Holiday Stress: Stop It Before It Starts

Holiday Stress: Stop It Before It Starts

What’s the secret to getting through the holidays with less stress? Be prepared. Be flexible. And follow these tips for holiday success with less stress.

Why do we get so stressed during the holidays? More than any other time of the year, the holidays bring on a lot demands on our time and energy — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning, entertaining and spending time with people you may only see once a year.

When stress is already at its peak, it's hard to stop and regroup. This season, try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past .

The American Heart Association   suggests these basic tips for beating holiday stress:

  • Stay active. Make time for walks, active chores and some exercise.
  • But not too active. Say no when you need a break. You don’t have to go to everything.
  • Go in with a plan. Set goals for yourself that will help you stay mentally and physically healthy. Schedule a walk each day, plan for a few minutes of daily meditation or set a limit on drinks. Check in each week to see if you’re on track.
  • Beware of party perils. Hit the salad bar before you hit the buffet. Eat at home before you go to parties, and keep salty and sweet indulgences to a minimum.
  • Lay out a plan for January, February and beyond. Keep the to-do list going, make plans for adding some realistic, small changes for healthier behaviors.
Gift Giving: Keep It in Check

Make a list and a budget and stick to it. Overspending on each person is the easiest way to break your budget. Sticking to your list and budgeting for each person will help prevent you from impulse buys.

  1. Consider alternatives. Donate to a charity in someone's name. Start a family gift exchange that limits the number of gifts and the amount spent on each one. Give homemade gifts — hot cocoa mix in a jar, healthy muffin mix in a bag, olive oil, homemade soap, a family recipe book or scented bath salts.
  2. Like an elf in your pocket. Your mobile phone or electronic device can help keep you organized. Look for free apps that can help you keep track of who wants what, how many gifts you've gotten each person, how much you want to spend and even if you've wrapped each gift or not.
Host With the Most: Planning for the Main Event

Is it your turn in the family holiday hosting rotation? That’s a big responsibility, but you don’t need to do everything. Why not make it a potluck so that everyone can contribute? Planning ahead to help take some of the stress out of hosting.

  • One month before:
    • Decide which dishes you will make and what else you’ll provide. For large holiday potlucks, the host typically makes the main course (turkey, ham, etc.) and the things that go with them, like a sauce or gravy.
    • Once you know what all you’ll provide, invite your guests and assign the remaining dishes. Let them know how many people will be attending so they know how much food to make.
    • Leave room in your plan for guests to decide what they want to bring. If Aunt Mary is known for her gelatin mold, then let her bring it. Just make sure your guests let you know what they’re bringing so you don’t wind up with too much of one thing.
    • And avoid a traffic jam by asking guests how much oven or stovetop time they’ll need once they arrive.
    • Ask those who don’t like to cook to bring drinks or other things like extra chairs or serving utensils.
  • One or two days before: Make sure your tablecloths, silverware and napkins are guest ready. Set the table and get out the serving dishes you’ll need. Set up table decorations. Get out extra chairs.
  • Day of: Keep the ice well stocked, relax and have a good time. Hosting a party doesn’t mean everything has to be perfect. Take time to celebrate with your friends and family.

Are you hosting this year? Try not to be a perfectionist ! Tell us how you’re going to plan it out!

Sources: Mayo Clinic,   2014; Martha Stewart Living  The American Heart Association,   2014

Originally published December 2, 2015; Revised 2017, 2020

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