While the season between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve is
traditionally a time to celebrate and spend time with family and
friends, for many of us it's a stressful six weeks as well.
Between trying to find the perfect gifts for your children,
hosting your annual open house, writing holiday cards and
stretching your budget, you're likely to feel more stressed than
Make this season a more relaxing and meaningful one with these
holiday stress-reducing tips:
1. Get real. First, check your expectations. If
you insist that your holiday celebrations bear a strong resemblance
to "It's a Wonderful Life," you're setting yourself up for
disappointment. Remember, real life doesn't resemble the
movies-your cookies may be a little burned, your teenage son may
not be thrilled with his cellular phone when he wanted a new car
and your mother-in-law may criticize your decorations. Remember,
some things are outside your control, so don't insist on
2. Prioritize your time. Is entertaining at
home something you always look forward to? Do you relish the chance
to spend more time with your family? Or do you like to have enough
time to find just the right gift for everyone on your list? Decide
early on what's most important to you-maybe you'd rather stay home
to make popcorn balls with your kids than attend yet another
3. Delegate tasks. The brunt of holiday
responsibilities tends to fall on women's shoulders. But you don't
have to do it all-delegate tasks where you can.
4. Plan ahead. You think you're done with your
holiday shopping only to discover on Dec. 24 that you completely
forgot about a present for your nephew. You can avoid this scenario
by making a list of cards and gifts you need to buy. Once you have
your list, start shopping-the earlier you begin, the sooner you'll
5. Make a budget. Credit cards seem like a
great solution-until you receive the bills in January. Make a
budget of what you'll spend this year and how much you plan to
spend on each person. If you have a large family, suggest drawing
names or having a holiday grab bag to cut down on the number of
presents you have to buy.
6. Take time for yourself. Yes, you're busy.
But if you neglect yourself, you're only going to feel more
overwhelmed-and more likely to get sick or snap at your family and
friends as a result. Take a few minutes to enjoy a latte or simply
sit and watch the snow fall.
7. Hit the road - or the treadmill. During
December, it's harder than usual to make time for a workout. But
remember the powerful effect exercise can have on your mood-it
reduces stress and anxiety and gives you an emotional lift when you
most need it. Even a 20-minute daily walk will make a
8. Check your plate. For nearly six weeks,
we're tempted by smorgasbords of gooey sweets and other
calorie-laden goodies at work, parties and family get-togethers.
All that rich food can wreck your healthy eating plan and inflate
your blood sugar. Follow your usual eating schedule as closely as
you can, but allow yourself some room for your favorite treats so
you don't feel deprived.
9. Make it meaningful. If the holidays seem
like one big shopping trip, you may want to look for ways to make
them more meaningful. That might mean adopting a needy family
through a local charity or inviting someone to share Christmas
dinner with you. Or volunteer at your children's school or favorite
10. Stay in the moment. The holidays can be one
of the happiest times of the year-but you can't fully savor them
unless you let yourself slow down. Too often we miss out on the
everyday joys of the season because we're too concerned about what
we need to do next. Focus on the present moment instead and you'll
reap more joy and happiness.
Kelly James-Enger is a former lawyer, a mom of two and a freelance writer.
See more of Kelly's stories here.
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