Keep it Merry: A Guide to Managing Holiday Stress

The constant loop of “Jingle Bells” and “Winter Wonderland” playing on your radio may make it seem as though the holidays are exclusively a time of cheer and joy, but we all know that the holiday season can also be the most stressful time of the year. Between decorating, travel, cooking, spending time with family, and spending money on gifts, the stress of the holiday season adds up quickly. Here are a few simple ways to keep holiday stress to a minimum this year.

Set your intentions

The first step might seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re hoping to reduce holiday stress … make the decision to do so! Set your intentions on enjoying the holiday. Decide that you will have fun with family and friends, no matter what. When your stress level starts to creep up, remind yourself of your intention by saying “Not this year! This year I decide to be happy.” Set your own tone for the holidays.

Practice gratitude

Perspective is a powerful tool in creating happiness, both during the holidays and year-round. When I switch my focus to all the good in my life, the stress and anxiety tends to melt away. I find that, as human beings, we tend to focus on the negative. I know that I often fall into that trap as well. I think of all of the things I’d rather be doing or wish I had rather than being grateful for what’s already in my life. While I may not enjoy hearing my grandmother’s stories for the millionth time or listening to my dad criticize my outfit, so many others around the world are spending the holidays alone, wishing they had a family to celebrate with. Practicing gratitude changed my life by shifting my perspective. Sure, things aren’t perfect … but they are pretty darn good. You can start out like I did. Simply list 10 things you are grateful for each morning. If you start to feel yourself getting annoyed, read the list and watch what happens. If you are anything like me, it will be nearly impossible to stay negative.

Practice generosity

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” These are words we live by in my own family. In fact, we have a tradition where each family member chooses a “Christmas angel” from the Salvation Army to buy gifts for every year. The experience is a true blessing for us. So, if you’re feeling stressed during the holidays, try giving to someone in need. Give a gift to an underprivileged child in your community. Donate to the bell ringers standing outside the grocery store. Give your time through volunteering. Give your mother your undivided attention. Give, give, and give some more. Watch how your mood instantly improves and your stress fades away.  

What stresses you out the most during the holidays?

Stick to your budget

Don’t let financial woes stop you from enjoying your holiday. Take a good look at your bank account, set a budget, and then stick to it. Avoid the urge to spend even a dollar more than your pre-set limit. Cut down on the number of gifts by drawing names and buying for just one family member (that’s what I do with my large family), shop the clearance rack, or get creative with handmade gifts. In reality, most people appreciate thoughtful gifts much more than any other type of gift, and they don’t have to cost much money. Holidays are all about spending time with the people you love, and time is truly the best gift of all.

Breathe

Even when you’re surrounded by excited family members who haven’t seen you all year long, it’s important that you take time for yourself. Getting away (even for a few moments at a time) will allow you to calm your nerves, find a peaceful mindset and recenter yourself. Take a walk, practice some yoga, or simply close a bedroom door and spend a few moments in prayer. Make quiet time a priority this holiday season.

The holidays truly are a time to rejoice, rejuvenate, and enjoy. While overwhelming feelings can sometimes come with the territory, there are several things you can do to keep them in check so that you can enjoy a stress-free holiday.