There’s no cookie-cutter template for a perfect holiday, but we all look forward to relaxing and having fun with our friends and family in December. Unfortunately, the holidays are rarely as carefree as they were when we were kids. That’s why we’ve gathered the best tips for an (almost) Stress-Free Holiday Season.
If you catch yourself feeling like the Grinch or Cindy Lou Who, wondering how you lost your holiday spirit, sit back as we share the top five expert-recommended tips for a stress-free holiday season!
Don’t underestimate the power of re-evaluating traditions and setting boundaries.
Most of us have holiday traditions that bring us joy and comfort, like making your grandma’s cookie recipe or spending entire days of vacation in your PJs. But what about those traditions that we’d rather not revisit every year?
In her article Lower Your Holiday Stress By Setting Boundaries, productivity coach Mridu Parikh has some excellent advice for setting boundaries and avoiding holiday overwhelm: “The three steps to setting boundaries this holiday season are 1. Decide. 2. Announce. and 3. Enforce.”
For example: If hosting dinner is a significant source of holiday stress, Mridu recommends communicating with your loved ones early about your need to rotate hosting duties or limit the time guests spend at your home. If a festive meal has to be at your place, try using a tool like SignUp Genius to help manage what your guests can bring to make preparing dinner a group effort.
While these are “tips for a stress-free holiday season,” it’s completely understandable if you experience tension during the boundary-setting process. Effectively setting boundaries and sticking to them takes a lot of practice, so be patient with yourself: it’s worth the effort to make your needs a priority amidst the strain of holiday planning.
Make time to celebrate with your partner and friends.
It makes sense that we tend to fixate on spending time with extended family and our kids in November and December, but if you have the capacity, carving out more time with friends and your partner can help you manage holiday stress.
For many, festive gatherings like a “Friendsgiving” or “Friendsmas” celebration are a welcome way to enjoy holiday fun without the pressures of family events:
“The experience can be completely tailored to the preferences of the attendees. Some people even come to view “Friendsgiving” and “Friendsmas” as their “real” celebration of the holiday.”
-Psychology Today, 7 Tips for Lower Holiday Stress
When it comes to making the holidays about the kids without forgetting your partner, look for everyday opportunities to foster intimacy and connection, whether they come in the form of cozy date nights, a kiss under the mistletoe, or an intimate toboggan ride. Sometimes all we need is a partner in crime to steal us away from the holiday madness.
Be mindful of how you spend your time and money.
When it comes to gift-giving and holiday entertainment, we all want to survive the holidays without breaking the bank. But in addition to smart financial planning, it’s also essential to pay careful attention to how spending our time and money makes us feel.
Take an inventory of your holiday to-do list and try to match each item with ways you genuinely enjoy spending your time:
- If you hate everything about the mall this time of year, look for local holiday markets or opt to shop entirely online.
- Don’t have tons of cash for gifts, but don’t mind getting messy and creative? Then, check out these homemade holiday gift ideas!
- Does spending hours baking and crafting sound like a holiday nightmare? Then you might be happier gifting time and experiences like finally agreeing to that Hallmark movie marathon with your mom or paying a local artisan a fair price for gifts made with love (and not tears of frustration).
You may also find it helpful to download (and consistently use) a leading free budgeting app like Mint or KOHO, to help you track your spending, stick to a budget, and maximize your savings.
Aligning how you spend your valuable resources with your unique preferences and needs will help ensure that you always feel your time and money are being well-spent.
Keep social media at arm’s length (and not just when you’re taking selfies).
You don’t have to log out for all of December and miss your grandma’s hilarious memes or the chance to gush over your friend’s adorably dressed pet photos. However, a break might be a good idea if those frequent posts make you feel overwhelmed, too easily distracted, or envious of grandma’s keen sense of humour and follower count.
It’s less about cutting out all forms of social media cold turkey and more about maintaining awareness of how it makes you feel. For example, if taking a 24-hour break makes you feel less stressed, then maybe 48 hours or every other weekend free of hashtags and dance trend videos will make you feel even better and more productive?
Social media is a great way to log precious holiday memories, but do your best not to get caught up in comparisons because no follow, or amount of likes is worth your mental health.
If your friends are also interested in practicing a holiday social media detox, make plans to do something fun and actually social with the time you saved from all of those sneaky engagement algorithms.
Let go of shoulds, focus on the present, and nurture gratitude for what is.
We all get bombarded with messages about how we “should” feel and act during “the most wonderful time of the year,” but focusing on our perceived shortcomings can be a fast track to the holiday blues.
Finding meditation, mindfulness or gratitude practices that work for you could help you access a calm and clear mind in even the busiest mall parking lot—helping you achieve as stress-free a holiday season as possible.
- If you’re interested in giving meditation a try, know that there is no universally perfect duration or frequency of practice for everyone. Just 10 minutes of meditation a day may be a worthwhile goal for beginners.
- Are you feeling haunted by ghosts of holidays past and future? Mindfulness is another anxiety-relief practice that can help you feel grounded and attune with your senses. Practicing mindfulness activities with your kids is an excellent way to help you and your little ones unplug from the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
- Working on gratitude and mindfulness at the same time can be as simple as writing holiday greeting cards or thank you notes that reflect upon how grateful you are to have each special person in your life.
- Starting a gratitude journal may sound intimidating, but it can be as easy as taking a few extra minutes to write down a few things you’re grateful for each day while you’re ticking off items on your holiday to-do list.
To get a head start on prioritizing your wellbeing in the new year, check out these healthy habits to start this January that aren’t about diet and exercise and our top 10 tips for managing stress and anxiety.
Don’t forget to reach out!
It’s the season of giving, after all, and sometimes stepping out of our heads to focus on helping make others happy is just what we need to get into the holiday spirit. You can volunteer your time and talents, donate, or spend a day reconnecting with distant friends and relatives. Giving back and sharing kindness is the tip for a stress-free holiday season that could go the farthest to ensure your community has the best holiday possible.
While helping others can boost your mental health, reaching out can also ensure you get the help and support you deserve. Talk to someone you trust to help you make a plan for managing any stress or anxiety you’re experiencing. In addition to friends and family, clergy, doctors, therapists, and helplines can be valuable professional resources.
There are no universal tips for a stress-free holiday season, but there is always something you can do and someone you can talk with to help make the holidays a little bit easier. Tis the season to offer kindness, gratitude and compassion to others and ourselves!