Ah, the holidays. A time where you can enjoy the company of the ones you love, eat tasty treats, and enjoy the swirling snow and twinkling lights. It seems so perfect in your head. But then comes the holiday stress. You’re behind at work and your shopping. Your apartment is a hot mess and you don’t even know where to begin in preparing for the most wonderful time of the year. And you don’t even know how to deal with the impertanent questions about your relationship status from your judgy Aunt Becky. Holiday stress can leave you ringing in the new year burnt out and done with everything before the year even begins.
I get it. Trust me. I’ve been there. We all have, I think, at some point. Some stress will just happen around the holiday season. But we often create an unnecessary amount of that stress too. We want to enjoy our holidays so let’s start by removing some of the stressors! Keep reading for 11 tips to help you avoid extra holiday stress.
But before we get started…
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You want to know the best way to stress yourself out and have every mole hill become a mountain? Deprive yourself from good (and enough) sleep. Lack of sleep increases stress. When you’re tired focusing becomes harder which means you’re less productive and get less done. When you get less done, you may begin to fall behind. And if you fall behind, you become more stressed. Why would you do that to yourself?! Sleep is always important, but I believe that it is more important during busy or stressful times. And yet, during stressful and busy times, the first thing we give up is sleep.
Bro, if we want to avoid unnecessary stress, we need to start with keeping up with our sleep. Your to-dos and responsibilities will still be there if you take a nap. The difference is you’ll be able to tackle them faster with clearer focus after catching some zzz’s. Work faster and smarter, not harder. And anything without enough sleep is just harder.
If sleep is like an elusive unicorn for you, that’s okay. We can fix that. Check out Better Sleep Tips: 10 Ways to get your best zzz’s and start getting the sleep you deserve.
Eat good food
Food is instrumental to well being. Society was literally built around two things: food and beer. (This is actually an anthropological fact, not just wishful thinking).
There are many foods that help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Check them out here. All of them can be very helpful during a period of holiday stress.
But at the same time, the holidays are full of delicious treats that rarely come around any other time of year. You should also allow yourself to enjoy those too. Christmas isn’t the same without cookies. Nor is a cold night as enjoyable without some hot cocoa. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Food is a big part of life. Enjoy them both, just enjoy the sweets and treats mindfully.
We know that the holiday season gets busy. And the worst thing to do for any busy time is to procrastinate. So don’t. By getting ahead you get to avoid some holiday stress.
Figure out everything you need to get done for the holiday season as early as you can. If you’re like me, there’s probably something in charge of for your family get togethers. I’m the one who makes and brings desserts. So I’ll plan out what desserts I’m doing and prep parts of it if possible to make life easier. This year I’m doing pies so I already have prepped my pie crusts. They’re just hanging out in my freezer until I’m ready to use them.
Get your Christmas shopping done early. Stock up on things that will make your life easier. I always stock up on tea, Emergen-C, and candles before the season because it just helps me to have those things always on hand. Essentially, be prepared. Because a little preparedness saves you a million headaches in the end.
We tend to make a lot of excuses around the holidays when it comes to the gym. We don’t have the time to workout or the energy to even think about it. Maybe we say it’s too cold or that we have too much planning to do.
Well, we’re liars! And around the stressful times that we don’t want to exercise, well, that’s typically when we need it most. I have found that when I allow myself to get away with sitting on the couch for too long or at a desk because I’m “too busy” to exercise, I start getting unnecessarily anxious. I’ll begin to have trouble sleeping, which makes me tired, which makes me stressed, which makes it even harder to sleep. It is a stressful and never ending cycle that is fixed by simply moving more.
Truly unsure of how to move more when you’re super busy? Check out this awesome post: 17 ways to sneak a little more exercise into your day
Make your own traditions
The cool thing about the holidays is that they are supposed to be a memorable time with the ones you love. However, you don’t have to be traditional to create traditions. If the holidays are a time of year that you dread, creating your own unique traditions can help you experience them more intentionally. Plus, it gives you something positive to look forward to.
For example, my fiance and I have created a tradition where on Christmas Eve we make delicious tacos and eat ice cream for dessert. It all started because I was so stressed about the holidays (which have never been the best time of year for me) and I just wanted to pretend it wasn’t that time of year. We thought tacos and ice cream were about as un-Christmasy as we could get so that’s what we did. And I love it.
