Oh, the magic and wonder of the holiday season. The twinkling lights, the decorations, and the laughter fill you with excitement and anticipation… when you’re a child. For many adults, getting to the laughter part takes a lot of planning, time, and stress.
That dreaded holiday s-word: stress. Somehow it creeps up on me year after year and takes the cheerful wind out of my sails. This year it is going to be different.
No, really. This year we—you and me—are going to both make it through the holidays mostly unscathed. Better yet, let’s enjoy the ride and make this a year we remember with only the fondest of memories. I am in, are you?
Before we get into holiday planning, let’s remember to stay healthy. Get out of the house, the office, and the stores. Take a walk around your neighborhood, get some fresh air and clear your mind at least a couple times each week. Get enough sleep—those cable Christmas programs will be showing tomorrow and the next day. Practice mindful eating. Enjoy some of the sweet and rich foods of the holidays but indulging too much will only make you feel worse tomorrow.
Make That List
Spending too much money causes stress. The less organized your gift giving is, the more money you will spend. Make a list of the gifts you plan on buying and stick to it. Don’t give in to the last minute worries that what you bought “isn’t enough” or inadequate.
Seeing your plans on paper can prepare you emotionally to the financial requirements as well as help you chart your shopping expeditions and hiding spots. Plus, there can be a lot of satisfaction from checking off items on your list. Works for Santa.
Speaking of Gifts
Be creative. Make something that means something to you and there is a good chance it will mean something to the gift receiver. The Relax Nation and Country Living both share some good ideas to get you started.
Think small. A few smaller gifts that speak to the personality of your recipient can make for a great gift (like a mix CD, favorite chapstick, some great chocolates, and a great scarf).
Think big. Maybe a group gift is the way to go this year. A new gaming console for the whole family or a trampoline that everyone can play on might mean more than smaller gifts. (Just don’t think big and think small if you want to reduce stress.)
Think filler. On Christmas morning, one of my friends blows up a couple bags of red and green balloons to surround the Christmas tree. It actually makes a big impact. Plus, what kid doesn’t like playing with balloons?! I think a bubble machine could be fun, too.
Scientific studies have shown that music activates the same pleasure sensor in the brain as sex and food. Pick great holiday music for car rides, chilling out at home, wrapping presents, and other holiday activities. Not only will it make you happier in the moment, but when you hear that song next year, you will remember the great holidays you had this year.
Make a few playlists and when you feel the stress coming on, get that music on STAT!
Remember the reasons why we love the holidays. It is the time spent with family and friends, the twinkling lights, and the laughter. That can be found with a simple strand of lights, a box of cereal, and sharing some old stories. Don’t attempt perfection and never expect it. Try to remind yourself to enjoy the moments and just… chill.
What are your tricks for keeping stress at bay during the holidays? What are you most looking forward to this year? What are your favorite activities to do with family and friends during the holidays?