holiday stress

5 Ways to Help Reduce Holiday Stress

For many people, the holidays are the most stressful time of the year.

For parents, this is especially true – balancing the holiday stress of parties, school fundraisers, band concerts, end of year projects, not to mention entertaining and finding time to shop for presents. Add to this the endless wish lists from children and sometimes it feels as if the Grinch had the right idea. Here are some ideas to help save your sanity at this time of the year.

Rein in the presents

Ask most kids what they love about the holidays and they will probably say “presents!” This is natural and appropriate, but it can lead to holidays that feel like endless trips to the mall instead of a time to embrace the spirit of the season. Some parents have a philosophy about holiday presents. Each child gets “something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.” This may be a tough transition for kids who are used to getting everything on their list, so one way to accomplish this is to give them experiences instead. A day of ice skating and hot chocolate will be a treasured memory and will help get kids used to seeing fewer gifts under the tree.

Help kids see the connection between holidays and helping others

Create traditions around doing things for others, to take the emphasis off the “getting” and focus it on the “giving”. Bake cookies and make homemade cards for people at an assisted living community. Talk about why some people don’t have family to visit at the holidays. Adopt a family in need and take kids shopping to pick out presents. Imagine what the kids in that family might be like, and what they might want this year. United Way’s Giving Box program is a great way to teach kids this lesson.

Set a budget and stick to it

Long after the kids have lost interest in the 1000 piece Star Wars Lego set they absolutely had to have, you’ll be paying off credit cards. It’s so easy to pick up “one more thing”, which leads to what every parent understands as the great holiday balancing act – do we have the same amount of presents for each child? The snowball effect of keeping things “even” can lead to spending much more than you intended. Set a limit, create a spreadsheet to track spending if you must, and don’t look back.

Take care of yourself

The holidays hit smack in the middle of cold and flu season. At a time when you’re more likely to be stressed out by obligations and errands, your immune system is under assault. It’s getting dark earlier every day. You’re eating worse, sleeping less, and drinking more. By the time the family gathering rolls around, you’re worn out, tense, and fragile. The holiday stress makes it harder to cope with family issues than it might be at other times of the year. Take a walk by yourself, meditate if you can, try to get to bed early and load up on healthy snacks. A handful of almonds in the afternoon can keep you going much longer than a bag of M&Ms.

Less is more

Often during the holidays we feel at the mercy of our relatives or steamrolled by the sheer force of family tradition. When you start to feel like you “have to” do a million things that aren’t meaningful to you (hello Aunt Mildred’s fruitcake recipe), it’s time to take a breather.

Think about what’s important to your family. What are you trying to teach your children? Focus your time on those things and let the others go. You’ll never miss the fruitcake.