The holidays can be a great time for relaxing and enjoying extra time with friends and family. But the truth is, they can also bring an added level of stress right alongside all the enjoyable elements. With more work to do and possibly less time in which to do it, feeling overburdened is a very real possibility. That’s why we wanted to take time out today to provide you with some tips for lowering the stress level this holiday season. Collect some inspiration for making the most of this busy and exciting season.
Here’s a simple tip with outsized impact. Think in advance about what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and when it needs to be done by. This can help you have some peace of mind as time passes. Plus, it can help you beat back the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Identify at the outset the things that you need to do and take stock of them—on a piece of paper, in an app, or in a document on the computer. It’s also a great idea to list completion dates for each task, too, at least if they’re time-sensitive.
Why is this such a good idea? Well, if you’re feeling swamped by the number of things you have to get done, you can simply look at your list. Take courage from the tasks that are already checked off—whew, you don’t have to worry about those anymore. And purpose to ignore the tasks that come due in the future. They’re already on your list along with their deadlines. They’re not going anywhere, and the list will help you avoid forgetting them.
Now, take a deep breath and focus only on the tasks that you actually need to get done today. The ones with immediately upcoming deadlines. In other words, coast on the energy from completing yesterday’s tasks and refuse to borrow the pressure of tomorrow’s tasks before their time.
Just do what you need to do now.
Purpose to enjoy it
Wait, enjoy the hustle and bustle? The massive to-do list? The feeling of discombobulation? Are we absolutely crazy?
You are not a superhero. Let’s just say that one more time to make sure we drive the point home. You are not a superhero. Now, we don’t say this to make you feel down-at-the-mouth about your own ability. Instead, it’s meant as a reminder to live realistically and effectively.
If you’re not a superhero and you try to live like you are, your efforts are doomed. If you can’t do everything at once for everyone, then don’t live as though you can. To pull this concept straight into our analysis of holiday happiness vs. holiday stress, don’t try to be the person who can pull it all off on their own.
When you have family members or friends who offer to help out, accept gratefully. It’s a chance for them to serve and a chance for you to make smart decisions to avoid being overwhelmed. Could you cook a turkey dinner exclusively on your own? Maybe. But, really, why would you?
It might even be appropriate to actually request assistance, too. You don’t have to be demanding or complaining to do this. Instead, identify who you think is most likely to offer willing and effective assistance and simply reach out to them.
Yes, your to-do list is a mile long. And yes, it feels like you should just keep plowing ahead. But, taking a break could actually make you more effective in the long run. Getting back to work after your break, you might find yourself so refreshed that you actually work better. Your break could bring you back to the task at hand with a better attitude, fresh perspective, new speed, and even a burst of creativity.
Alongside this idea of taking smaller breaks, you should also consider having a time at which you turn your preparations “off.” Realistically, you may not need to work round-the-clock (even if it feels like you do). And setting a time of day at which you tap out from holiday preparations could be tremendously useful.
Note that you can also think about taking breaks during holiday events. For instance, if you’re booking your entire weekend solid with holiday parties and events, you might need to think about dropping one and taking a break instead.
Additionally, if you happen to be hosting the party, you can also budget time for yourself to take a break just before your guests arrive. Planning in advance can help you save a 30-minute (or any appropriate amount of time) block of time before people are slated to show up. Then, you’ll simply have to shift your schedule to complete your preparations a half-hour sooner than you otherwise would have. If you decide to do this, work hard to protect that time—because it would be easy for your preparations to encroach on it accidentally.
Just like your car can’t run indefinitely unless you refill it with gas, so your body can’t keep going on forever unless you take care of it. It’s great to be self-aware enough to realize when your energy level is ebbing.
Pull back and identify what is going on. Are you sleep-deprived? Do you need food? Remember to keep a stash of healthy snacks around so you can grab them while you’re on the go. And keep in mind that if you’re busier than usual, you might need to snack when you otherwise wouldn’t.
Keep the house clean
Whether you’re preparing your holiday guest bedrooms, baking special treats, or hosting friends for a gift exchange, performing your activities in a tidy location makes things more pleasant. If you allow clutter to pile up during the holidays (as well as before and after), you might find yourself feeling dragged down.
It’s so much more enjoyable to spend time in tidy spaces. So make a concerted effort to clean before and after activities. Plus, sometimes you can actually clean during your activities as well. For instance, if you know you have to do a lot of holiday cooking or baking, try to keep your kitchen tidy by washing dishes and putting away ingredients as you go.
Surround yourself with pleasant people
That’s right—spending time with people whose outlooks are negative and who weigh you down isn’t exactly going to make for an upbeat holiday season. Now we know that you can’t always control this (and there are definitely times when you can actually have a positive impact on unpleasant people simply by spending time with them). But it is a good idea to try to balance out the difficult interaction with some more encouraging interchanges.
