The winter holidays are some of the most wonderful, enjoyable times of the year, but also one of the most stressful. We enjoy the moments spent with family, opening presents, eating Christmas dinner, or having a blast at the New Year's party. But less fun is the time spent driving in the holiday traffic, shopping for all those presents, cooking that Christmas dinner, and paying the credit card bill for your New Year's Eve expenditures.
Yes, the stress can really get to you!
The problem with getting stressed over the winter holidays is that you're more likely to get sick. Stress can dampen your immunity, and the cold will just make you more susceptible to colds, flus, coughs, and other illnesses. The last thing you want is to spend the first days of your brand new year in bed.
Want to beat the holiday stress? Here are a few tips to help you manage, cope, and prevent stress these winter holidays:
- Take time for yourself. You know you're going to spend a lot of time preparing for your work holidays, doing last-minute shopping, and preparing your house for the family fun. Don't get so caught up in it all that you fail to take time to relax, unwind, and enjoy yourself. Carve out a chunk of time every day—at least 30 to 60 seconds—when you can do something you like: read a book, watch TV, take a nap, listen to music, work out, and so on. Taking time for YOU is one of the best ways to fight the holiday stress.
- Manage your expectations. We all want to have the "perfect" holiday, but sometimes trying to make things perfect just makes everything more stressful. You may have an idea of how you want your holidays to be like: sitting together around the fire, laughing, playing games, enjoying carols, and so on. Instead of clinging to those expectations, prepare yourself to let some of the things go. You may not be able to do all the fun things you had in mind, and that can just add to the holiday stress. Focus on enjoying your family and the time you do have, rather than worrying about what you're NOT getting to.
- Work with a team. You aren't the only one who has to do everything for your Christmas dinner, New Year's Eve party, or Christmas presents. You have friends who can help, and your spouse and even your older children can get involved. Consider asking your parents to help you manage the load. You may be the kind of person who likes to do it all yourself, but that's just going to make the stress worse. Learn to delegate tasks whenever possible—it will take the load off your shoulders. Many hands make light work!
- Plan ahead. There are a few things you can plan ahead of time. For example, start shopping for your family's Christmas presents as early as October, and buy them to store in a closet. That way, you don't have to do any last-minute Christmas shopping. Or, for your Christmas dinner, buy your turkey well before Thanksgiving, and stock up on as many of the canned, dried, and packaged items as possible. You'll have no problem buying fresh produce a few days before Christmas, but all the harder-to-find items will be sitting in your pantry. The more you plan ahead, the less you'll have to do around the holidays.
- Be realistic with you can do. Can you really spend all day at work then come home to a house filled with kids, chores, and meals to take care of, AND bake cookies and treats on top of all that? The answer: probably not. If you try to do too much, you're going to feel that holiday stress mounting with every task you fail to accomplish. It's time to be realistic with your time expenditures. Think about what you have the energy and resources for, and get rid of anything that adds to your burden.
- Focus on the fun. There are certain things many people feel they "need" to do over the holidays: bake cookies for the neighbors, organize a block party, invite family or friends over, go caroling, or decorate the house. But why do you NEED to do all those things? They're just going to add to your holiday stress, and they may not contribute to your holiday enjoyment as much as you'd expect. Instead of trying to do everything, focus on the fun things, the things that make you happy. Let all those other "nice but not critical" activities fall by the wayside, and make your family and fun your priority.
- Make a list. One of the best ways to combat stress is to know exactly what you need to do. It's easier to get stressed if you have a lot of things floating around in your mind, and you can never really focus on getting any of them done. Sit down before the holidays and make a list of all the things you need to do. Rank them in order of importance, then in order of how soon you can check them off the list. Every day, put a dent in that list of to-dos. This goes hand in hand with "planning ahead", and it will allow you to see how much progress you've made as the days go by. This visual marking of progress will help you to manage your holiday stress.
If you let stress get the best of you, you're going to have a tense, worried, and nerve-wracking holiday. You may even end up getting sick and spending Christmas and/or New Year's Eve in bed because of it! Instead of letting the stress overwhelm you, take steps to combat the winter holiday stress. The simple tips above will go a long way toward keeping you cool as a cucumber and enjoying every minute of your winter holidays.