The holiday season is upon us! With all the preparations, shopping, and extra errands, this time of year can be downright hectic. Couple all that with normal commitments and the stress level can climb and even become unmanageable. While some stress is inevitable, there are ways to minimize it and make the holiday season more enjoyable. We will look at three things that commonly cause holiday stress. First, not taking care of yourself, second, expectations of the “perfect” holiday, and third, over-extending your pocket book.

The holidays usually arrive along with goodies and treats as well as shopping and meal prep etc. Over-indulging in holiday food not only makes us feel bad physically but can make us feel guilty as well. Don’t misunderstand me–definitely enjoy the season! However, it can help alleviate some stress by eating several small, healthy meals throughout the day. You will feel full and snacks may be less tempting. This plan also helps keep your stamina high if you are dealing with chronic stress. Even eating right won’t solve the overload entirely, it is important to take some timeouts. Set aside some private time, even fifteen minutes of quiet, decompression time will make a difference. Schedule it if you have to. As we have discussed, unchecked emotions have physical manifestations, it is vital to take care of yourself, even during the festivities.

Many of us have idealized visions of the holidays. Perfect parties, dinners, and spending time with family or friends that are non-contentious and joyful. Unfortunately, that is not reality for most of us! Oftentimes, with families scattered all over the country, holidays are the only time people see each other–expect and accept that it might not be how you envisioned. Parties may not live up to expectations…remember, this season passes and honestly, we are our own worst critics. Chances are everyone else thought your party was wonderful. If you, like most of us, have that one family member/friend who always finds fault and upsets you, take a five minute timeout. Breathe, say your mantra or use any emotion management tools you like–then let it go. After all, that person is likely the only one not having a good time!

The average person who uses credit cards for holiday spending takes approximately four months to pay it off. Having that additional cost can definitely create some stress. Here are some suggestions to minimize the stress on your wallet:

1. Decide how much you are going to spend on each person and place it in an envelope, when its gone; you are done-no exceptions.

2.Give gifts that money can’t buy. Adopt an animal at the zoo in a child’s name. Make a photo album for an older member of the family. Draw names and gift just that person. Donate to a charity. Make handmade gifts (if time permits). Pool resources and have an adventure.

Last but not least: learn to say no. It is not necessary to take on every project nor attend every event. It is okay to guard your time and resources. Zero in on what truly gives you and your family pleasure and do THOSE things. Until next time, take some timeouts, breathe, and enjoy the season!

Lori Brandt