I also have my own personal traditions where I write down my Christmas + New Year’s wishes and put them in a wish box. Then I review them the next year. (I’m always truly amazed at how many of them come true)!
You don’t HAVE to do anything
This is a super important thing that many of us never even realize. There is nothing in this life that you actually HAVE to do (expect die one day in the far future).
We have a lot of things we think we should do. But we don’t have to do them.
You don’t have to give everyone gifts if you don’t want to. I learned this one a while back. I love giving gifts. But there were just some people who never appreciated what I got them. They never said thank you and often asked for more or something different (seriously! the nerve!). It never made me want to buy for them because I knew my actions weren’t appreciated which just added so much more unnecessary holiday stress.
So I just stopped doing it. If I know I’m going to see them at a family dinner, I do bring something small for them – like a coffee mug of some cookies – low stress, not super thoughtful, and they may not like it, but I feel better about it.
You don’t have to decorate your apartment. There’s no reason you’d have to bake like Martha Stewart. You don’t have to buy gifts that send you into debt. And you sure as hell don’t have to go to every Christmas party or get together if you don’t want to.
Truly, you don’t have to do anything so make sure you’re doing what you need to do to maintain your sanity and keep the holiday stress down.
If you’re stressing about handling any toxic family members this holiday season, I would highly suggest checking out Tend + Mend’s post 10 Tips to Include in Your Holiday Self-Care Plan (+ how to deal with difficult family).
*Please remember that every action has some response. You don’t have to pay your bills but there you could be evicted from your apartment as a consequence. Every action has a reaction, so make sure that the reaction is worth your action*.
Know what you’re capable of
Manage your expectations and be reasonable. If you can’t afford fancy gifts, opt for something cheaper and meaningful. If you can’t socialize, don’t attend every event.
There is absolutely no shame in taking care of your needs. Each year is different. Some years you may feel on top of the world, others may have been full of setbacks and heartbreak that have left you tired and drained. That’s okay.
One year you may be capable to do all the things you want to for the holiday season, other years you may need to do a very minimal amount. You are allowed to do that.
Go into the holiday season knowing what you’re capable of. This helps manage your expectations.
Have a good routine
Holiday stress is always worse when you get off of your basic routines. We may feel tempted to slack off on our routines or be extra lazy with them but DON’T! Trust me, when it’s most tempting to stop a routine is when you need it most. Morning and bed time routines create a smooth beginning and ending to our days. They are super beneficial during stressful times.
I would also suggest creating (and sticking to!) a relaxation routine. Keeping your body and mind relaxed isn’t easy but it’s definitely easier than stressing yourself to death.
Picture Perfect doesn’t Exist
The perfect Christmas or holiday get together doesn’t exist. Having the perfect decor, food, most well behaved relatives, happiest carol singing, white Christmas doesn’t happen. Sure, there are perfect moments where everything feels just so right…but for the most part, things won’t be perfect.
Expecting to make this (or any) holiday season the best or most perfect one yet, is only going to lead you to disappointment and holiday stress.
Keep it simple
When in doubt, keep it simple. At the end of the day, no one is truly going to remember how perfect your gift was or how good the food was. After the season, no one cares about how perfectly your apartment was decorated.
What your friends and family will remember is how you made them feel. Keeping it simple removes
The holiday season is magical. And there is a great deal of magic in the simplicity and beauty of what’s around us. Keep it simple and if you’re still trying to figure out how to incorporate more magic into your life, check out: 15 ways to add more everyday magic into your life.
Be Grateful + Breathe
There is always something be grateful for no matter how dark your days get. Being grateful and expressing gratitude has been shown to make you feel calmer and happier.
The holiday season is tough. There is so much want around it. I mean just think about all the Black Friday sales that make you feel like you don’t have what you need.
It is not happy people who are grateful but grateful people who are happy.
However, when you take a deep breath and remember all the good things in your life, no matter how hard the holidays get, it’s easier to remember that “this too shall pass”. And yeah, it may pass like a kidney stone but it’ll still pass.
Holiday stress happens. The season is often the busiest one of the year and the one we seem to have the most expectations for. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be unnecessarily stressful or overwhelming. The holiday season was meant originally to bring joy and love.