by Dr. Tiffany Lowe-Payne
It’s that time of year again! You’re probably ready for holiday cheer, filled with turkeys, gifts and fresh-baked tasty treats. Traditionally, this season has been warmly referred to as “the most wonderful time of the year.” However, for many it is also a time of extreme stress and chaos as they try to live up to overwhelming expectations.
According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 8 out of 10 people say that the holidays bring a significant amount of stress:
- Stress with planning elaborate holiday parties
- Stress to purchase the perfect gifts
- Stress to host amazing dinners for those you love
Others dread the after-effects of too much “comfort food” and the inevitable credit card bills that will surely be in the mailbox immediately after the holidays.
So, how do you avoid getting too stressed and dampening your holiday spirit? Here are my top 5 favorite tips that I have shared with patients:
- Plan Ahead!
Taking time to set your plans and expectations well ahead of time is the most important step in ensuring that you won’t get too stressed in the coming months. Now, is the time to carefully prepare your lists and set reasonable expectations, with your children, and other loved ones based on what your budget will allow. Studies show that those who take the time to plan ahead, will not only have a lower stress level but will also be more likely to stick to their budget. So grab the pen and paper as you sip your cup of hot chocolate and map out your plan for success!
- Stick to the Plan!
Once you take the time to plan for success, stick to it! This of course is easier said than done, especially if you are an impulse shopper. However, if you can commit to setting boundaries and adhere to them, you will be on your way to enjoying your holiday without being distracted and tempted to buy everything in the store.
- Rally the troops!
Are you a person who believes that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself? If so, you are setting yourself up for stress, frustration and exhaustion during this time of the year. Instead, try rallying the troops and delegating responsibilities to get the job done. Yes, even the kids! This is something that I love to do in my own family. Each of us picks our favorite dish to prepare for holiday dinner, and we also split up the duties of decorating and shopping. Delegating responsibilities not only ensures that you won’t have too much on your plate, but it also offers a wonderful opportunity for family bonding time. With that being said, don’t get upset if things are not perfect. As long as you are surrounded by those who are important to you, and you are able to create lasting memories, it will be worth it. Give it a try! You’ll be glad that you did.
- Switch it up!
Many people get caught up in holiday traditions such as enduring long shopping lines and preparing elaborate dinners. If the thought of this triggers your stress sensors, this year try switching it up a little. Instead of spending all day in the kitchen, make plans to dine out at a nice restaurant that will do the cooking for you. This will allow you to have a day of rest and relaxation, and then later “glam it up” for a nice night out on the town where you can just sit and enjoy your loved ones. In addition, instead of spending all of your time (and money) fighting the long lines at the store, try making your presents by hand. This will add a personal touch to your gifts. You can also shop online to save both time and money.
- Enjoy some “me time!”
As you are working hard preparing to make others happy, always remember to take time for yourself as well. This is a fundamental aspect of managing stress and enjoying your holiday season. Whether it’s taking a soothing bath surrounded by candlelight and soft music, enjoying the therapeutic benefits of a massage, getting in an invigorating exercise session or just taking time to get still and do a little reading, meditation or prayer, taking time out for yourself will allow you to get some rest and rejuvenation. As you rejuvenate, your brain will release a host of endorphins which will elevate your mood to help you focus and handle your tasks more effectively.
Above all else, as you prepare to enter into the holidays, remember to take time to reflect on the real reasons for this awesome season. When you do, you will be reminded that it’s not about the material things that we in a commercialized society have been accustomed to expect, but it’s a time to give thanks for the many blessings that we already have, including the amazing love of God who gave us the greatest gift of all! And with these thoughts, we can truly say that this is the most wonderful time of the year!
Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays,