How to Have a Merry, Low-Stress Holiday Season

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December is National Stress-Free Family Holiday Month─an appropriate observance when you consider that for many families, this is the busiest month of the year. Why should this time─which should be about joy and celebration─be such a source of strain? Good question!

Once we understand the challenges, we can develop creative solutions to minimize tension, while still retaining what we love about this special season. Challenges for some families include:

  • Accepting too many invitations, spreading yourself thin with work and personal life.
  • Offering more than you can comfortably deliver relative to school, community or charity obligations.
  • Volunteering to host events if you’re not up for it, or don’t feel properly equipped.
  • Overspending on gifts, food, entertainment, or travel, which sets you up for the agony of post-holiday debt.
  • Setting unrealistic expectations as to what you can actually manage, and then having to scramble to honor them.

You may have additional scenarios playing out in your own life. The trick is figuring out how to alleviate excess strain so you can relax, and actually enjoy the holidays as you deserve. See if these tips help:

Plan ahead as much as possible

If you missed our earlier article on getting organized for the holidays, you might want to review it here, as it covers helpful tactics such as getting clear on your level of participation, setting realistic expectations, making lists, determining your budget, delegating for holiday meals, and more. If you feel overextended, ask for help. Your loved ones will surely come through for you, if you’re clear about what you need and give them some notice.

Release “perfection.”

Attempting to host the perfect “Martha Stewart” holiday feast creates a lot of pressure, especially if that requires new dishes, linens, or stemware, fussing with difficult recipes, or getting mired down with complex décor. Remember, you don’t have to impress anyone. Simply inviting loved ones into your home, decorating with warmth and smiles, and graciously serving up tasty, nourishing fare with a serene spirit will be appreciated more than you know.

Remember, less is more

It’s natural to want to treat your children to a wonderful holiday. But that doesn’t require gift overload. Too many presents can actually overwhelm kids, causing them to lose track of individual items. Giving fewer gifts that have special meaning is not only easier and less costly; it may be more valuable in the long run. Think educational toys, unique books, craft items, beading, sewing, or embroidery kits, art supplies, knitting needles or crochet hooks and pretty yarn.

Don’t forget yourself

You may think only of others in this season of giving, but what about you? If you don’t feel your budget or schedule permit a spa day, there are other ways to incorporate some stress-busting self care. How about a warm, lavender-scented bubble bath, a delicious afternoon nap, a soothing cup of tea, a 30-minute massage (60 minutes is better!), or a cozy hour reading a novel fireside? Note: this is not a luxury, it’s your mental and emotional health we’re talking about.

Do what you can, and track what works to better streamline things next season. Good luck and (relaxed) Happy Holidays!

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