How To Make The Holidays Less Stressful

October 6, 2021
Shanna Windle

The holiday season is fast upon us and while the saying goes “it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” the holidays can also be the most stressful and demanding time for some people. Recent statistics show that 88% of Americans feel the holidays are the most stressful time of the year.  From finances, to family members, to holiday plans, to gift wrapping and beyond, this time of the year calls for many deep breaths and special attention to our mental health.  Curious what the most common stressors are?  The top five reasons for arguments given by respondents in one survey indicated: how much money to spend on other people (20%), how much money to spend on parents (20%), what presents to buy (18%), which family members to visit (16%), and where to go on Christmas day (16%).  Christmas eve has been a source of contention in my family over the years!

Holiday stress is no different than stress we experience at other times of the year as far as its impact upon our bodies.  Our body responds to the responsibilities and demands of the holiday season, and if we are not careful to reduce the stress, it can have negative effects in the long run.  An increase in cortisol and blood pressure levels, higher sugar intake, less exercise and less sleep tend to be the ways we respond to the stress we feel in our bodies around the holidays.  Apparently the majority of Americans  find that holiday shopping, parties and get-togethers, putting up holiday decorations, holiday traffic, etc., contribute to the amount of stress felt around this time of year.

But this is not the reason for the season, right?!  The holidays should not leave you feeling stressed and filled with drama!  So, in an effort to bring the joy and enjoyment back into this festivus time of year, I am sharing practical tips on how you can cut holiday stress and enjoy the holidays in a purposeful and relaxed way!

How to Make the Holidays Less Stressful

Simplify gift giving

No need for the uber complicated, super rare, one of a kind, or 1 million piece gift that needs to be put together before your recipient receives it!  Friends, family, and loved ones seldom need anything more than a thoughtful gift.  So don’t go stressing yourself out about finding the “perfect” gift, just make it a gift that is thoughtful and special to that individual in some way.  

Say no to some invitations

The invitations to events start rolling in early during the holiday season.  Starting in October, invites to parties, Trick or Treating, Thanksgiving dinners, gift exchanges, etc., start piling up.  If you’re a people-pleaser, it might be hard for you to turn down an invitation or two but let’s put this in perspective - if you are more tired, more stressed, and overwhelmed by saying “yes” to every invite,  what do you think this is doing to your health?  I assure you nothing good!  So this year, prioritize the engagements you want to be a part of.  Saying “no” to a few invites will help your overall physical and mental health tremendously and it really is one of the easiest things you can do to make the holidays less stressful this year.

Organize ahead of time

Feeling organized any time of year is beneficial to your mental health.  No one operates well when chaos is at play so this year, think about organizing your to-do’s, your budgets, and your time at the beginning of each month.  Having things organized keeps our cortisol levels in the “normal” range, and we tend to be less forgetful when we are organized as well.  For my Type A list makers, this should come easily to you!  Just remember to incorporate your list making into your holiday planning.

Ask for help, and then LET people help you!

Are you an independent, do-it-all-er?  If so, this is a little more difficult for you to do, I know!  But, with the amount of things to get done at the holidays, it is necessary to ask for help at times.  Even harder than asking for help sometimes is actually letting people help you after you ask!  Unless it's absolutely, 100% something that has to be done by yours truly, lean on your family and friends to pitch in during the holidays so that everyone can enjoy them a little more...including you ;)

Let go of perfection

I feel like the last three bullet points are really directed at my Type As, but here’s another one that will make the holidays a little more enjoyable.  Let go of perfection!  If this is something you have been aiming to do recently because you have noticed its detrimental effect on your mental health, then here is your sign.  Try it on this holiday season - let go of the need for the perfect gift, the perfect party, the perfect date, the perfect holiday meal, the perfect outfit...and then see how much lighter and happier you feel!  If you feel great, then make it a resolution for next year to continue letting it go every time it rears its ugly head.

Set boundaries on your spending and schedule

Last but not least is to set boundaries around your spending and schedule, as finances and time management tend to rank high on the stressors list.  Let’s face it, some years will be better than others regarding finances but one thing for sure is you will feel less stressed in any year making a budget for your holiday spending.  Knowing come January 1 that you still have cash in the bank and haven’t overextended yourself on your credit card will make for a much more relaxed entrance to the new year than if this wasn’t the case.  Set a limit you are comfortable with, and do everything you can to stick to it.  Even if that means hand making some of your gifts! Sometimes those are the most treasured ones anyways.

By no means an exhaustive list of things you can do to make the holidays less stressful, I hope you have found these ideas to be helpful as you enter this time of the year.  The way that it has always been done might seem like the easiest way to go about things, but if you take a closer look and find that you are consistently stressed out at the holidays, it is time for a new way!

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