5 Ways to Avoid Holiday Stress
by Minette Riordan, Ph.D.
Many people dread the holiday season because of the added stress on their lives. Some suffer from too much togetherness with extended family and others from the sensory overload of people, places, lights and sounds. Children are especially susceptible this time of year, as they are dragged around to shopping malls and holiday parties and their own expectations and anticipation build toward to that special day!
Here are 5 simple ways to avoid holiday stress this year:
1. Plan ahead. Don’t leave everything until the last minute. Remember that the more stressed you feel, the more negatively this will impact your children and the crazier they will be! Keep a calendar that the whole family can see that lists out all of the shopping, parties and activities you will be participating in. Most children do not like surprises (except for presents of course,) they want to know what is expected of them and what the plans are.
2. Set a budget and don’t go over it! Money and overspending can cause tremendous stress for families, especially between spouses. We often feel like we have to buy large gifts for our children that we cannot afford. Don’t be afraid to tell your children that you have a budget this year (or Santa has a budget) and that they will not get as many gifts as they have in other years. It is better to tell them ahead of time than have them be disappointed when they open presents. Don’t spend more than you have, make a list before you go shopping and only buy what is on your list.
3. Manage your children’s expectations and energy. Pay careful attention to your children and be honest with them about what is going to happen during the busy weeks ahead and what they can expect. Don’t over do it! Everyone needs some down time, especially children, so don’t be afraid to say no to someone’s Holiday Open House if it means you can have quiet time at home with your own family.
4. Deal with your extended family in whatever way works best for YOU. Don’t be afraid to stay in a hotel if staying with your mom or sister-in-law makes you crazy. Or if they are asking to come and visit you, how long should the visit be? Don’t allow them to stay for two weeks if three days is all you can handle. While it can be difficult to have these conversations, if you approach your family with love, honesty and respect and make it clear that you are doing your best to take care of your own family, it will help to take the sting out of it.
5. Get moving! Whether you are traveling or staying home, getting exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress for you and your kids. Even a short 20 minute walk will make you feel tons better. Don’t go to extremes. If you have not been exercising regularly, now may not be the time to join the gym and over do it! Make exercise a fun, family activity. An after dinner walk to look at the neighborhood Christmas lights is a great way to spend time together, burn calories and energy and do your heart some good!