Holidays rarely manifest the way Hallmark movies depict them. Notoriously, a family squabble will break out, somebody will get their feelings hurt because they didn’t get a gift or got the wrong gift or no longer wears that particular size, weather delays wreak havoc, the food is overdone or underdone, or cousin Rudolph has new dietary restrictions he failed to mention to anyone before meal preparations were made. In addition to family time, there are crowds at the stores, gifts to purchase, parties to attend, and cookie exchanges that promise to be relaxed but require you to bake five dozen cookies. Waiting in line with your (impatient and tired) kids to have their picture made with Santa may just be the straw that breaks your back.
Lower Your Expectations
Hallmark holiday movies are fictional fairy tales. Stop trying to make them your reality. Chances are that your family photo will include at least one family member who refuses to cooperate or just can’t keep their eyes open. Laugh it off and make it a memory. The food won’t be the best meal anybody’s ever tasted. The gifts will be forgotten in a week. And the decorations aren’t essential to a celebration. Don’t expect the family Scrooge to have a miraculous Christmas epiphany, and remember that having a white Christmas usually means travel delays. Dream accordingly.
It’s easy to get caught up with the hubbub of activity and food around the holidays and forget stress management basics like exercising. Not only will a walk around the block help to keep off the holiday pounds, but it will help alleviate some muscle tension.
If your typical holiday traditions (full turkey dinner, large gift exchange, etc.) have become too burdensome, mix things up. Have a nacho bar for dinner or pop a frozen lasagna in the oven. The most important thing is for people to be together. Instead of all of the cousins exchanging individual gifts, draw names. That way everybody has fewer gifts to buy and you can buy a more desirable gift.
Buy Gifts Throughout The Year
Speaking of buying gifts, don’t wait until Black Friday to start shopping. If you see something throughout the year that you know your loved one will enjoy, buy it and save it for Christmas. Watch the sale ads throughout the year and spread your spending over multiple months. You’ll reduce your stress in more ways than one.
Let people help you. Get the kids to address your Christmas cards or decorate cookies. Have various family members contribute a dish to the meal instead of one person doing all the preparations. One spouse can run last minute errands while the other stands in line for Santa.
Nothing reduces stress better than laughter. Have fun with the holidays. Wear a Santa hat, shake jingle bells, and make snow angels. The good times will be remembered long after the tiny details (like what you wore to the company party) are forgotten.