Do you remember how you felt last holiday season? Were you filled with holiday cheer? Did you feel a lot of stress? Or did you feel lonely and sad?
We all experience the holidays differently. If you are part of the group that is filled with cheer, then you are likely looking forward to the season. If you feel the holidays are becoming harder to enjoy, then the sights, sounds, and smells of the holidays probably have you in anticipation.
To prepare yourself for a more positive holiday season, avoid the many holiday traps. Start by identifying two to three things that you believe most contribute to your holiday stress or blues and take an alternative approach this season with these tips.
Holiday Trap: The Overextender, The Procrastinator
Holiday stress is no stranger to the individual who overextends oneself or the one who procrastinates. Whether you are a procrastinator or an overextender, the same principles are important for both personalities: Time Management.
Keep a regular schedule
Big disruptions in your regular schedule can compound stress. Grab your calendar now and list holiday tasks that you can fit into your existing routine. Making a list of what takes the most time can help you pace yourself during the holiday season and incorporate one big task at a time. Starting early will be vital.
Schedule your priorities: Prioritize what needs to be done, give it a timeline, and assign to a person. You don’t need to go at it alone. If you need to meet weekly to see if everyone is doing their part, then do so. What causes stress for many is that they feel like the majority of the responsibilities fall upon them. Spread it out, ask for help.
Make plans and avoid hectic schedules
Remember, you don’t have to fit EVERYTHING in and you can say no. Determine which events are the most special, and which ones are not so important. After you review and make your list of plans, put your calendar of events on the refrigerator. If the calendar looks too full, it probably is. Re-evaluate and get a schedule that doesn’t make your heart race.
Have realistic expectations
Everyone has a different idea of what the holidays should look like and feel like. Finding the best present, getting compliments for the dinner you cooked, hoping your house wins the community decorating contest, or wishing for that “perfect” holiday can bring on undue stress. Give yourself a break by being more focused on the overall joy of the season, not just monotonous details.
Holiday Trap: Financial Blues
Holidays may include going to events, buying presents, hosting dinners for family and friends, traveling out of town, etc. And what does this all translate into = MONEY. Going into the holiday season financially blind, could put a strain on your bank account.
Set a Budget: You don’t need to break the bank
Determine ahead of time how much money you will devote to the holidays. Consider all expenses that go into the preparation, planning, and even recovery from the various events and gatherings (hostess gifts, teacher gifts, holiday cards and postage, shipping costs, gift boxes, wrapping paper, the tree, decorations, etc.). Start planning and saving now – and stick to your budget.
Limit credit card use
Credit cards can tempt you to break the budget and spend what you don’t have. Put cash in envelopes and mark each for its purpose – presents, food, travel, etc. If there is no cash left in the respective envelope, you have hit your budget. If you have to use a credit card, determine what amount is acceptable and that can be paid off within the next couple of statement cycles.
Don’t buy impulsively
Impulse buying is made easy by retailers. Fight the marketing ploys by making a list of presents you need and don’t go beyond this list. Just because you see something else that you know they would love, or it is on sale, doesn’t mean you have to buy it. Stick to your list.
Extra time spent looking for sales could mean extra money in your wallet. Shopping early and planning around sales can help. Search for coupons or promotional codes
Make your own gifts – photo album, recipe book, ornaments, or maybe it is handing something down. Offer the gift of time: Your services could be very valuable to someone (babysitting, pet sitting, errands). Families that who may continue to grow might start drawing names for gift giving or start pooling resources to buy gifts for friends or family.
Holiday Trap: Forgoing Healthy Eating and Exercising
Holidays may not be the time to go on a weight loss program, but you can be mindful of what you are eating and how often you are eating. Although more food tends to be lurking at home and at work during the holidays, you can have a plan to not go overboard. Use these tips to stay on track.
Things to avoid:
- Eating so fast and going back for seconds and thirds
- Eating like every day is a holiday – consuming anything you want all day and everyday
- Eating too much of one food group, especially those carbs and sugars that can weigh you down
- Taking plenty of stimulants
- Not exercising
- Added calories (dressings, gravies, sweets)
Tips for healthier holidays:
- Be mindful of the foods you’re eating
- Allow yourself 20-30 minutes to eat your meal before going back for seconds
- Enjoy holiday foods on the specific holiday
- Choose foods you most enjoy, skip those you don’t
- Decrease caffeine, sugar, nicotine, and other stimulants
- Watch portion sizes
- Have healthy snacks available
- Be mindful of all or nothing thinking
- Incorporate physical activity (sign up for a race, be active with the family, wear a fitbit)
Holiday Trap: Bah Humbug
Not everyone is full of cheer during the holidays. Some are dealing with the loss of loved ones or not having family around. Others face family conflict or holiday disappointment. But the holidays don’t have to be bah humbug.
Having feelings of sadness or loneliness may lead some to isolate. But whether you are dealing with loss or don’t have family around, you don’t have to be alone during the holidays. Commit to attending events (RSVP early and buy tickets) where you can be surrounded by people who care about you or take advantage of holiday events where you can meet new people. Seek out new experiences or revisit holiday activities that have given you joy in the past. Find out who else may be alone this holiday season and form your own holiday get together. Consider volunteering and helping others who are in need.
Keep your expectations in check
Real life is not like the movies or pictures in magazines. We can easily be disappointed when we have such high expectations for the holidays. Review your expectations – are they yours or someone else’s? Is this picture still feasible or have things changed? You might check in with others – maybe you are focusing on things that are no longer important to others. Do yourself a favor and take a ‘good enough’ approach this year.
Don’t invite conflict
You’ve heard of the saying, “You can’t pick your family.” For some, holiday gatherings can lead to dread. Remember, the holidays aren’t a time to talk about controversial things or rehash old wounds. If you are afraid these wounds might be reopened, talk to your family members involved and agree to not discuss during the holidays. If you are struggling to please everyone, make sure you are upfront about your plans (especially if you have to share your time between several families). And remember to pick your battles and know when you need a break. If you know Aunt Ida is going to make a comment again – have your polite response ready so you are not caught off guard.
If you can, the holidays are a great time forgive and let go.