The holidays are here and you want everything to be perfect, everyone to love their gifts, the dinner to be the best ever. You want everyone to get along and to feel the peace that so many holiday songs and stories promise. The problem is that the closer the holiday comes, the more stress you feel. With each passing day your anxiety levels increase. No matter what you stress about during the holidays, you are not alone. According to Consumer Reports, 90 percent of people are stressed about at least one thing during the holidays. Crowds and long lines were listed as the number one reason for stress but shopping, spending too much money, going to parties and spending time with certain relatives also made the list.
The following tips can help you relax and enjoy the holidays:
Accept that you feel stressed. Trying to avoid the feelings of stress and tell yourself that you are fine can increase your stress. Acknowledge how you are feeling and write down steps you can take to lower your stress level.
Stick to your budget. In these last few days before the big holiday, it is easy to overspend. You want to get one last present, you can’t find what you are looking for, then end up with something more expensive, you get caught up in the shopping and go overboard buying more gifts. But overspending increases your stress level. If your budget says you are done shopping, avoid the malls and stay busy with visiting friends or spending time with family. If you still have gifts to buy, don’t be tempted by the lovely displays or overpriced merchandise. Make a list before you go shopping and then stick to it. Last minute shopping can often ruin your budget.
Give your time to others. Volunteering and giving to those less fortunate is a great way to boost someone’s mood – and yours. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the crowds, the noise, the hustle and bustle, slow down and offer your time to help someone else.
Listen to music. If you love the holiday tunes, turn them on and listen. Music is calming and makes you feel better. Listening to music can lower heart rates and blood pressure. It can lift your spirits. Whether you choose holiday music, classical music or rock and roll, sit back and enjoy.
Spend fifteen minutes each day by yourself. You can do this when listening to music, reading a book, taking a walk or meditating. The holidays usually mean increased activities for you and your family. You might have parties, family get-togethers, school concerts and more going on every day. Finding a few minutes to be by yourself can rejuvenate you.
Do something fun. If you find all the extra activity is wearing you and your family down, take time to do something fun. This might be taking a walk through a Christmas tree farm, decorating your tree or going to the movies. Find something that you and your family enjoy doing together.
Focus on the present moment. You feel the most stress when you are worrying about the past or future. You might be reliving something that happened yesterday or worrying about what you need to accomplish tomorrow. Instead, take time to enjoy the moment you are in, sending your worries and your stress away.
Create your own holiday traditions. You might be stressed trying to live up to other people’s expectations or “keep up with the Joneses.” Each family, however, has their own special way of celebrating the holiday. Build upon what is important to your family members and create traditions around what matters to you. Your holiday doesn’t need to be better than your neighbor’s or your sister’s. It just needs to be yours.
Spend time with people who make you feel good. The holidays are for spending time with family and friends. If there are people that aren’t supportive or make you feel bad about yourself, avoid these get-togethers and concentrate on those that include people who lift you up and make you feel good.
Don’t try to do everything yourself. Enlist the help of your children and your spouse. Write up a master list of everything that needs to be done between now and the holiday. Divide up the tasks based on ability (younger children can help around the house, older children and your spouse can help with shopping, cooking or other tasks). Not only can this help reduce your stress levels, it helps to make the holidays a family affair and can bring you closer together.
Simplifying your holidays not only reduces stress but gives you time to stop and enjoy yourself rather than rushing from activity to activity. When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and ruminating about everything that can go wrong, stop what you are doing and think about what you can eliminate, delegate or postpone until later. Take a deep breath (or several), focus on the present moment and think about how you can best celebrate the season.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD,Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.
Updated: December 6, 2016