We all know how that one song goes… the holidays ought to be the most wonderful time of the year and the happiest season of all. But what if you’re not feeling the cheer this year? While there are lots of things to love about the holiday season, it can also be an incredibly stressful time for many. If you celebrate a gift-giving holiday, planning and buying gifts can weigh heavily on your mind and your wallet. You might be spending lots of time with people who know exactly how to push your buttons or you might simply be feeling too bogged down to focus on taking care of your body and mind. Whatever your reasons, if you feel like the holidays evoke more stress than joy, you’re definitely not alone. Here are some tips for getting through it.
Plan ahead… but be realistic
Let’s face it: each year as we’re scrambling to check those last few things off our holiday to-do list, we swear that next year will be the year that we plan ahead – gift-shopping and meal planning will be out of the way before the chaos of Black Friday hits, and we’ll be sipping hot toddies by the fireplace for all of December, right? If the season has snuck up on you once again and you haven’t even started thinking about what to buy your nephew or who’s bringing the cranberry sauce this year, don’t panic. It’s never too late to sit down and strategize. The most important thing is to be realistic. Avoid biting off more than you can chew, which will only result in more stress and feelings of guilt when you aren’t able to stick to what you’ve planned. Is making dinner for 15 people realistic for you? Maybe it would alleviate some of the stress to suggest everyone bring a different dish instead, or go with a store-bought dessert this year. When it comes to gift-buying, set a budget and stick to it. For more tips on holiday budgeting, check out our article, Getting Your Wallet Ready for the Holidays, here.
It can be easy to let self-care slip when you have so many other things on your plate. That’s why it’s important to make taking care of yourself a part of your plan. Even if it’s just for 30 minutes, make sure you’re scheduling in some time each day to decompress or do something nice for yourself. Taking some time to step away from the hustle and bustle of it all doesn’t make you The Grinch – when you’re taking good care of yourself, you’ll likely feel less stressed and more able to enjoy spending time with those around you. As hard as it can be to stay active as it’s getting colder, exercise is one great way to combat the stress and tension that tends to crop up at this time of year. We know that the holidays are prime time for treating yourself to sweets and drinks – try to take advantage of this while ensuring you’re still getting what you need to maintain a healthy balance.
This one might sound cheesy, but if you’re feeling stressed about the holidays, one way to counter this is to simply remember the reason for the season. Being generous doesn’t have to cost a dime: you can be generous with words of affirmation or acts of kindness, too. Remind the ones you love how much you value them, and if you have some extra time on your hands, ask them if there’s something you can take off their plate. The holidays are also as good of a time as any to pay it forward – taking a break from focusing on your own troubles to help someone less fortunate is a tried and true way to feel happier. Volunteering some of your time for a cause you care about, donating old clothes and socks, or paying for a strangers’ coffee are all simple and affordable acts of compassion that can be incredibly effective at brightening up your own holiday season, as well as someone else’s… and isn’t that what it’s all about?!
Most importantly, be gentle with yourself. If this holiday season doesn’t live up to your expectations, that’s okay too. Remember that despite the pressures that often go hand-in-hand with the season, there’s never a bad time of year to practice self-care, spend time with the ones you love, to be thankful, to be generous, and to be kind.