Reduce holiday stress by choosing to focus on what matters most.
Why do we experience holiday stress?
Ironically, we think of the Christmas season as a time of joy and peace, but more often, holidays seem demanding and exhausting. Let's face it, after the last couple of years, we need and deserve an extra measure of kindness and grace from each other this holiday season.
That said, most of us will experience some holiday stress, no matter how we try to avoid it. Fortunately, we can reduce some of the stress by choosing to respond to stressful situations, events, and circumstances in a way that protects (and possibly improves) our inner joy and peace.
How can we reduce holiday stress during this season?
The Moultrie County Health Department wants to share 5 tips for reducing holiday stress. Hopefully, these tips will enable you to enjoy the Christmas season and spend more time on what matters most to you.
- Prioritize the Holiday you want.
Are you hosting a big family gathering, or are you seeking some solitude and downtime for the holidays? Would just a little bit of company help your holidays seem less stressful?
There's nothing wrong with envisioning the Christmas you want. In fact, keeping that picture at the front of your mind will help you prioritize and prepare more effectively for the holidays. However, stress can flourish if your expectations exceed your ability to fulfill them. Don’t let that happen.
Be open and honest with yourself and others about your priorities and abilities this Christmas season. Share your holiday must-haves with the people who matter most in your life. Encourage them to share theirs as well.
Prioritize and prepare early and together to make your preferred holiday a reality. The result may not be exactly what you envisioned, but it will likely be a less stressful and more enjoyable Christmas season for everyone.
- Set a Christmas budget.
If you haven't already done this, you need to do it now! Regardless of how much or how little you can spend on gifts and other seasonal activities.
A budget will help reduce stress because it sets financial boundaries and gives you a spending plan. During the Christmas holidays, setting a limit on your holiday spending will help you avoid impulse purchases and overspending.
It can also help you plan charitable donations to help individuals and families who may not be as fortunate as you during the Christmas season.
There’s nothing worse than waking up the day after Christmas with “financial regrets” and beginning a new year further in debt. So, set up a budget and stick to it. You’ll be glad you did.
- Establish social boundaries.
It’s easy to end up “waist-deep” in holiday activities. Knowing your physical and mental tolerance for social events and limiting yourself accordingly can help reduce social fatigue and stress.
Before you commit to something you don't want to do during the holiday season, determine your limits. Ask and answer questions such as:
- How far and for what length of time are you willing to travel during the holidays?
- How many activities (parties, programs, events, gatherings, etc.) should you schedule?
- How long will you host house guests this holiday season?
Discuss these questions with others in your household. Together, you can create a plan that works for all of you. As you plan, schedule some time to rest between seasonal activities, travel schedules, and other home and work obligations.
Furthermore, don’t drive or fly thousands of miles to visit people who are inhospitable, antagonistic, or disrespectful to you or those you love. You have the right to choose your holiday circumstances. You can always say “no,” but once you commit to seeing family, you should do it with a good attitude.
Regardless, choose to find joy in difficult moments. Moreover, choose to act like a "grown-up" even if others do not.
- Focus on things you can control.
There are only two things you can genuinely control: Your thoughts and your actions. You can’t control what your relatives say or do around the dinner table. You can’t control your kids’ attitudes.
When you stop worrying about what you can’t control, you’ll reduce the holiday stress you experience. You'll be surprised how much better life can be by choosing not to refute the biases, complaints, and bad attitudes of others.
It’s also an excellent way to demonstrate extra kindness and grace to others during the Christmas season.
- Guard your routines and make time for the things you enjoy.
Keeping your routines helps you stay calm and focused on the day ahead.
If your average day starts with waking up at your usual time, drinking a cup of coffee, and reading the newspaper, don’t skip it during the Christmas season. If you exercise every day, keep exercising.
Make time to enjoy the things you love. Read a book. Do a Christmas devotional. Spend time with your family and friends.
If you are still struggling with fitting everything in, re-visit your holiday vision. Create and prioritize a list of up to 5 things you would like to do during the Christmas holidays and get to work on them.
Making the right choices to reduce holiday stress.
Admittedly, much of the holiday stress we experience is self-inflicted and preventable.
Refusing to let stress run your life is a daily choice. Therefore, if your Christmas priority is to give you and those you love a little more joy and peace, use the 5 tips we have just reviewed as your Christmas priorities. Try out one tip from each area that will work for you, and be diligent in your effort.
Joy and Peace can be more than a refrain. In fact, both are inexpensive to give, easy to share, and usually appreciated by the giver and receiver. Here’s to creating a joyous and peace-filled holiday season.