Ten Ways to Eliminate Holiday Stress

The holidays should be a time of joy. Unfortunately, many people get so caught up in holiday “shoulds and musts” that their season becomes a time of stress instead of a time of joy. Following are my recommended top ten ways to reduce holiday stress so you can enjoy your celebration.

  1. Let go of unrealistic expectations: Unrealistic expectations are the primary cause of disappointment and sadness during the holidays. Although it may be difficult, take time to consider which of your expectations are unrealistic and to accept the truth. Making the best of reality is a quick way to de-stress. Acceptance leads to joy!
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  2. Recognize that you are the source of your stress: It is tough to admit, but the stress you feel is genuinely all in your head. When you feel holiday stress, stop and ask yourself WHY you are stressed. If you can change the situation, do. If not, accept it, make the best of it, and stop stressing! (Refer back to point one if needed.)
    Two women experiencing holiday stress. 
  3. Get creative: Sometimes a little creativity is all it takes to eliminate holiday stress. Think outside of the box and come up with simpler ways of doing things. (Hint: It’s fine to have dinner catered or to buy the sides. I swear no one cares you bought the cheese ball instead of making it yourself. It’s fine to change the family meal to a pitch-in or go to a restaurant. Giving an occasional gift card is also acceptable. I promise.)
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  4. Keep a sense of humor and realize none of the fluff matters: When all’s said and done, none of the holiday fluff really matters. If things don’t go the way you planned, be flexible, laugh it off, and move on.
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  5. Just say NO: Most holiday stress is caused by overcommitment. Existing in a constant state of exhaustion is no fun and leads to illness. Instead of saying “yes” to every invitation, prioritize your commitments and say no to those which do not bring joy or which are too difficult to fit into your busy schedule.
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  6. Schedule time to do nothing: Take a day during the holiday season and dedicate it to doing absolutely nothing. Commit to spending the day with your family doing peaceful, stress-free activities. You owe it to yourself to take a day to recharge and refresh! If it’s impossible to commit an entire day to doing nothing, schedule a few hours each week and firmly devote them to being good to yourself.
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  7. Discuss changing traditions with your family: As families grow and mature, their needs and dynamics change. Take time each year to evaluate traditions and to openly discuss how traditions can be modified to better meet everyone’s needs. Things to discuss include drawing names instead of buying for each individual, meeting on a date other than Christmas day, making a communal donation to a charity instead of exchanging gifts, volunteering at a shelter instead of having a family meal, etc.. Consider meeting in January to completely eliminate holiday stress. If some family members are not willing to change, try to find a compromise that is not offensive to those who take comfort in tradition.
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  8. Use technology: Take advantage of time savers offered by technology. A few options include shopping online, sending an email card or newsletter, or getting together via a Google+ Hangout. The Hangout feature lets you connect “in person” with people all over the world.
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  9. Look outside of yourself: Proverbs 11:25 says it best: “The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.” Take the focus off of receiving and concentrate on giving. Giving your time and compassion has far more value than any material gift. Teaching your children to bless others and to appreciate the joy of giving is a gift that will multiply through the years.
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  10. Ditch the materialism: Gifts and food have no lasting value. Concentrate on the spiritual side of the holidays. In my family, we take special effort to focus on the fact we are celebrating the birth of Jesus. We blend all the other activities into this focus to give them higher meaning. Your celebration does not have to contain a religious focus in order to more enriching. Focus on gratitude, family and blessing others instead of gifts and food.

How do you avoid holiday stress? Please share a comment and let us know! Your ideas will help others de-stress and have more fun.

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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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3 Responses to Ten Ways to Eliminate Holiday Stress

  1. […] The phenomenon of re-decorating and undoing effort children took great pride in mystifies me. (Reloading the dishwasher mystifies me, too, but that’s a different issue.) My concern is that many people set themselves up for disappointment by trying to create the “Perfect Christmas” year after year. In my mind, a “perfect” holiday is about being with family and creating great memories. The decorations don’t really matter. (When my husband reads that, I’m quite certain he’ll start making plans to donate our twelve crates of Christmas decorations to whomever will take. them.) We always taught our kids to focus on the true Reason for the Season and didn’t put too much focus on the decorations. Decorating was part of the fun, but it had nothing to do with the joy of the holiday. I realized early on that the myth of the Perfect Christmas was just that: A Myth. A myth that could never be achieved with my lack of skills and a house filled with children. I therefore let go of that myth and learned to love and treasure our imperfect version of the perfect holiday. Doing so completely eliminated holiday stress and allowed us to celebrate in our own way. For more was to reduce holiday stress, read: Ten Ways to Eliminate Holiday Stress. […]

  2. […] Ten Ways to Eliminate Holiday Stress:  I recommend reading this one first. It contains simple tips to calming the holiday frenzy and to creating peaceful holidays that can truly be enjoyed. […]

  3. Randy Clark says:

    As I read these point outloud to my wife Cathi we discussed each. She recently talked about a few of them in a discussion group and appreciated your sharing. She added holidays aren’t the time to solve family issues and if they rear their ugly head–just be cordial. Great post, points wed should all reflect upon.

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