The holidays are in full swing and while that means lots of pretty lights, cheerful music and delicious food, it also means lots of stress and exhaustion. Chances are you’ve been experiencing those feelings since mid-November, if you celebrate Thanksgiving. The holidays mean huge meals, family gatherings and gifts, and all of those things eat up money, time and energy.
So how do you keep your cool during this stressful season? For starters, you have to identify just what is causing your stress. This study by the American Psychological Association thoroughly breaks down holiday stress factors, and you may identify closely with many of the findings.
The key suspects are crunches in both time and money. Holidays create pressure to see as many people as possible (some of whom we’d rather not see at all) and spend our savings on fancy meals and gifts. Certainly this time of year brings joy and togetherness, and we wouldn’t want to miss out on those things, so it’s important to strike a balance and enjoy our celebrations.
1. Be Realistic
None of us have all the time or all the money in the world. All of our family and friends are going to want to see us and possibly exchange gifts, but chances are they won’t all be in one place and may even live on the other side of the country. There’s no need to feel guilty, if you’ve made plans with someone this year, save plans with others for next year!
2. Rely on Lists
Lists create order out of chaos. List the people you must see during the holidays (which may change from year to year). List who you must get a present for. But be sure to follow tip #1 and stay realistic! Don’t put 50 people on each list. We all have differently-sized family and friend circles, but try to keep each list to a minimum. Consider the amount of time and money you’ll actually have to work with.
3. Budget, Budget, Budget
This applies to both time and money. Plan out ahead of time how much time you’ll want to spend traveling or visiting with loved ones, and how much money you’re comfortable spending on meals and gifts. Then commit to those budgets! You’ll see the perfect gift for so-and-so while shopping, but if so-and-so isn’t on your list and the gift will put you over your budget, keep walking. You’ll thank yourself come January.
4. Start Early
Nothing adds to the time crunch of working and planning like last minute shopping. Many of us wait for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, but money’s already tight by that time. Try picking up gifts for people throughout the year to spread out your spending. Stash them away in the attic or closet. Skipping the rush and having money in the bank will relieve tons of stress.
5. Politely Decline
Being able to say “no” is an important skill in every aspect of life. Around the holidays everyone’s schedule is packed, and that’s widely known. If a neighbor invites you to a party but you have other plans, or are just plain tired, don’t feel bad declining their invitation. Just be honest and let them know you would love to but can’t this time around. You might be surprised how un-hurt their feelings are.
The holidays are meant to be a time of enjoyment and relaxation. Use them to re-connect with the important people in your life. Even if it’s too late to utilize some of these tips this year, store them away for next year. Don’t over-extend; remember, gifts and dinners and visits are all optional! Do as much as you feel comfortable doing, and don’t feel obligated to do more.
Don’t forget to put technology to work for you as well. A face-to-face chat on Skype can be just as rewarding for a friendly catch-up session and doesn’t require hundreds of dollars in gas or plane tickets. If the stress still feels like more than you can handle, or family problems are getting out of hand, consider talking to a professional, or treating yourself, for once! The best way to handle pressure is to release it, and it’s much easier with a little guidance and understanding.
From everyone here at Loving Life Therapy, we wish you a happy and safe holiday season!