The holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy, warmth, and connection. But more often than not, it turns into a whirlwind of stress and anxiety. So let’s create less stressful holidays this year!
Whether it’s the pressure of organising the most delicious festive feast, finding the perfect gifts, navigating family dynamics, or coping with loneliness, the holidays can take a toll on your well-being. But with a mindful approach and a few practical strategies, you can transform the chaos into a more meaningful experience.
Here’s my guide to creating less stressful holidays, regardless of the challenges you may face.
1. Set realistic expectations
One of the main sources of holiday stress is the pressure to meet unrealistic expectations. All those adverts you see on the TV of the perfect Christmas family get-together are fake – I don’t know anyone who has a Christmas like that.
Instead of striving for perfection, embrace the imperfections that make the season special. Understand that not everything will go as planned, and that’s perfectly okay. It’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t go to plan – or whatever some advertising agency for the biggest supermarket has made you think is the ‘right’ way to be.
By setting realistic expectations, you free yourself from unnecessary stress and open the door to enjoying the moments as they come. Acceptance is a wonderful quality to have that keeps your stress levels low at Christmas.
2. Plan ahead
Procrastination often amplifies stress.
Plan ahead by creating a checklist for tasks such as gift shopping, meal preparation, and decorating. I love a list – and I mean a written one that you can see easily and that you can tick off as you go along.
Spreading these activities over several weeks can prevent last-minute rushes and give you time to savour the holiday season. Consider creating a detailed schedule to help manage your time efficiently, allowing you to enjoy the festivities without feeling overwhelmed.
3. Simplify traditions
While traditions are an integral part of the festive season, they can sometimes become a source of stress.
Evaluate your family’s traditions and consider simplifying or modifying them to suit your current circumstances. Perhaps you can assign tasks to different family members or choose to celebrate in a way that aligns better with your values and available resources.
Maybe it’s time to create some new traditions or ask younger members of the family to create them. That will give you a new sense of purpose and direction. Remember, the essence of the holidays lies in the joy of being together, not in the intricacy of the rituals.
4. Foster open communication
Communication is key when it comes to less stressful holidays, as emotions often run high around Christmas.
Discuss expectations, plans, and potential challenges with your loved ones. Be open about your feelings and encourage them to share theirs. This fosters understanding and helps avoid misunderstandings that can lead to stress.
Remember that the holidays are a time for connection, and open communication is the bridge to stronger, healthier relationships.
I am working with clients at this time of year to help with effective communication and personal boundaries – it’s a big theme. When you have a full stress bucket, you’re more likely to feel a sense of threat and danger. This is not the best place to communicate from, so it may be that you need to address your stress levels first to be able to cope.
5. Embrace alternatives
If circumstances prevent you from being with loved ones during the holidays, consider embracing alternative ways to celebrate. Virtual gatherings, heartfelt messages, and sending thoughtful gifts can bridge the gap when physical presence isn’t possible.
Focus on the connections you can maintain, rather than dwelling on what you may be missing. This is what Solution-Focused Therapy is all about. Sometimes, new traditions can arise from these alternative celebrations, enriching the holiday experience.
6. Delegate responsibilities
You don’t have to bear the weight of holiday preparations alone. Delegate tasks to family members and friends, encouraging a collaborative effort. Whether it’s potluck-style meals or shared responsibilities for decorating, distributing the workload lightens the burden on any one person.
This reduces stress over Christmas and promotes a sense of togetherness and shared responsibility. Make those expectations clear early on as well. The last thing you need is for someone to say they were unaware of what was expected of them and they’d have been more than happy to help.
Conversely, make sure you are offering help, too. I bet there is one person in your family that takes on all the responsibility. Do not assume that they like to do this – it may have turned into a habit that they can’t get themselves out of. Offer a helping hand, after all, that is what ‘coming together’ really means, right?
7. Focus on gratitude
During the holiday chaos, take a moment to reflect on the things you’re grateful for. It’s the first tool we use in solution-focused work.
Gratitude has the power to shift your perspective and bring attention to the positive aspects of your life. Share your gratitude with others and encourage them to do the same.
So really the key to creating less stressful holidays lies in intentional planning, open communication, and a focus on the meaningful aspects of the season. By setting realistic expectations, simplifying traditions, and embracing alternatives, you can navigate the holidays with more joy and less stress.
Remember that the true spirit of the season is found in the connections you make and the moments you share with loved ones, whether near or far.