Shhh…everything’s gonna be okay
The holidays should be the happiest season of all, but in reality, for many, Christmas is anything but the most wonderful time of the year. Doctors report that rates of stress and depression skyrocket during the holidays. A survey of UK citizens found that 65 percent of respondents think Christmas shopping is too stressful. A survey by Think Finance found that 45 percent of Americans would prefer to skip the holiday season altogether.
Since Grinching out of the holiday season isn’t an option for most of us, it’s best to find a way to avoid freaking out at Christmas time. We’ve all experienced the pre-Christmas panic, but this year is going to be different. Here’s how.
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Maintain healthy eating habits
It’s a time-honored holiday tradition to eat your gluttonous way through the Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year season. We’re not suggesting you keep yourself from indulging, but you should still be careful not to take the munchie madness too far.
On Halloween, steal some of your children’s candy. At Thanksgiving, fight over the dark meat with your aunts, cousins and siblings. On Christmas Eve, have a gingerbread cookie and at New Year’s allow yourself a glass of champagne (or two!). But there’s no need to attack every holiday party buffet with the enthusiasm of a man recently rescued from a desert island. Yes, the holidays are about treating yourself, but there is definitely such a thing as “too much of a good thing”.
Maintain a balanced, healthy diet during the week, and resist the urge to partake in holiday party binge-drinking. Enjoy your once-a-year-holiday favorites, but enjoy in moderation.
Depression, stress and ailing mental health is a snowballing problem, especially during the winter (pun intended). Often when we’re depressed or stressed, we don’t have the energy or time for a workout. When we don’t exercise regularly, we have even less energy.
If you exercise to look good, great for you. But remember that exercise is about way more than maintaining a physical appearance. It’s about your health, happiness and longevity. During the long, dark winter months, it’s important to keep your mood and energy levels boosted, and the best way you can promote that kind of wellness is with regular exercise.
During the holidays, your family may depend on you more than usual, so in order to help keep your family healthy and happy through the holiday season, make sure you keep yourself healthy and happy, first.
Get help from others
Don’t leave yourself vulnerable through a stressful holiday season. Find a therapist or counselor to help you manage Christmas stress. Consider visiting a professional proactively – even if you feel fine right now – before the holiday madness has hit in full force. Counselors can help equip you with the kind of behavioral and coping mechanisms that promote mental and emotional strength through stressful situations.
Same goes for physical health – if you’re having trouble making time for regular exercise, join a neighborhood group of walkers or runners, head down to your local community center for spinning or swimming classes, or find a personal trainer to kick your butt through the holiday season. Your body and mind will thank you for the endorphins.
Team up with family members
Family politics can be stressful, but this year, try to promote cooperation instead of competition. See if and how holiday errands and tasks can be divided and conquered evenly. Don’t fight over who makes the best potato salad – put egos aside, plan a Christmas menu and organize each person to agree to a specific dish for the dinner.
If Christmas gifting is becoming stressful, organize a White Elephant between cousins or see if the adults in the family might agree to a Secret Santa gift exchange. Remove the guesswork from Christmas shopping by assigning gifts from your children’s wish list to aunts, uncles, grandpas and grandmas (be conscious of financial constraints!) and request similar direction from relatives.
Do your Christmas shopping online
Avoid the crazy crowds of holiday season shopping and do all your Christmas shopping online this year. Browse for the best prices, check customer reviews, make sure pre-Christmas shipping is guaranteed and click through your shopping cart like a pro. Easiest Christmas shopping season ever.
Make new Christmas traditions
Too often we spend Christmas Eve running around completing last minute errands. Even if you have a few loose ends to tie up on the 24th, make some time for yourself and your family. Take the girls in the family out to a group pedicure or facial. (Heck, take the men, too!) Yes, guests will be eagerly anticipating the food, the Christmas punch, the gift-opening and more, but don’t forget what the real point of Christmas is – spending quality time with family and friends. Don’t let the stressors of the holiday season take your mind away from the special moments you should be focused on.
This goes without saying, doesn’t it? And every year, we all tell ourselves, “This year will be different. This year I will have all my Christmas shopping completed by [inserted arbitrary date in November here].” Avoiding procrastination isn’t easy, but it’s possible. Here are a few tips to make it happen:
- Christmas gift shop all year round. When it’s January and there are tons of sales on, buy gifts for the following year. When it’s July and you’re on holiday in Italy, buy that beautiful ceramic dish you think your Grandma would love. When it’s September and you’re browsing the racks at Nordstrom and see something that would look great on your sister, go for it. Be constantly mindful of others and you’ll find yourself facing an easy holiday season of shopping.
- Set up Google Calendar reminders. Enter the deadline for holiday-related tasks into your calendar, and then set up a notification to be sent to you in advance so that you get reminders.
- Buy in bulk, cook and freeze ahead. If you’re welcoming 30 friends and family into your home on Christmas Eve and they’re all expecting your famous eggplant parmesan, find a free Saturday or Sunday in November or early December to get cooking and baking done ahead of time. We’d all love to serve up freshly made dishes but when you come from a big family, you have to do the best you can.
Set a budget and stick to it
You don’t need to go into credit card debt every season. The valuable people in your life who love and support you don’t want you to go into debt, either. The dollar value of the gift you give is not proportionate to how much you care. The ones who really care don’t mind what you give them for Christmas, the simple act of giving is what’s important.
Don’t agonize over gifts
Instead of stressing over finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list, don’t be afraid to give gift certificates, cash or checks in a Christmas card written from the heart. Forget irrelevant social stigmas that call money a tacky gift – sometimes it’s seriously the most thoughtful gift you can give a person. Who has ever been disappointed by cash? (Husbands – please note this will not work for wives.)
Alternatively, make a donation on behalf of someone for their Christmas gift. Many of us celebrating Christmas around the world have much more than we need, so share the love and give to a foundation helping those who are truly in need.