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How to minimize holiday stress

Holiday BokehWe all love the holidays, but we don’t love the stress they bring.  Actually, we create some of the stress ourselves, while some can’t be avoided.  What to do?  If you can’t change some things, change the things you can.  Here are some ideas; you may have more — please feel free to share.

  1. Take a look at your calendar now for all of your commitments from now through New Year’s week.  If there are any about which you are already unhappy, now is the time to try to fix that.  More importantly, use this calendar to help you with decisions about upcoming events.   Saying yes to everything is a sure recipe for stress.  I recommend either printing out your calendar, or at least viewing it on a bigger screen than your phone.  There is nothing like a view of the full month to give you a sense of how much you are doing, and whether it is approaching “too much”.
  2. Take a look at your money, and see how you feel about setting a budget for gift-giving.  Think about the gifts you have received that really meant something to you, that you smile.  I’ll bet it had nothing to do with the cost.  Set a dollar budget, and also take a good look to see if there are people with whom you may want to exchange the gift of “let’s not do gifts”.  Trimming the list trims stress for sure.  Looking at it early gives you the gift of time.  (I know, to some people mid-November is not early!  In fact, some people have completed their shopping by now.  I have nothing but admiration to these people, and would love to be one of them.  Alas, I am not.)
  3. Take a look at your rituals.  Which ones matter to you these days?  Which ones do not?  Which ones have you always wanted to add, but have never quite gotten to?  This goes along with keeping your calendar in good shape.  More time will be available to do the things that really matter to you and your family.
  4. And speaking of family (which is one of those things we cannot change), take a look at the people with whom you interact around holiday time.  If there are people or situations that cause you stress every year, now is a great time to start thinking about how you can minimize the stress, even if you still need to interact with those people.  Remember that your reactions to situations are up to you.  One thing that may help is to review interactions that have been difficult, and ask yourself how changing your reaction, walking away, perhaps just smiling and nodding while not saying much, or any number of different reactions might help.

Truthfully, for some this is the most difficult topic of all.  If you find that it is, and that simpler remedies aren’t helping, it might be worth a counseling session or two to strategize together with a professional about how to deal with your difficult family member.

Hopefully these tips will give you a head start on making this holiday season less stress and more pleasurable.

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