in the middle. So how can we mentally and emotionally prepare ourselves this year? We want to enjoy and create some joyous holiday memories while still being realistic about our time and what is out of our control? Let’s lean into this question together to develop 6 survival tips to reduce holiday stress.
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6 Survival Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress
Evaluate Your Present State
Before you charge off into holiday preparation mode, let’s stop and review the year.
On two occasions, I literally had just moved the week (or day) before Thanksgiving. I mean I had to run back to our old house around the corner to cook my sweet potato casserole because I didn’t even have an oven in the new house. Last year, I had just had a heart attack, but I still felt the need to send out Christmas cards. Seriously!
So stop and take a minute to review what has happened the past year.
Are your children older and able to help with a little more this year? Did your family experience a job loss or lay-off and you need to tighten the budget this Christmas? What has occurred this past year that may be affecting you and your family?
Make adjustments. This year does NOT need to look like last year. Just because you helped out with the local Holiday parade the past 5 years or dropped off fresh cookies to all your neighbors does not mean you have to do that this year. You may decide that you have a little extra time and energy this year and wish to do something special. Or after some reflecting, you may realize that you want to keep things simple.
Create a Do and Don’t Do List
After some soul-searching about what your family’s present reality is, create a do and don’t do list.
It can be fun to sit down with your spouse and kids and each decide one thing they would love to participate in during the holidays.
I love going to a nearby all horse-drawn carriage parade! As I have mentioned, I love parades! Add twinkle lights and animals and I’m sold! My daughter enjoys making cut out cookies. We all enjoy decorating the Christmas tree together, while watching the classic film Miracle on 34th Street (make sure to watch the original:) and drinking egg nog!
Next, look at things that you are going to cut from the to do list. Are you going to take a year off from hosting Thanksgiving this year? Are you going to excuse yourself from one of your typical holiday parties? Will you skip decorating the house in 5,000 lights? Creating a “don’t do” list can be very freeing and allows more time for the things you love.
Set Healthy Family Boundaries
Once you have your wish to do and wish to not do list you may need to clarify your intentions with some extended family and friends.
Get ahead of the game and try to minimize any misunderstandings by expressing what your intentions are during the holidays. If due to a smaller Christmas budget you will not be participating in the present exchange let everyone know up front. If you are a blended family, grandparents may want to know what your holiday schedule with your children looks like.
If you struggle with setting unrealistic expectations for yourself or for others, you may appreciate some more support in setting clear boundaries.
Healthy family boundaries allows us to:
- Give ourselves permission to say, “No” so that we have the freedom to say,”Yes”
- Create realistic expectations for ourselves and others
- Focus on things we can control such as our attitude and actions
- Center ourselves on giving to the relationships where we are understood
- Release the idea of trying to “fix” others.
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Set Your Budget
Nothing spells stress like overspending! Decide beforehand how much you have to spend and stick to the budget! Think about who you are going to buy gifts for and set a budget for each person.
As you create a budget make sure you take into account all the extras you are going to purchase like wrapping paper, secret Santa gifts, extra food and Christmas cards.
As you purchase items, write them down so you remember what you purchased. I love Amazon, but it can be tricky to not overspend when you are shopping online. Or at least for me it is because I can’t physically see everything I purchased till it all arrives!! Anyone else have this problem?
Throughout the year, I love using the FREE online program Every Dollar created by Dave Ramsey. It is so easy, even this non-techie girl can use it! And what I really love about it is that the program is so flexible. If your income is different each month or your expenses vary wildly, it’s no problem! So awesome!
Avoid Excessive Sugar and Caffeine
Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m all about enjoying some sweets! But with all the natural stress and busyness during the holidays, take care of yourself by balancing sweets with eating well and drinking lots of water.
I try to limit sugar and caffeine throughout the week. And one thing I have noticed is that sugar and caffeine really affects our bodies.
We all “know” that too much sugar and caffeine is unhealthy for us. But it wasn’t til I had days at a time when I didn’t have sugar or caffeine that I noticed my body’s reaction when I would have sugar and caffeine.
If you struggle with feeling anxious or sluggish and have trouble sleeping, you may be blown away by how much better you feel when you limit your sugar and caffeine intake.
During the holidays, when there is an excess of sweets, be aware of how many sweets you are eating. If you know you are attending a party in the evening limit your sugar intake during the day. Or offer to bring a healthier snack so that you have other options to enjoy.
Enjoy the Process
I don’t know about you, but I can tend to just focus on getting finished with holiday preparations and not so much on enjoying the process.
This season I would love to look back and realize that I treasured the moments preparing. For me, I want to enjoy baking in the kitchen with my daughter, helping with Operation Christmas Child at our church, preparing to host out-of-town family for Thanksgiving and going Christmas shopping trip with my husband.
What moments would you like to look back and realize you savored?