The holiday season is quickly approaching and that means the to-do lists are starting to double in size and stress is starting to surface. In fact, according to a study by the American Psychological Association, 44 percent of women reported an increase of stress during the holidays. The women in the study said they had a harder time relaxing due to the increase of tasks associated with this time of the year.
Does this sound familiar? To really make sure it will be the most wonderful time of year (and not the time you dread the most), here are 10 ways to keep your stress levels low and increase your holiday cheer:
1. Go over your finances early
One of the biggest stressors of the holiday season is money. According to one study, in 2015 Americans planned to spend up to $830 on Christmas. If you have not prepared throughout the year, Christmas can be a financial burden. Luckily, you still have time to put money away so you are not adding to or creating debt. A few simple ways to save money for Christmas include:
Decide how much money your family plans to spend on Christmas and divide that by how many paychecks you have left in the year. Each payday, automatically put that amount of money into a Christmas fund.
Sell items in your house that you no longer need.
Find side hustle jobs such as babysitting, creating crafts and selling them, freelancing, etc.
Give up your morning coffee and do not go out to eat until the New Year. Put all of the money you typically spend on these activities each week towards Christmas.
Use your credit card rewards. If you have a credit card that gives you points for your purchases, spend some of those points on Christmas gifts for your family.
2. Start your to-do list now
Just because the holidays haven't officially started, doesn't mean you can't get a head start on your to-do list. Set aside time in the next few days and create your list. Think about all aspects of the holiday - parties you need to prepare, dinners you need to shop and bake for, cleaning that needs to take place, decluttering that you need to accomplish, etc. Try to set time aside every day to work on this list. By starting early, you'll have plenty of time to get your holiday and daily to-do lists accomplished.
One of the best ways to enjoy the holidays is to serve others. Sit down with your family and plan at least one way you can help someone in need. Maybe you want to be a secret Santa to a less-fortunate family or give a box of food to those who have little. Discuss as a family what you want to do and what will work best for your family's situation.
4. Don't panic over the details
We all want the perfect holiday season. We want large meals, lots of time with family and many presents under the tree. However, remember that you are human. You can only do so much. Don't spend your time stressing about the little things. If you don't have time to mail out Christmas cards, send a digital version instead. Don't worry about making homemade whipping cream for your pies, store bought will work. Nobody will remember the little details so don't spend time stressing about them.
5. Stay active
This time of year is so busy that we begin to put other things above our self. We sacrifice our own personal well-being just to tackle our to-do lists. What we forget is regular exercise and eating healthy is one of the best ways to conquer stress. Exercise is an excellent way to calm your body and beat depression. It can help you battle anxiety and stay healthy so you can tackle your to-do list with plenty of energy.
6. Pick and choose
You don't have to participate in every tradition and party. It is OK to say no to some activities. Choose what activities, programs and events you want to attend or host and say no to the others. If you put too much on your plate at once, you will feel overwhelmed.
7. Recognize your triggers
What are the things that send you over the edge around the holidays? Is it your finances or finding time to shop for gifts? Maybe you feel pressure to host parties or worry about spending so much time with toxic family members. Whatever it is, recognize your triggers and do everything you can to get it under control. By recognizing what causes you panic and dread ahead of time, you can control your actions and prevent any meltdowns.
8. Delegate tasks
We all have tasks that we dread and that can push us over the edge. You don't have to do all of these certain tasks on your own. Instead, delegate them. For example, the idea of untangling Christmas lights and putting them on the tree makes me cringe. So, I delegated out the Christmas decorating in my family. My husband takes care of bringing the tree in, getting the tree in place and putting lights on while I take care of the ornaments. While he gets the tree ready, I don't have to deal with the tasks that make me cry.
9. Don't forget the real reason behind the season
We can become so consumed with creating the perfect holiday for our family that we forget the real reason to celebrate. Instead of reading the Bible and praying, we may be baking three different kinds of cookies. Put God first throughout the entire holiday season and all of your other priorities will automatically fall into place.
10. Lower your expectations and be flexible
Things will happen during the holidays that can send your world spinning into chaos. Don't assume everything will be perfect and when things do go wrong, accept it and go with the flow. As you go into the holiday season ask, "Am I being realistic?" If not, you may need to lower your expectations and re-adjust your focus.
The holidays are a magical time of year but they are also a time of depression, high anxiety and stress. By incorporating a few of the above suggestions, you may just discover this is your most relaxed, calm and memorable Christmas yet.