Many people give in to bad habits and stress over the holidays. Here are a few tips to make Christmas more enjoyable and less guilt inducing.
We make the same promises every year: we won’t put off our Christmas shopping until the last minute, we won’t let ourselves get stressed, we won’t go overboard on the sweets…but every time, January finds us exhausted and a tad heavier. What can we do to make the holidays more relaxing and enjoyable—and reduce the need for a million New Year’s resolutions when it’s all over? Here are a few suggestions.
Get organized. Scrambling to get things done at the last minute is stressful, so plan ahead and get yourself organized. Make a schedule of holiday events, and note any gifts, food, toy drive donations, etc., that you’ll be expected to take. Make gift lists and holiday card lists, and buy cards and wrapping supplies in advance. Also keep a few hostess gifts on hand, so you’re prepared for unexpected invitations.
Reassess your gift-giving habits. If giving Christmas gifts brings you more anxiety than joy, maybe it’s time to make a few changes. Do you need to make a more realistic budget or stick to it more faithfully? Do you need to trim your gift-giving list to eliminate friends you exchange gifts with just out of habit, even though you’re no longer close? Do you have a large family (or many co-workers) you exchange gifts with who might be interested in drawing names rather than everyone buying individual gifts for everyone? Can you simplify things by buying the same gift for multiple people on your list?
Address family stress. Holiday gatherings with family can be the highlight of the year…or they can be miserable. If you know certain problems are likely to arise, set ground rules in advance (kids: no screaming in the house; adults: no talking about politics). If you’re hosting, don’t be afraid to ask other family members to help with the cooking and other chores. If you feel pressured to spend more than you can afford on gifts, it might be time to suggest that everyone scale back a bit—and maybe spend the money on charity or a fun activity that you can do together rather than buying more things. Yes, holidays are a time for traditions, but if something really doesn’t work for you, consider some alternatives. Someone has to start new traditions!
Make time for yourself. The holidays are extremely busy, but that just makes it all the more important to carve out a bit of ‘me time’ every day to help you maintain your sanity, especially if you’re an introvert. Whether it’s meditating, reading, listening to music, spending a few minutes on a favourite hobby or just relaxing, find something that allows you to take a break and recharge your batteries.
Eat reasonably well. Christmas is a time to indulge…but not overindulge. Don’t be so strict with yourself that you miss out on all the season’s fun (or make yourself feel so deprived that you throw in the towel and give in to three weeks of sweets, alcohol and gorging yourself at every meal), but do keep in mind that treats should be just that, not the main component of your diet. Sure, sometimes you need to eat things just to be polite, but for the most part try to be aware of whether you’re actually hungry or not—don’t take another biscuit just because the plate is there in front of you.
Get some exercise. While it would be ideal to get in a few extra workouts to compensate for some of the additional calories you’re taking in, for many people that’s just not realistic in December. Do try to incorporate extra physical activity into your daily activities whenever you can, though: park farther away from the shops, take the stairs instead of the elevator or clean the house more vigorously. You can also try to make sure your holiday get-togethers aren’t all just sitting around and talking. When you go out for drinks with friends, find a place with live music and hit the dance floor to burn off some of the calories. When you’re spending time with family, take your nephews and nieces ice-skating, or encourage everyone to get out for a walk after Christmas lunch.
If you start feeling stressed as the holidays approach, try to identify whether it’s your own expectations or those of others that are causing the tension. Keep a healthy, realistic attitude and don’t give in to the pressure to be perfect. When you’ve done what you can to eliminate the sources of tension, it may be time to turn to the power of positive thinking—and to remember what the season is all about.
What are your favourite ways to reduce holiday stress?