Don't Let Holiday Stress Mess With Your Holiday Spirit

Congratulations, you've survived Thanksgiving. Next up: "The most wonderful time of the year."

Or is it?

With 16 days until Christmas and 3 days until Hannukah, most people have a lot left to get done. Have you finalized social plans? Bought and wrapped presents? Sent out cards? Decorated your home, tree, menorah, mantle, doorstep, lawn, etc.? Every year people emerge from Thanksgiving to find themselves drowning in festive music, colorful lights, tinsel, baubles, and so much more, in what is collectively known as "holiday spirit."

What's wrong with a little holiday spirit?

Nothing, except that for most of us, this time of year isn't all fun and festivities. Remember that emotionally draining experience of 24/7 family time, entertaining, and socializing during Thanksgiving? That'll probably be back, sooner rather than later. On top of that, with the year coming to a rapid close, emotions might also be running hot for anyone who uses this time to reflect on sensitive topics such as politics, religion, money, health, relationships — 2017's laments and 2018's expectations. Last but not least, mass-materialism seems to dominate more and more each year, with adults and children alike demanding the next, newest fad in toys, technology, activities, the list goes on. So for those who plan to stay in with Chinese food and just Scrooge it up, good luck trying to escape the commercials, public decorations, and inevitable greetings to "have a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!" all month long.

It's enough to take the good cheer out of your holiday spirit and replace it with holiday stress

How can I manage holiday stress?

If any of the above describes how you might be feeling this month, here are a few tips on holiday stress management.

  1. Stick to a budget.
    Whether you're planning to send cards, exchange gifts, host a party, or splurge on take-out, it really helps to set monetary limits in advance. Unless you're living under guardianship or a rep payee, you have total control over how you buy. Collect coupons, go comparison shopping, look out for sales. Shop early or during off-peak hours to avoid crowds. Avoid overspending or starting the new year with unplanned financial burden. Your wallet will thank you, and you'll feel less stressed when your statement comes around in January.
  2. Practice mindfulness with loved ones.
    Are you dreading work functions, social gatherings, and (especially) family events? Anticipating friction with others who may have drastically different expectations for holiday conversation topics and behavior? That's okay. Give yourself permission in advance to "let go" of potential disagreements and set aside your differences in the moment, accepting your loved ones for who they are and recognizing they're likely feeling holiday stress as well. Everyone benefits from your patience and understanding.
  3. Make sure you get enough "me time."
    Outside of the aforementioned social obligations, make sure you're setting aside ample time to recharge your batteries and take care of your needs. Consciously decide that your hobbies, interests, and goals are equally important — even moreso if you're putting energy toward others that would've otherwise been used on yourself. Repeat: it's "me time," not "everyone else time." Define it however you want, then pencil it in, block off your calendar, set notifications, whatever it takes. You are worth it.
  4. Give back.
    Do you still feel like something's missing? Many people feel unfulfilled, now more than any other time of year. If this resonates with you, consider getting involved with your community. Volunteer opportunities abound this time of year, and extra hands are always welcome at your local food pantry, human or animal shelter, toy or clothing drive. If you can't dedicate a whole day, give just a moment. Make a charitable donation online or sign up to be an organ, blood, or plasma donor. 'Tis the season to give back, and you can always make a difference.

Bottom line: holiday stress doesn't need to be.

The good news for Scrooges is that this season is temporary, and life will return to "normal" in just a few more weeks — but December holidays don't have to be a major source of stress. At their core, these festivities create opportunities for peaceful, joyful, love-filled moments to be shared among loved ones and the community. Scrooge or not, I encourage everyone to de-stress for a spell, then decide how you want to embrace these opportunities and put the positive spirit back into your holiday season.

Charlene Chow