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How To Reduce Holiday Stress

Do you get overwhelmed by holiday stress every year? Do you often feel as if you are a victim in all of this? Do you believe that you are the only person in your household who contributes to the success of the holiday?

Let me share with you several ideas for making the holidays manageable.  I used to virtually go nuts during holiday time.  I was married to someone who thought his contribution to the holiday was basically to showing up, eating his fill and then watching television in the living room while I was cleaning the kitchen.  I also had two sons who couldn't care less about the trimmings of the holiday season. 

What I'm about to recommend may insult your sensibilities but it does stand a good chance of significantly reducing your holiday stress.  After you finish reading these suggestions, you'll need to make a decision on what is most important to you - having everything just perfect or regaining some of your sanity.  When all is said and done, you can always continue to do it the same way you've always done.  I'm only offering you some optional ideas on how to reduce holiday stress.  It is up to you to decide what’s best for you. 

What is your typical routine?  Certainly, for me there was the mailing of a minimum of 100 Christmas cards.  Normally this was the only way I was capable of staying in touch with family members and other people I cared about. 

After that came the gift buying.  I happened to marry into a family where I immediately inherited 20 nieces and nephews and the family insisted that all children obtain a gift from all the uncles and aunts until they reached the age of twenty five!  Regardless of what I said, they were not going change their minds.  This is why holiday shopping, especially Christmas shopping, was such a chore for me. 

Then, after the gifts were purchased, came the many hours of gift wrapping that was needed.  And what about placing up the Christmas tree and decorating the rest of the house?  Not to mention the cleaning that had to be done to make my house presentable for the drop-in holiday visitors.  There was also the baking of the lots of different types of cookies and the preparation of whichever food I was expected to bring to any myriad of places that we were invited for holiday party after holiday party.  Add to that the extreme stress of the unavoidable weight gain over the holidays and it was no wonder I was crabby and irritable. 

When I started practicing Inside Out Living, ™ I had to question the sanity of all the rituals that I engaged myself.  The first question I asked was, "How many things am I doing because I believe I have to and what number of them are for my pleasure and the pleasure of my family?" 

I remember one Christmas, in particular when I was having physical symptoms of stress, I told my children I either needed assistance with holiday preparations or I needed to cut some things out of the holiday routine.  They made it very clear they didn't actually want to help in decreasing the load of things that I put on myself but they were more than willing to give up on a lot of holiday traditions.  In fact, what they told me is that we didn't need a tree.  All they really cared about was presents and they did not even care if they were not wrapped! 

That was eye opening for me.  Now it was clear that anything beyond gifts was something I had an option to do and not something that was needed for the success of the holiday for my children.   

Next, I had to evaluate what was required for me.  I decided I needed to send Christmas cards to stay in touch with friends and family and I had to wrap my children's gifts so I can enjoy the expressions of surprise and pleasure on their faces when they opened their gifts. 

That specific Christmas, I discovered the joy of sending out New Year's cards.  That's right.  From this point on, I stopped pressuring myself to receive the cards out before Christmas.  After all, the purpose was to stay in touch with them.  It ended up being much better to send my card in January.  It certainly stood out from the rest! 

I didn't set up a tree.  My children actually didn't care if we had one or not.  Neither did I.  This was a really good stress reducer.   

I also surrendered the idea that everybody in the home had to contribute to the work involved in the holidays.  In demanding help from unwilling family members, the only thing I achieved was to alienate the people I loved the most.  The entire holiday hype was not significant to them.  If it were, they would have more eagerly offered the help for which I asked. 

In shopping for the nephews and nieces, I realized the true value of gift cards.  The kids love them for the reason that they could pick out whatever they need and they protect them from getting those unwanted, unappreciated gifts from an aunt or uncle who really doesn't understand them good enough to buy a gift they would be pleased about. 

Another idea, in particular if you have older children in your family, is to take the money you would commonly spend on gifts and find a family in need and purchase gifts for another family as part of your new Christmas ritual. 

As for the cookies, I stopped making 27 different selections and only made chocolate chip cookies, which are the family's favorite.  They were always a hit and nobody really liked the others after all! 

And as for the weight gain, there are two possible resolutions. Approach the holidays with reckless abandon. Understand that you will gain weight and that you will address it in January. The other option is to take control of your eating. Consume smaller portions and taste, instead of devour, any of the many sweets given throughout all the holiday parties.