10 Tips to Keep Your Holidays Special and NOT Stressful

It’s that time again! If you are like me, holidays can be both joyful and awful.  The idea of peace on earth, celebration, cheer, family, friends and nostalgia is joyous. However, the idea of crowds, commercialism, my empty wallet, putting up Christmas lights, cleaning my house to my mom’s standards and gaining weight is heinous.  After poling my friends and family, it turns out that EVERYONE has a love/hate with the holidays.

In order to help us all out, we’ve put together a list of tips to keep us all sane and smiling.

#1      Forget the unimportant stuff. Just because you do it every year doesn’t mean you have to do it this year.  I.e. Christmas lights, hundreds of ornately decorated cookies, Christmas cards to everyone you know.

#2      Set boundaries.  Yes, this means saying “No.” “Will you put up all of my Christmas lights for me?” (There is a Christmas light them here in case you didn’t notice. You decide which party you feel like attending and how long you want to stay.  You decide if you are up to the big family gatherings. Take care of you this year and don’t do something because you feel obligated.  Do it because you really want to.

#3      Keep your expectations modest. Too many people have an idealized version of what the holidays should be like, instead of what they really are. Nobody, and I mean nobody, has an ideal, picture-perfect holiday. By setting expectations up-front — and keeping them realistic — you won’t be disappointed that your family gathering devolves into another eating free-for-all, when it has happened every year since you can remember.

#4     Ask for help.  Part of the reason we sometimes get into trouble around the holidays is that we attempt to do too much on our own. Ask for help from your significant other, children, friends or family when you need it, and be direct and honest with your requests. Don’t expect others to read your mind and don’t stop at a single request if you need help with a dozen different things.

#5      Moderation.  While the holidays are a good “excuse” to stop being moderate in our drinking or eating, we should resist the urge to overindulge. Sure, you can have an extra piece of cake or one extra drink more than you might usually enjoy, but that shouldn’t open the floodgates to eat the remaining half of the cake or finish off a half bottle of Jack Daniels on your own. In the same way, even buying presents for your kids can be taken to an unhealthy extreme (“Always leave them wanting more”). Celebrate, but not to the point of excess.

#6     Plan ahead. Feeling overwhelmed by too much to do and too little time to do it all in? Schedule it all out right now on your calendar and stick to it. Too many people get into trouble accepting last-minute invitations, or by trying to accommodate a last-minute visit with someone they hadn’t planned on seeing. If your schedule allows for it, fine, but if not, you’ll know in an instant.

#7      Volunteer. All too often we get caught up in the shopping and finding the perfect gifts, we lose sight of things that really matter — our friendships, our family, our spirituality, and our fellow man (and woman) who may be less fortunate than us. Volunteer at a food bank, do something additional for your church, adopt a family in need this season. If you cut just 10% of your spending on gifts and donated that money to charity, you’d be surprised at how much a difference such giving would help.

#8     Play nice. In an ideal world, we’d be friends with everyone and everyone would be friends with us. But in the real world, we get into disagreements or sometimes full-fledged arguments with others we care about. In the spirit of the giving season, give something that is priceless — your compassion and forgiveness (even if only temporary) to those in your life you feel have wronged you in some way.

#9     Find positive ways to remember loved ones.  After someone who love dies, holidays are never the same.  Traditions, events, songs & movies can trigger grief.  Instead of sadness, try to keep your loved one’s memory alive by continuing to make them part of your holiday season.  A few ideas would be to implement a yearly toast to that person with friends and family near and far. Create a special place for people to write down memories in a book or on a plain wooden ornament or leave memories in an old stocking and read aloud on Christmas. Donate to a cause in your loved one’s name.  Incorporating your loved one into your holiday may fill a little hole in your heart while creating some lovely new traditions.

#10    Breathe.  Give yourself a break.  While rushing around the holidays, we often put ourselves last on the “To do” list. Forgive your transgressions, and be kind to yourself. That means taking some time out for yourself and your needs. It also means not beating yourself up if you step off your diet or can’t get to the gym for a few days.

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