It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, full of friends, family, and festivities. But research confirms a different reality. Most Americans have elevated stress levels during the holiday season. Instead of being full of good tidings and cheer, families often feel drained of time, energy, and peace. Stressors such as crowds and lines, party planning, financial concerns, and trying to make the holidays perfect can make the end of the year hectic and overwhelming. These ten tips will simplify the season and make it merry and bright.
- Focus on your reason for the season.
Why are you celebrating? Is it for spiritual reasons? Maybe you want to spend time with friends and family or enjoy the spirit of giving during the holidays. Keep what is most important about the holidays at the center of your celebration. Reconsider any task or commitment that takes your time, energy, enjoyment, or finances away from your reason for celebrating in the first place.
- Set firm boundaries around your time.
With all the holiday volunteering, office parties, and family gatherings, it’s easy to overcommit yourself. This year pick one project you with which you want to volunteer your time. Pick a variety of simple acts of kindness you can do with your family.
- Let go of Martha.
One of the most stress-relieving things you can do at the holidays is set the bar a little lower. Martha Stewart is an elegant hostess, but you don’t have to do everything the way Martha would to have a beautiful season. Embrace simpler decorations, meals, and gift giving than you have in the past. Try quick shortcuts or holiday hacks. If you let go of expectations, you may be pleasantly surprised to find yourself content with a celebration you hadn’t even envisioned.
- Farm out your to-do list.
At the beginning of the season make a to-do list of what you want to accomplish. If you find that it is too long for the amount of time that you have, consider delegating some of the items. If you contribute to a Christmas club at your bank, you might even consider setting aside some of the money specifically so you can hire others to help with your holiday tasks. Have groceries delivered and buy gifts online to avoid the holiday rush. Grocery stores also have a plethora of pre-packaged holiday foods that make delicious sides, cutting down on your time in the kitchen. Buy desserts from your local bakery, and shop at stores that provide wrapping stations. No time to clean the house? Hire a cleaning service just for the holiday season or ask for this service as a gift.
- Gift others with experiences.
Shopping at the holidays can be time-consuming and nerve-wracking with crowds and traffic. If you don’t start early, coveted items sell out, leaving you scrambling for another gift. Ask those you give gifts to if there is an experience they would like to have. Tickets to the theatre? Family passes to an amusement park or aquarium? A relaxing day at the spa? Experiences give friends and family the opportunity to make memories and pamper themselves. They are unique gifts that are much-appreciated.
- Set a holiday “tea” time.
Recent research shows that drinking green and black tea has many health benefits, including promoting relaxation. Herbal teas, while not true tea, still help with anxiety and stress. In keeping with the holiday spirit, sip some calming peppermint tea, or try chamomile, lemon balm, or passion flower.
- Take a hike.
One way to tell your stress to take a hike might be to actually take one yourself. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins that trigger a happier, more relaxed mood. Aerobic exercise outdoors away from screens, phones, and to-do lists can clear your mind and help you keep what’s important in perspective.
- Reconnect with long lost friends and relatives.
Meet with an old friend you haven’t talked to for years and catch up. Take some time off and visit relatives you miss seeing on a regular basis. Surrounding yourself with people you enjoy is powerful when you want to combat holiday stress.
- Do something kind for someone else.
You don’t have to overcommit yourself to a charity or fundraiser to be kind. Small random acts of kindness can make someone’s day. Let someone in front of you at the supermarket line or let someone drive their car in front of yours in the parking lot. Send an anonymous Christmas card with cash or a gift card to a college student or elderly person that you know is struggling financially. Throw change in Salvation Army buckets when you pass them. Having a kind spirit chases away stress and keeps the season warm and filled with hope.
- Celebrate memories more than material possessions.
Material gifts are nice, but most of us quickly forget gifts we have received in past years. The thing that we remember the most are the memories we make with friends and family. Make some happy memories this holiday season and bid stress “goodbye.”
10 Holiday Hacks to Make the Season Bright
- If you have an artificial tree, wrap the center pole with a strand of lights before you add the branches. This will make the tree shine brighter from the inside.
- Use a wastebasket to hold rolls of wrapping paper.
- Use egg cartons to store small ornaments and ornament hooks. Use wine boxes to store larger, fragile ornaments.
- Spread a thick layer of whipped cream on a cookie sheet. Freeze it for several hours and remove. Cut hearts out of the whipped cream with a cookie cutter and serve in hot cocoa.
- Put a ball of sugar cookie dough between two sheets of wax paper. Roll it out between the papers so the dough doesn’t stick to the pin. While it’s still in the wax paper, put the flattened cookie dough in the refrigerator until you are ready to cut cookies out.
- Store cookies in an airtight tin with flour tortillas between layers to keep cookies from drying out. You can also use a slice of bread.
- If you don’t want to put nail holes in your fireplace mantel, fit a tension rod in the wood frame and hang your stockings with shower hooks. You can also purchase nail free stocking holder hooks.
- Hang lightweight ornaments on long ribbons from your light fixture or chandelier to make elegant holiday decorations.
- Skip expensive candles and potpourri. Add water and natural ingredients like apples, oranges, cinnamon sticks, or cloves to a crockpot and heat. Enjoy holiday scents that aren’t overpowering.
- To keep Christmas lights from getting tangled, wrap them around a clothes hanger or power cord holder.
Janeen Lewis is a freelance journalist, teacher and mom to Andrew and Gracie. She has been published in several parenting publications across the country and in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Magic.