The holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy, togetherness, family, and gratitude…right?
Not quite. Although this may be the case for some, for many this time of the year is experienced in quite the opposite fashion — it’s a time full of stress due to fights at the dinner table over long held grudges, concerns about money spent on buying gifts for everyone, and having to plan the multitude of get-togethers and making sure that everything goes just right.
If you tend to experience higher levels of stress during the holiday season and would like to learn how to make it more enjoyable and relaxing, then keep on reading, because in today’s blog we’re going to provide you with 9 powerful ways you can immediately reduce the stress you feel during this time of the year.
1. Set Boundaries
No matter what time of the year it is, feeling like you’re the one in control of your own life is key to living joyfully. If part of your holiday stress has to do with you feeling pressured to do this or that because the people around you are calling the shots on what you should do during this time, then it may be time to start setting clearer boundaries.
Before you commit to anything, decide what your limits are for traveling or for hosting guests. How long will you be traveling for? Are you okay with going to your partner’s family’s gathering this year instead of your own? Who do you want to have at your holiday gathering? Having clarity on what your limits are will help you stay aware of when your boundaries are being crossed and will thus put you in a better position to remind yourself and those around you of your boundaries.
When it comes to boundary-setting, the most important thing to remember is that you can always say "No". Why drive or fly thousands of miles to a place that’s inhospitable and threatening? That being said, if you do end up having to commit to a non-negotiable event, then all you can do from that point on is to do it with a good attitude. Choosing to find joy in the hard moments may be extremely difficult to do at times, but doing so is also an incredible sign of your strength and maturity as a human being.
2. Focus On What You Can Control
When something negative occurs and you feel stressed out about it, if you take a moment to observe the why behind your stress, you will often find that it is not so much the situation itself, but rather how you choose to perceive the situation that is causing your stress.
If you observe closely, you will discover that your negative reaction to the situation comes from the need to control what is happening. But the truth is that you can’t control what others say or do. The only things that you can control are your own thoughts and actions, and nobody else’s. You can’t control what your parents say around the dinner table, nor can you control your kids’ attitudes.
When you choose to let go of that which you can’t control, you’ll experience an immediate reduction in your stress levels. This is because you’ll no longer be carrying the weight of other people’s problems on your shoulders.
To help put this principle into practice, something you can try doing is write a list of the things that cause you stress during this time of the year. Once you’ve done this, cross out all of the things that are out of your control and circle only the things that are truly within your control. Remember: only your own thoughts and actions are in your control.
This is no small feat that you are attempting here, but by doing so you will be taking control and ownership of your thoughts and actions instead of letting your thoughts and actions control you.
3. Protect Your Downtime/Routine
This is a season of giving, but don’t give so much of yourself away that you have nothing left to give. Make time to enjoy the things you love, whether it be reading a good book, taking a long, hot bath, or going on a solo Netflix binge for an evening.
Keep your inner peace and joy intact by creating some breathing room between parties, travel schedules, deadlines at work, and shopping trips.
Another key is to try to stick to your normal routine. If your average day starts with waking up, doing your daily skincare routine, pouring yourself a cup of coffee, and reading the newspaper, don’t skip it. If you exercise every day, keep exercising. Keeping your routine helps you stay calm and focused on the day ahead. Plus, it’s a great way to stay sane—especially when you’re sharing a bathroom with your in-laws.
4. Make a Christmas budget
A budget is creating boundaries for your wallet (or bank account) and helps reduce stress because it gives you a plan for your money.
Remember, you get to control your thoughts and actions—including your spending. You get to decide where every single dollar in your bank account goes.
Budgeting for holiday gifts will help you avoid impulse purchases or spending too much on those white elephant gifts. There’s nothing worse than waking up the day after Christmas feeling broke and about overspending on gifts, so make a budget and stick to it. You’ll be glad you did.
5. Get Organized
Make lists or use an appointment book to keep track of the tasks you need to do and the events you need to attend. Trying to keep track of everything in your head without writing any of it down may may cause you to be in a constant state of stress, as it makes it easier for you to accidentally scramble up the various things on your to-do list.
6. Share the Tasks
You don't have to do everything yourself — it’s okay to ask for help! Share your to-do list with others and spend time with your friends and family while you share tasks such as decorating, wrapping gifts, and preparing the holiday meal.
7. Get Plenty of Sleep and Stay Active
Anxiety affects at least 40 million people in the U.S., and one of the most powerful tools you have to reduce anxiety is sleep. When you’re not getting enough sleep, your brain’s emotional centers become overactive, which increases anxiety levels. So, during the week that you have an abundance of holiday gatherings to prepare for, prioritize your sleep! Not only will it keep your stress and anxiety at bay, but you will also help your immune system stay healthy.
Another key factor in stress and anxiety reduction is to stay active. Exercising gives your body a way to process and release stress hormones, so do your best to hit the gym at least two times a week or bundle up and get outside to start an epic snowball fight with your loved ones (play is exercise too)!
Being sick, tired, and stress during the holidays is no fun. That’s why exercising, getting outside, and resting are all immune-boosting activities that will help you feel strong, peaceful, and healthy.
8. Respect Differences
If you find that every year around the dinner table, the same old arguments are repeated and you feel like you’re beating a dead horse, then this year try taking a vow to allow your relatives to express themselves freely. Once you’ve fully accepted that old Uncle Robert is going to say what he wants no matter what and that no one on this Earth can convince him of otherwise, you’ll find that not fighting against his opinions actually frees you from a great deal of unnecessary stress.
Family members will have different viewpoints than your own, and that’s okay. You don’t have to agree with them, but you also don’t have to try to persuade them that they’re wrong.
Try your best to forgive and forget this holiday season (and to maintain this sense of forgiveness throughout the year)! Focus on your similarities in order to replace tension with something productive and positive instead.
9. Make connection your number one priority.
Make people your top priority. The holiday season is a time meant to be filled with joy, gratitude, lingering conversations over the dinner table, and lots of laughter. But connection doesn’t happen by accident. You must be intentional. Do your best to avoid getting so caught up in your busybee tasks that you forget to enjoy the people you’re doing all of this for.