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Stay merry: how to manage holiday stress

manage-hoiday-stressThe holidays are supposed to be a time of joy. But for many of us, the holidays also come with a side of stress.

The American Psychological Association says 3 in 4 Americans experience unhealthy levels of stress during the holidays. From affording gifts to cooking the perfect holiday meal to dealing with crazy family members, it’s no wonder this is such a nerve-wracking time of year.

Don’t let worry, pressure, and tension sap the cheer from your holidays. Try these tips to help keep your spirits merry:

  • Set realistic goals. Hosting dinner for 20 and making most of the food yourself? Baking a dozen different kinds of cookies to give to all of your neighbors? While those are generous gestures, it’s also a surefire way to give yourself a headache and panic attack. Instead, make your party a potluck or call a caterer. As for the cookies, make fewer varieties and gift smaller plates. After all, it’s the thought that counts.
  • Set a budget. Create a holiday gift and food budget – and make sure you stick to it. This approach will keep you from fretting about finances throughout December or, worse, being shocked when the bills arrive in January. To keep costs down, make homemade gifts or suggest doing a “secret Santa” with your family and coworkers. 
  • Plan ahead. Treat decorating, shopping, and cooking like you would any other important event in your life – by blocking off time in your calendar weeks ahead of time. Before you head to the grocery store, take stock of your pantry, plan out your menus, and write a detailed shopping list. This will stop you from making a midnight run to the store on Christmas Eve for baking soda!
  • Just say no. It’s perfectly acceptable to turn down invitations if you don’t have the time — or energy — for another celebration. It’s also OK to tell the kids that you’ll only put lights on a few bushes this year rather than lighting up the entire yard. 
  • Volunteer. Gather your family and volunteer at a soup kitchen, shelter, or nursing home, or participate in a giving tree program. Doing something nice for those in need will give you a fresh perspective.
  • Remember what really matters. Next year, no one will remember if you didn’t put tinsel on the Christmas tree – but everyone will remember laughing with one another around the dinner table. The holidays aren’t about the details. They’re about creating lasting memories with family and friends.
  • Go for a run. You didn’t see this one coming, right? It’s no secret that exercise can help keep stress in check. Plus, regularly carving out time for yourself during this hectic time of year can help you unwind and recharge.

How do you combat stress during the holidays? I set a gift budget, do most of my shopping online, and my whole family pitches in with the cooking and baking. Oh and most importantly – and I stick with my running routine!

Written by Jen Matz.