The Holidays are just around the corner and they can be busy, stressful, and draining. They can be full of shopping, cooking, parties or events, and time with family that can all contribute to the stress. They do not have to be stressful or draining financially, emotionally, and physically though. There are ways to manage with holiday seasons and stressors that can reduce stress or navigate well while still maintaining a healthy balance and well being.
One of the first things that can help reduce stress is planning ahead of time for gifts, shopping, and utilizing time management skills. One of the first things you can begin planning is writing lists of gift ideas well in advance or throughout the year or months to reduce the pressure of thinking of gifts and time for shopping all at once. It also provides the benefit of being able to look for gifts and sales for things you want to purchase over a longer period of time. Setting realistic expectations can also help reduce stress. For example, instead of trying to think of “the perfect gift” for each person on your list, recognizing a good gift simply reflects your thinking of what that person likes to enjoy based on what you know of them. Setting a budget for all Christmas gifts for that year and then dividing gifts within that budget can help set realistic expectations and reduce being financially and emotionally at an unhealthy place. The last step is simply setting aside time to go shopping and may involve several different days and times. However, utilizing time management skills and allowing yourself plenty of weeks or days before the holidays or events can help even shopping not be hectic or stressful.
There also tend to be many holiday parties, events, activities, possible travel plans, and people to see over holidays. These can also add to a busy and stressful schedule that does not seem to allow any down time which can be draining emotionally and physically. Often, you are invited to so many events, parties, and plans that you cannot attend them all. A helpful way to begin to reduce this stress is to make a list of all the events and activities in which you want to participate or attend. Then prioritize the list in order of importance of attending that event or seeing certain people and begin scheduling your days and weeks around the holidays based on those priorities. If you are traveling over the holidays, planning ahead can help reduce stress in several ways. One way is to reduce financial and emotional strain is to research flights, trains, car rentals, and any form of transportation and hotel stays months in advance of your trip. There are on-line price comparisons that offer deals on transportation and hotels when you are searching well in advance. Also, having your transportation and hotel stay booked ahead of time can also provide peace of mind for yourself and your family. A tip to help with reducing cost is having flexibility in the dates you are traveling or staying out of town and therefore beginning to look into multiple options well in advance of booking traveling plans may be helpful for finding better deals financially. Just as you make plans for when to travel and take off time for work, planning how to transition work to others or a different time frame and still meet deadlines or problem solve with your manager can help reduce work stress before and after the holidays. Also, scheduling a house or pet sitter or caretaker can help ensure your house is cared for while you are away are helpful to allowing peace of mind before and during your trip. For example, thinking about making sure any pets, plants, and mail have someone checking and attending to them while you are away can be planned or reserved ahead of the holidays to ensure availability for your pet or house caretaker. Another way to reduce last minute frantic or stressful departure can be packing for your trip in steps ahead of time or blocking out time to pack can help prevent frantic and stressful or late night packing at the last minute. For example, packing your clothes and family members’ clothes ahead of time can ensure clothing necessary is clean and ready to be placed in a suitcase. You can also pack gifts and toiletries in travel size containers reducing space and allowing most if not all of the items you need for your trip to be packed ahead of time.
Another way to reduce stress is to plan breaks and margin time into your schedule around the holidays. Margin time, like margins on the outside edges of paper, is unplanned time in between activities or accomplishing tasks that allows for anything taking more time than expected or problems arising that delay you so that you do not get stressed out if you are running behind schedule or anything takes longer than you expect. An important way to maintain a healthy balance for your life is to schedule and plan time to see friends, relax, have down time, and do things you enjoy and enable you to be fully present during each moment as opposed to worried or stressed about other things. You can also then have ways to regularly unwind and distress and maintain activities that energize you. A good way to start this pattern is to make a list of activities you enjoy and feel energized by to identify what you want to build into your schedule that will help you throughout the holiday season and daily life to continue to feel re-charged and refreshed in the midst of a busy and potentially stressful schedule. There are many options available during holidays that are free events or activities you can enjoy with family, friends, or even by yourself, which can help financially as well as emotionally. Also, regular exercise can help reduce stress and even helps you have more energy physically and emotionally.
Some final aspects that can make holidays stressful are the emotions and time with your family that you grew up in that can stir up past roles or dynamics that are not healthy. Some steps that may help to prepare yourself emotionally for the holidays and time with family are practicing acceptance and setting boundaries in love. If you want help navigating the stress, emotions, or family dynamics of the holidays please reach out to us at Village Counseling Center and we would be grateful for the opportunity to help you.