Tis the season to be thankful and jolly and . . . stressed out? It doesn’t have to be that way. Even amid the hustle and bustle of parties, shopping, and decorating, you can keep your cool and enjoy the holidays.
The stresses that plague us this time of year are rooted in three basic sources: time (getting everything done), money (paying for it), and emotions (painful memories and family conflict).
Despite the stresses, holidays have the potential to fulfill and renew. Most of us treasure this season as a special time to grow closer to family, friends, and our deepest beliefs.
Eight Ways to Make your Holidays Merrier
1. Set Priorities. How do you view the holidays: a religious occasion? a time of relaxation to enjoy with your family? An
opportunity to socialize and attend parties? It’s possible, of course, to choose all of the above, but typically people over-extend themselves trying to make the holidays serve too many functions. Clarify what you want and you’ll probably be able to make better choices about the way to spend your time and energy.
2. Plan ahead. Take charge of your holiday:
- Decide in advance which social obligations are most important and prioritize them.
- Make lists of things to do and set aside some time each day to do tasks and run errands instead of trying to do everything at the last minute.
- Allow time for activities you enjoy.
3. Simplify. Is it really necessary to cook the world’s most elaborate feast? Does the house have to be spotless? Do the presents have to be perfect? If you enjoy facing those challenges, step right up. Otherwise, set limits on what you’ll do. Plan perhaps one major meal during the holidays so that you’re not tied up in the kitchen every moment that your relatives are visiting. Arrange one party as a favor for a returning friend. Learn to say “no” gently but firmly.
To reduce the strain on you, enlist the help of others. Delegate jobs like trimming the tree, addressing envelopes, and shopping for groceries. Shopping, of course, is a major headache, so make it easy on yourself.
- Shop early to beat the crowds.
- Take advantage of free or low-cost gift wrapping services.
- Use on-line shopping or mail-order catalogs.
- Settle for simple presents.
4. Scale back expectations. It’s common to expect too much from the holidays. People anticipate a magical experience and start preparing for it well before Thanksgiving. For weeks, they get all geared up and then they have a celebration that’s over in a few hours. Others run into trouble trying to live out a childhood fantasy. They buy lavish gifts or schedule expensive activities in hopes of creating a perfect Christmas.
5. Start new traditions. Some cherished traditions from your childhood may not be feasible today. Families are smaller and often separated by large distances. Remarriages may mean spending the day with “strangers.”
Reflect on what made the holidays special when you were growing up. Often, it’s simple things – a special food your mother made, a walk through the park on Christmas morning. You might discover special meaning by volunteering at a nursing home or homeless shelter.
6. Beware of family arguments. Nothing seems to bring out old family frictions like an extended holiday stay. Common factors include, too many people in too little space; battling kids; travel-weary grown ups. Is it any wonder nerves get frayed?
Holidays are a poor time to try to resolve long-standing issues. The holidays are a time for merriment and good behavior.
7. Acknowledge losses. Holidays often release the ghosts of Christmas past. Recent losses can haunt you. Two ways of dealing with loss are, acknowledge it with a direct, limited activity, such as visiting the cemetery or change your holiday routine in some simple ways so that you are not constantly remembering and comparing today’s holiday to past one. Still, one usually has to go through a holiday season once without the person to overcome the grief caused by the loss.
8. Treat yourself nicely. Counter the holiday pressures by being kind to yourself. Take relaxation breaks. Go for uninterrupted peaceful walks. Or take a nap. Sounds selfish? Perhaps, but you’ll return from your break refreshed and ready for the pleasures of the season.
Author: Cindy Shuster, CFLE, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County.
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