Maybe carve out a little extra time to talk to an encouraging friend. Or purpose to schedule a coffee date with someone who’s always good at reorienting your perspective in the right direction.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you know someone who’s a delight to be around, chances are others will find them a delight to be around, too. So, think about sharing them. In other words, be sure to include them on your guest list. That’s a great way to aim for your guests to enjoy themselves—include people who you know make for a great time.
Burn a candle
Honestly, burning a candle is just a relaxing thing to do whether during the holidays or at other times of the year. However, some holiday scents make the activity of burning a candle more pleasant than others. Try to stock up on enough candles that you don’t have to “save” them to burn only while you’re entertaining. They can make for a cozy experience while you’re cooking, cleaning, or even wrapping gifts (just be sure to keep them away from the wrapping paper).
Add special “extras” to make your holidays more fun
Remember that enjoying the holidays doesn’t have to involve expansive projects or expensive solutions. In fact, sometimes little things can have a big impact. And this can hold true whether we’re talking about your own prep work for holiday celebrations or the hospitality you offer to overnight house guests.
When it comes to your own preparations, try to think of ways to incentivize yourself to do the jobs you’re really not looking forward to. Treating yourself to a special drink while you make the guest beds is just an example. Other ideas include listening to special music while you clean all the bathrooms or setting up a holiday cookie exchange with a few friends so you cut down on the types of cookies you have to bake.
For the special “extras” focused on others, simply dream up ways to improve the holiday experiences of friends and family members. For instance, you could offer a fun gift basket to overnight guests. Or, if you’re the one who’s being hosted, you could go out of your way to say “thank you” in a special way to your host and hostess—like by giving them a gift card to their favorite restaurant to enjoy after the holiday rush.
Rethink your traditions
Sometimes, what you’ve done for years at the holidays may be contributing to the stress that you’re struggling with. There’s no reason why you can’t try to be objective and see if there are some traditions you’d be better off without.
If it’s too stressful to carry out certain activities, see if you can come up with alternatives that everyone will enjoy. For instance, taking everyone to a crowded restaurant might be more stress than it’s worth. How about ordering takeout to eat at home, then hosting game time with popcorn afterward?
Create new traditions
Let’s say you do decide that you’ll have to cut some activities that previously were staples of your holiday celebrating. This just means you can fill in with some alternative solutions instead. Plan other ways to enjoy time with your friends and family—preferably, less stressful ways.
Just be sure that whatever you do doesn’t simply recreate the overly hectic scenario you were trying to get away from. Choose activities that everyone can enjoy and that don’t place an undue burden on any one person.
Here are some fun possibilities. Plan a group walk or run. Of course, you can do this in your own neighborhood. Or you can head to a local park with running trails. You can even set up a group hike—if your group is up for that. Another alternative is to sign up for a holiday race like a 5K.
Activities that might become new traditions
Mini golfing is another fun group activity that can bring together kids and adults. It’s just helpful to have a good ratio of adults to kids so you ensure that there are enough people to keep an eye on the youngsters. Riding bumper cars can be huge fun, and it’s sure to be a hit with the kids (and probably some of the grown-ups, too).
Too cold for anyone to want to be outside? Well, given the time of year, that makes sense. Some areas are downright frigid this season. But there are still ways to enjoy great bonding experiences that don’t involve being outside (at least not much)
Go to see a family-friendly movie. Be sure to pick something that everyone can enjoy. And try to choose a time that isn’t going to interfere with naptime for kids or other important activities for adults. You might find it helpful to use a group scheduling app to help figure out a time that works for everyone. Just be sure that whoever gets things rolling checks the available showtimes first.
Families can also take time out during the holiday season to volunteer together. Perhaps you could arrange to help serve dinner at a homeless shelter. Or maybe you could get involved in a local program that provides gifts to needy children.
Explore holiday home hacks
From food prep to living room furniture arrangement, fill up on the best ideas to “hack” your holiday and choose the top three to test out this year. If you find they’re not helpful, you can try three more next year. Here are some possibilities.
- Prep food in advance. Whatever can be frozen, can even be made in September or October. Package well to avoid freezer burn.
- Buy all gifts in November. No last-minute scurrying for you!
- Purchase all presents online. Actually, this could make for a fun challenge—to say nothing of saving gas, avoiding exposure to the elements, and perhaps even saving time.
- Completely rearrange the living room to accommodate more guest seating.
- Host potluck parties instead of doing all the preparation yourself.
- Start fresh by going back to the drawing board for all your decorating and food preparation. Just because you’ve always made something does not mean you should make it this year. Start with a blank menu list and a blank decor list and let things earn their way to a spot on the list.
Make time for fun
Remember to make opportunity to enjoy special time with family. And especially don’t forget about the youngsters—it’s easy for them to get lost in the shuffle whenever things get busy. Make the most of any unexpected circumstances, too. Check out these fun things to do if you’re snowed in. And be sure the spaces inside your mobile home—like the family room— make it easy to have quality time together.