When you think of the holidays, what comes to mind first? Twinkling lights? The merry faces of children? Or… is it stress? Does planning for Thanksgiving, Christmas and the December holidays stress you out?
In a recent article published by allonehealth.com, “Holiday stress statistics show that up to 69 percent of people are stressed by the feeling of having a ‘lack of time,’ 69 percent are stressed by perceiving a ‘lack of money,’ and 51 percent are stressed out about the ‘pressure to give or get gifts.’”
I think most of us will agree that it hasn’t always been this way. Especially for the older ones among us, the holidays were pretty simple. Holiday programs at school and church, putting up the Christmas tree together with ornaments the included handmade items by the children, perhaps Christmas caroling and holiday meals with family at home or at other relatives’ homes.
Now there is additional pressure to do indoor and outdoor decorating that can be competitive with relatives or neighbors. The list of people with whom to exchange gifts seems to grow. The advertising wherever we look starts SO early. In the internet age, the pressure to shop online on Black Friday has infringed on our Thanksgiving Day. The next day is Small Business Saturday and the following Monday is Cyber Monday for online sales.
Now is the time to decide, individually and with family or others who are directly involved, what kind of December you want this year. It doesn’t have to be an extensive process. It is really a priority-setting exercise that will set the parameters and tone for decisions about activities you choose.
Here are a few simple questions to think about and discuss with the others involved:
- Looking back at previous holiday seasons, what things were the most enjoyable and meaningful? What made them that way?
- What things caused the most stress and perhaps conflict? Was the stress primarily on one person or was it experienced by others?
- Are there things any of you would like to include in your holiday celebrations that haven’t been part of them recently, or ever?
- Based on the above, what key things (you may want to set a number) do you want to include that will be enjoyable and fulfilling for you and for others?
- Are there activities that you want to continue but simplify? How?
- What self-care strategies can you insert into the holiday season that will decrease stress for you? How about for others?
If there are differences of opinion about any of the above, working out a set of priorities and plans together can in itself reduce stress.
Taking time to do this between now and the beginning of December can have a huge positive impact. Perhaps it is something you can do during the weekend after Thanksgiving. Make it festive – snacks and beverages, candles, etc. This can become a tradition that you look forward to and treasure, not only for the outcome but the cooperative process.
Click below for a simple worksheet that includes the above questions. You can download and print it for this year and repeat next year.
If this results in some fairly major changes in your holidays, be sure to communicate them in a positive way to anyone affected by your decisions. And in January, have another festive debrief of how this went for everyone. Happy holiday planning and destressing!!