It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but research confirms a different reality — most Americans have elevated stress levels during the holiday season. And with the challenges of the last two years, instead of being full of good tidings and cheer, families may feel drained of peace. Even if you are staying in or are paring down your family festivities this year, keeping things as light and easy as possible will make the end of the year more enjoyable.
Here are ten tips that will simplify the season and make it merry and bright.
- Focus on Your Reason for the Season
Why are you celebrating? Is it for spiritual reasons? Maybe you want to focus on family and friends or enjoy the spirit of giving during the holidays. Keep what is most important about the holidays at the center of your celebration. Reconsider any task or commitment that takes your time, energy, enjoyment or finances away from your reason for celebrating in the first place.
2. Set Firm Boundaries Around your Time
Even during a year in which gatherings may be fewer, it’s easy to get caught up in organizing donations, planning for your family celebration, or connecting virtually with clubs and associates. This year, pick one project you want to volunteer your time to, or pick a variety of simple acts of kindness you can do with your family safely. Spend time with your friends and loved ones, but don’t feel guilty if you can’t commit to every Zoom party or virtual fundraiser.
3. Let go of Martha
One of the most stress-relieving things you can do at the holidays is set the bar a little lower. Martha Stewart is an elegant hostess, but you don’t have to do everything the way Martha would to have a beautiful season. Embrace simpler decorations, meals and gift giving than you have in the past. Try quick shortcuts or holiday hacks. If you let go of expectations, you may be pleasantly surprised to find yourself content with a celebration you hadn’t even envisioned.
4. Farm out your To-Do list
At the beginning of the season make a to-do list of what you want to accomplish. If you find that it is too long for the amount of time that you have, consider delegating some of the items. If you contribute to a Christmas club at your bank, you might even consider setting aside some of the money specifically so you can hire others to help with your holiday tasks. Have groceries delivered or use curbside pick-up. Grocery stores also have a plethora of pre-packaged holiday foods that make delicious sides, cutting down on your time in the kitchen. Buy desserts from your local bakery. No time to clean the house? Hire a cleaning service just for the holiday season or ask for this service as a gift for a later time.
5. Gift others with Experiences
Ask those you give gifts to if there is an experience they would like to have. Tickets to the theatre? Family passes to an amusement park or aquarium? A relaxing day at the spa? Experiences give friends and family the opportunity to make memories and pamper themselves, unique gifts that are much-appreciated. And it also allows family and friends to enjoy their present in the future at a time when they feel comfortable visiting their favorite experience venues.
6. Set a Holiday Tea Time
Recent research shows that drinking green and black tea has many health benefits, including promoting relaxation. Herbal teas, while not true tea, still help with anxiety and stress. In keeping with the holiday spirit, sip some calming peppermint tea, or try chamomile, lemon balm or passionflower.
7. Take a Hike
One way to tell your stress to take a hike might be to actually take one yourself. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins that trigger a happier, more relaxed mood. Aerobic exercise outdoors away from screens and to-do lists can clear your mind and help you keep what’s important in perspective.
8. Reconnect with Long Lost Friends and Relatives
Meet with an old friend you haven’t talked to for years, and catch up. Take some time off and visit relatives you miss seeing on a regular basis. If you are staying home this holiday season, connect via Zoom or Face Time. Surrounding yourself with people you enjoy is powerful when you want to combat holiday stress.
9. Do Something Kind for Someone Else
You don’t have to overcommit yourself to a charity or fundraiser to be kind. Small random acts of kindness can make someone’s day. Let someone in front of you at the supermarket line or let someone drive their car in front of yours in the parking lot. Send an anonymous Christmas card with cash or a gift card to a college student or elderly person that you know is struggling financially or that is socially distancing. Throw change in Salvation Army buckets or donate online. Having a kind spirit chases away stress and keeps the season warm.
10. Celebrate Memories More Than Material Possessions
Material gifts are nice, but most of us quickly forget gifts we have received in past years. The thing that we remember the most are the memories we make with friends and family. At the end of another unusual year, make some happy memories this holiday season and bid stress goodbye.
Janeen Lewis is a freelance journalist, teacher and mom to Andrew and Gracie. She has been published in several parenting publications across the country and in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Magic.