Every year, it’s the same. When chilly November rolls around, I’m pumped for the holiday season – ready to shop, bake and enjoy the festivities with my daughter and relatives. But then Thanksgiving comes and goes, and by December I feel burned out even before the big Christmas showdown starts. Why does this always happen? I start off looking forward to it all and then it seems that family dynamics and holiday stress has barreled me over yet again.
I’m lucky enough just to get through it all and glide into a new year with the slightest bit of grace. By Christmas Eve, I’ve typically had at least one minor catastrophe, three break-downs and a partridge in a pear tree. But I refuse to believe that Christmas is just for children and I’m determined to actually enjoy it one of these days. So this year, I’ve come up with a list of how I can stay centered, focused and take in those magical holiday moments.
Here are my top 7 tips to avoid stress this holiday season
1. Keep the shopping to a minimum
Kids don’t need a lot to enjoy the holidays (that’s just the voice of our materialistic society in your head!) Think of a few great gifts and stick to them. Don’t get sucked into buying a bunch of stuff your kids might not even want just because everyone else is getting that hot new toy. Think about what they will actually play with and for how long. If it seems like something that’s going to wind up on a shelf, save your money and be practical.
2. Get crafty!
If you have the time, you can save a fortune by making some creative gifts. Kids truly love gifts, even more, knowing that mom or dad spent time on something for them. Pinterest is beyond awesome for holiday ideas, too.
3. Earn some extra income
If money is a big stress. People are always trolling Craigslist or Tradsey for gifts this time of year, so start listing stuff that you no longer use. You’ll make a little extra holiday cash and be helping someone buy a gift on the cheap.
I can’t stress this one enough. Taking a few minutes each morning to allow your mind to clear and just breathe is crucial. When you feel bogged down, that’s your mind telling you to stop. Close your eyes, focus and just breathe.
5. Don’t stop working out
Not only will working out through the holiday season help you battle stress, it will keep you from putting on those dreaded winter pounds. I know it’s difficult to find the time, but this might be the best thing to help you stay zen this year – so don’t neglect it.
6. Be understanding or zone it out
Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, in-laws. Someone is bound to drive you crazy so come into the season with the attitude of “everyone is human.” If that doesn’t work, come up with something that does. I’ve been working on a new skill. It’s called pretending I have terrible hearing. If someone is being rude to you, you are free to smile and go talk to someone else or politely pretend you didn’t hear. You are in control of your reaction. So don’t let anyone ruin your time.
7. Do less, enjoy more
The holidays don’t need to be perfect. In fact, the less perfect they are, the more everyone will probably enjoy them. So try to create a relaxed atmosphere and just go with the flow. Food on the table, a couple presents under the tree, friends and family (and probably a little wine). That’s really all you need.
Sarah Bregel is a mother, a writer and a women’s personal trainer. She loves yoga, food and wine and believes everything in moderation is the best advice in the world. She lives in Baltimore with her husband, Marshall and their daughter, Piper.