I know it’s only November, but at our house the moment we put away the Halloween decorations, we jump right in to the excitement and wonder of the holiday season. We decorate. We shop. We worship. We travel. We gather. We eat. We celebrate. We stress. Wait a minute, did I just say stress? I certainly did!
In addition to increased feelings of happiness, love, and connection, the holidays also bring about a significant rise in our stress level. According to a recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, the top three holiday stressors for adults include worry about not having time to get everything done, concern about money, and discouragement about commercialism.
Not surprisingly, women are more likely to feel overwhelmed and stressed by the holidays than men. This is due in part to the fact that women are more often the ones who take on extra duties during the holidays, like meal preparation, shopping for gifts, and party planning. And women, when compared to men, are less likely to take the time to relax when they’re worn out.
That being said, holiday stress doesn’t have to leave busy moms and dads feeling frazzled. Try a few of these stress busters and you’ll find yourself more relaxed and stress-free this holiday season:
Get organized. Print a calendar of November and December and pencil in what you need to do and when. Include parties, programs, worship services, and travel dates, but also schedule time for shopping, decorating, cooking, cleaning, and relaxing.
Budget. In November, make a list of who you need to buy presents for and how much money you have to spend on gifts. Try to do your shopping a little at a time during November and December so that you don’t spend more than you intended on last minute gifts and impulse buys.
Keep expectations realistic. When we set unattainable goals for our holidays, we are sure to be disappointed. For example, don’t expect that your toddler will be a happy camper at an adult holiday dinner after a day long car ride! I know mine wouldn’t be!
Prepare your kids. As important as it is for parents, it’s just as critical for children not to have unrealistic expectations, especially when it comes to receiving gifts. If your child has been asking for one particular toy all year, but you know that they are not going to get it, then you can help decrease your stress and theirs by spending some time developing a more attainable wish list.
Know when to say when. Limit the number of events that you participate in during the holiday season to ones that mean the most to you and your family. You’ll certainly be exhausted and stressed if your social calendar is packed with too much to do. By being cautious about how you schedule your time and not overbooking yourself or your children, you’ll have more time for relaxing this holiday season with your family and less time for stressing out with them!
Enlist help. Maybe you need to hire a babysitter so that you can finish your holiday shopping or could use the help of a friend to wrap all your presents. When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the stressors of the holiday season, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If the pressure of the holidays is just too much, ask for support from family, friends, your spiritual leader, your doctor, or a psychologist.
Taking steps towards managing stress will allow you and your family to enjoy a calmer and more relaxed holiday, exactly what we all need so we can focus our attention on the true meaning of the season.