Holidays are the source of major stress for so many of us! The main issues to prevent holiday stress I’ve encountered both in my private practice as a psychologist, and in my personal life are preventing overdoing and overspending.
The earlier you start, the better the odds. There is a very slippery slope of emotionality during the holiday period, meaning right before Thanksgiving to the few days after New Years. When emotions dominate, we don’t make the best choices.
Having conversations, with yourself and others you are close with, can make giant differences. Yes, I mean talk with your own self! Identify your priorities and be realistic. Check in with yourself and others about what are the most important, meaningful, fun activities and traditions. Don’t be afraid to do things differently, try something new. Often we actually are tired of same-old/same-old. Anticipate! Consider and converse, don’t wait til the last minute to decide these things.
When making plans, remember that we are all pretty busy already, so adding a lot into the mix can be a disaster. Cut your list, plan to do less – it will be more fun and you’ll be less likely to get sick. You can always add things back in if you end up with some free time. Just imagine – free time!!
Experiences often actually mean more than objects – meaning gifts for the most part. Ask your peeps what meant the most to them in previous years, and you will hear more about getting together, having meals, going places, decorating trees, baking cookies than you will about the gifts.
When it comes to shopping, stop and think about the original meaning of gifts. They were tokens – of respect and honor, of love and affection. They were symbolic. They have morphed in our society into being thought of as proof of feelings, or evidence. This contributes greatly to our anxiety, trying to find the perfect gift, then buying another one…. When the bills arrive in January, we wonder what we were thinking!
Talking over a gift plan with others helps a lot, it’s amazing what verbalizing can do. You can share that you’d like to keep your spending under control this year and that finding the right gift for that person means a lot to you as well. You can talk about a general or specific spending range or limit, whatever feels right for both of you. Having that conversation can take A LOT of pressure off, seriously. When there are too many family members because of numbers of children increasing, try talking it over and doing a polyanna plan or buying “family gifts” – an object or gift card for the family to use.
When we get frenzied, often we aren’t feeling too good about ourselves, and this pushes us more into doing and spending, trying to get it just right. Try to be aware that we all struggle with bad feelings about ourselves sometimes. It’s better to take a break, breathe and do something that feels good for the moment, then turn back to the decisions and tasks at hand.
Start a journal, make some notes about what does and doesn’t work well for you this year, then make sure you remember to look at it next year! Update it each year and you’ll get better and better at having awesome, happenin’ holidays!