I don’t think I’m alone in saying there’s something about the holiday season that elevates stress levels. Maybe it’s the pressure to create the “perfect” holiday or a never-ending to-do list. Regardless of the reason, stress can negatively affect your health and cause you to dread what’s supposed to be a joyful time of year.
This year is extra stressful for many families. With a global pandemic and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to avoid travel and forgo extended family get-togethers, many of us will be skipping beloved holiday get-togethers and traditions. The good news is, there are still ways to celebrate the season, despite the fact that it might look a little different this year.
For me, that means slowing down, ditching the lists, and finding new and simple ways to enjoy the holidays, without the added stress. Here’s my plan:
Top 5 Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday
- Embrace the idea that less is more. Let go of the idea of a “perfect” holiday. You don’t need to send hand calligraphed cards to each one of your Facebook friends, your house doesn’t need to be lit up like the Griswolds’, and you don’t need to make the stuffing from scratch. (Seriously, who doesn’t love the boxed stuff?) Resist the cultural pressure to go bigger and better every year. (If that means taking a news or social media break, give it a try and see how you feel.) If this year has taught us anything, it’s that the simplest traditions bring the most joy and are the ones that your family will remember most.
- Maintain healthy habits. Healthy habits tend to fall by the wayside during the holidays, but you’ll feel better physically and mentally if you stick to healthy habits. Enjoy holiday food in moderation, try to get enough sleep, and make sure you stay active. But be realistic: the holidays are also about enjoying yourself, so cut yourself some slack. If you can’t keep up your usual workout routine, just make sure you’re up and moving.
- Keep the guest list small. If there’s any year to celebrate the holidays with just your immediate household, this is the year. Skip travel, annual extended family get-togethers, the annual cookie exchange, or other social gatherings. Not only will you protect your health and the health of your loved ones, but you’ll probably discover that reducing social obligations reduces stress and allows you to focus on the spirit of the season. If you’re missing annual traditions with family and friends , create new traditions like a virtual tree trimming contest, or a nighttime lantern walk.
- Carve out time to decompress. Feeling overwhelmed? Squeeze in some downtime so you can recharge. You’ll feel better and enjoy time with the family that much more if you’ve had some time to yourself. If you’re juggling too much — work, remote schooling, parenting young children — free time can be hard to come by. But you may just need to get creative. Volunteer to run to the grocery store (and grab coffee from your favorite coffee shop while you’re out), take the dog for a walk while you listen to a podcast, or throw on a movie for the kids while you try a virtual yoga or meditation class.
- Practice gratitude. It’s easy to get swept up in the materialism of the season, but you lose sight of what really matters when the focus is on gifts. Donating food to a food pantry, offering to pick up groceries for an elderly neighbor, or “adopting” a family in need who can’t afford to buy gifts gives you perspective on what really matters. You’ll have a newfound appreciation for everything you do have when you realize that not everyone is lucky enough to have family to celebrate the holidays with.
While no one has a completely stress-free holiday, you can minimize the amount of stress that permeates your holiday season. You have control over what you let impact you. And remember, if you’re feeling more stress than normal, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.