It’s the most wonderful time of the year. You know the one. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Hanukkah. New Year’s. Boxing day (what does that even mean, Canada?).
And while plenty of songs and movies paint this as a wonderful time (see above), according to a 2015 survey, only 10 percent of people feel no stress during the holidays. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that all of those people are men because common sense. A report from the American Psychological Association found that women are much more likely to experience stress during the holidays.
No duh. There’s parties, cooking, cleaning, estranged family members, those freaking shelf elves, and to top it all off, not one, not two, but 40 new Hallmark Christmas movies to make time to watch.
So without further ado here are our best tips for enjoying this holiday season and making time for what really matters (Hallmark movies, duh):
Get Your Priorities Straight
One of the main causes of holiday stress is feeling overwhelmed. There’s so much to do that activities that were once fun can begin to feel like a burden. Save yourself some angry tears by setting your priorities early, preferably before the season is underway.
Ask yourself what is important to you about this season. Homey decorations? Making cookies with your kids? Running a 5k on Thanksgiving like a psychopath?
Make a list of what actually matters to you and your family. If you want to get really wild, you could even make the list with your family. Maybe you don’t care about Christmas lights or a homemade Thanksgiving meal, but believe it is absolutely essential to watch all three extended editions of Lord of the Rings on New Year’s Eve because it is a sacred family tradition.
Remember: you don’t have to do it all. Your family’s holiday won’t be ruined because you didn’t decorate cookies AND see Santa AND go to the Nutcracker AND throw a Christmas party AND make a gingerbread house AND watch all of the Christmas movies. Choose one or two of your favorite traditions to focus on every year and let that be enough.
Post your list on the fridge or keep it in your phone case for easy referral throughout the rest of the season.
Stay Off Pinterest
Who among us has not felt devastatingly inadequate after scrolling Pinterest and seeing how many crafts and extravagant recipes all the good moms/wives/employees are making?
Don’t get me wrong. Pinterest is a great tool for collecting all of your favorite pictures of Chris Pine in one place (not that I’ve done that, please don’t check). But the excessive options and glamorous photos can create pressure to add more to your to do list and leave you playing the comparison game. Even worse, it can lead to spending more money on crafting supplies and fancy recipes, which will only lead to more stress.
The simplest solution? Avoid Pinterest until the holidays are over. Don’t worry. Chris Pine will still be there in the new year.
This is where things get really exciting. We’re going to practice an art that I have personally perfected but that many find difficult: disappointing people.
The APA report found that one of the reasons women’s stress increased during the holidays was because they often took on most of the responsibility associated with the season: cooking, cleaning, hosting, shopping, pulling holiday magic out of their a**, etc.
It’s a complex problem with a simple solution. Repeat the “Don’t Do Drugs” slogan you heard a million times growing up: Just. Say. No.
Once you’ve made your plan for what is important to you about the season, only say yes to things that support an item on that list. Seven of your cousins want you to throw a Christmas Eve party? No. Your kid’s teacher needs a parent to bring in cookies? No. Your co-workers want you to go to a Holiday Karaoke party. Repeat after me: absolutely not.
It might seem hard at first, but with practice, saying no will get easier and will ensure you have the time and energy to enjoy your holidays.
Take care of yourself
I know some of you People Pleasers and Enneagram 2s are hyperventilating at the thought of saying no. And the reality is that for many of us, stressful holiday activities are not an option. If you work a seasonal job, your responsibilities likely automatically increase around this time of year. If your kids are annoying and talented, you’re stuck going to their recitals.
If saying no is not an option, the next best thing is practicing some good old fashioned wellness techniques. I’m not talking spa treatments or silent retreats. You don’t need to spend huge amounts of money or time to put yourself in the best position for success this season.
A few ideas:
- Drink water
- Take your vitamins
- Soak up some natural Vitamin D when you can
- Aim for 8 hours of sleep
If doing these things feels like a challenge, remember that the alternative is getting sick, lashing out at your loved ones from a place of exhaustion or attacking a co-worker for stealing your white elephant gift.
Use your sick days
Look. I’m not going to tell you to call in sick so you can watch Elf three times in a row. But I’m not not going to tell you that either. The end of the year is coming and if you’ve got paid time off to burn, now is the time to do it. I know it’s tempting to use all of your vacation time for family and traveling during the holidays but don’t — leave at least one day for you.
If you don’t have PTO, try to carve out at least one evening this season to do something just for yourself. Maybe for you that means going window shopping at the mall. Or maybe it’s a chance to wrap Christmas presents while sipping wine. The point is to engage in a little calming self care and slow down enough to enjoy the magic of the season.
Yes, the holidays can be stressful, but they aren’t called the most wonderful time of the year for nothing. With a little planning and perspective, you can get the most out of this season without being overwhelmed and/or murdering a distant relative.
Got any tips we missed? Spread some holiday cheer and correct us in the comments below.
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