Would it surprise you to learn that Christmas is not only one of the most stressful times of the year, but one of the most stressful life events? Although there are myriads of wonderful things that come to mind when envisioning the holidays – beautifully decorated trees, holiday lights, Christmas caroling, spending time with loved ones, the smell of fresh baked cookies…there are an equal or higher number of stressors.
The fact is, we all lead very busy lives. For some reason, there seem to be so many additional things to cram in before year-end. We worry about our workload as we prepare to take time off to travel to see relatives. We try to fit in shopping before or after work hours. Then there is the additional dilemma of who and what to shop for and spending countless hours searching for the perfect gift. A surprising fact is that most people tend to buy things they think people will like instead of what people actually want. It turns out that a majority of people prefer cash to any other present. We tend to see cash as impersonal, but the recipient is far happier with this practical gift. So, what are a few other ways to reduce holiday stress this year?
1. Suggest to loved ones that you forego gifts in lieu of sharing an experience together (maybe a vacation, a day trip, etc.) It turns out people are much more likely to remember a shared experience than most gifts you buy anyway!
2. Don’t overcommit this time of year. Be aware of your time limitations and know that it’s okay to politely say no to certain functions/events so that you can finish the important items on your checklist.
3. Look at your weekly calendar and allocate blocks of self-care (time for reading, journaling, meditating, etc.)
4. Make time for daily exercise. Exercise increases your energy levels and helps to combat stress.
5. Practice daily gratitudes. It’s amazing how much less stress you feel when you keep in mind all the blessings and abundance already present in your life.
6. Drop the perfectionism. The house doesn’t need to be spotless, the meals don’t have to be sublime – the most important thing is spending dedicated quality time with your loved ones.
7. Letting go of expectations. Let go of how you think things “should” be and appreciate what is – you’ll find yourself more joyful as a result.
8. Enhance your senses with candles (for mood lighting or for producing energizing or calming effects) or essential oils in diffusers. Certain scents like citrus increase your energy and create a more uplifted, positive mood, while lavender has a soothing and calming effect.
9. Get plenty of rest and “unplug” before bed. Make it a practice to put your phone, iPad, etc. away an hour or so before bed. You’ll not only sleep better, but be better able to tackle the day ahead feeling refreshed and fully energized.
10. Reflect upon all the good things that have happened in the past year. Ask yourself questions like, “What single achievement are you most proud of this year?” Or, “What experience would you love to do all over again if you could?”
Once we put into perspective what is most important about the holidays – things like meaningful connections, appreciation, and positive reflection – we can let go and fully embrace the holidays for the joyful, peaceful time they are intended to be.