“Christmas’ coming and New Year’s coming” – but as exciting and joyful as the holidays can be, this time tends to be pretty stressful. The holidays often present a dizzying array of demands – shopping for gifts and food, cooking meals, baking, cleaning, interacting with difficult relatives and entertaining, to name just a few. Not to mention the extra pressure many experience at work at the end of the year. But with some practical tips to cope with that holiday stress, you might be able to enjoy this festive time even more.
1. Set priorities.
Before you get overwhelmed by too many holiday activities, it’s important to decide what traditions offer the most positive impact – and eliminate anything that may not bring you as much joy. If you become overwhelmed by the flurry of decorating, cooking, baking, carolling, shopping, sending cards, visiting relatives and other activities that leave you exhausted by January, you may want to examine your priorities, pick a few favourite activities and truly enjoy them by skipping the rest or cutting some corners.
It's important to learn how to say no when you are feeling overwhelmed this holiday season. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. If it's not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
2. Plan ahead.
Planning ahead can show you how realistic your plans are. If you have a planner and fill in the hours of your scheduled activities, be sure to include driving time and downtime. Start with your highest priorities, so you will be able to eliminate the less important activities.
Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other holiday activities. Plan your menus and make your shopping list to help prevent last-minute trips to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for meal prep and clean-up.
3. Commit to your non-negotiables.
Speaking of planning, make sure to make some time for yourself and your non-negotiables, whatever they may be. For some, it might be a daily stroll in the neighbourhood or a workout; for others, it might be reading the newspaper or a book with a cup of coffee in hand. Either way, take a break and spend some time doing something for you.
Spending just 15 minutes a day committing to your non-negotiable, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
4. Stick to a budget.
Before you do your gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend – and then stick to your holiday budget. You can’t buy happiness – not even with an avalanche of gifts. Instead of spending money on useless trinkets, you can try donating to a charity in someone's name, giving homemade gifts or starting a family gift exchange.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes we forget to take deep breaths and really give our bodies the oxygen we need. If you have the time, take 10 minutes by yourself to do a breathing meditation, but merely stopping to take a few deep, cleansing breaths can reduce your level of stress in a matter of minutes. For example, you can visualize that you are breathing in serenity and breathing out stress to relieve stress quickly.