We try all year long to make our lives simple and minimal, yet Christmas time (or your holiday) seems to be somehow spiral out of control. These are some of my favorite tips for less stress this holiday.
Tis the season for shopping, baking, decorating, and little red dolls meant to sit on a shelf and stare at you. Is my Grinch showing? From holiday parties overflowing your schedule to visiting with relatives you’d rather not, to hosting a splendid winter wonderland dinner, to getting your parents “the” most thoughtful gift. I believe most people will agree with me that they seem to be stressed out in one way or another.
Is it the most wonderful time of the year? I still think it’s an amazing time of year but to enjoy it, I like to have a mental plan going into it. So, here are three of my favorite tips for less stress this holiday season.
Take a Step Back
I want to encourage you (and myself) to take a step back. If you are anything like me, you used to approach the holidays like we always had – a mad Hurricane Ida of non-stop Christmas preparations and activities. If the things you have to do outnumber the items you want to do, then it’s time to make your list more manageable by eliminating some of those activities.
When you rsvp to a party or end up baking 20 loaves of homemade pumpkin bread, does this bring you joy, or are you doing these things out of guilt? I can hear your thoughts now – “Well, I HAVE to go to this party or Susan will take it personally. I have been baking loaves of bread for my friends for over ten years; it’s what I do!” The list goes on with the excuses of why you HAVE to do something if your brain is anything like mine.
But when you take a step back, the phrase “I have to” is dangerous to your mental health. Are you putting this pressure on yourself, or are you going to lose friends because you don’t do a certain thing or go to an event? Most likely they are your pressures. The thing is, I know you are exhausted, overworked, and numb so why do you keep putting pressure on yourself? This is the stress of your own doing, which means it is of your un-doing. You have to prioritize what feels right and be honest with what you have the energy for. If you don’t, it’s ok – life goes on, the party will still happen, the kids will still be smiling. Which brings me to my next point.
If something doesn’t bring you true joy, don’t do it. Gasp! I know boundaries are tough to set but I guarantee you it gets easier with every time you do it. If you feel if Susan will be hurt, pick up the phone and tell her you won’t be able to attend the party this year BUT after the holidays you would like to go out for coffee to catch up. This way you clearly communicate you are unable to attend instead of passively not showing up, which Susan will surely appreciate, and you get to spend quality time with just her. It’s funny how at those parties, you’ll maybe get 10-20 minutes of the hostess’ time if you are lucky anyway.
For the baking project, just send everyone a Christmas card. Done. This will free up entire days of grocery shopping, baking, and cleaning. Oh, and let’s not forget how much your wallet and your waist will appreciate you – does anyone else lick every spoon, bowl, blender, oven, when you are done? If your friends expect gifts from you, then we have another problem on our hands, and staying optimistic I bet you they don’t expect a thing from you other than you. There is nothing wrong with a thoughtful hand-written holiday card. Honestly, it’s refreshing to read a thoughtful card since usually they are just signed with names or a stamp.
Set a Budget and Stick to It
Money seems to be a stressor for a lot of families, but they don’t talk about it until the credit card bills roll in January. I believe a lot of it has to do with the excuse that “we’ve always done it this way” or worse, “but it’s Christmas!”. Well, here’s the thing if you are working towards a goal, like getting out of debt, you have to make changes, and Christmas is not an exception to the rule (unless you saved extra money and planned earlier in the year). Clearly communicate with your partner about a budget you can afford, NOW not while you are shopping. Make this a fun conversation – make some yummy hot cocoa
, get his/her favorite beverage or munchie, and play some fun Christmas music. LOL. It may be October but have fun with this! Come to the table with numbers ready from the previous years, so you have data to show your spouse. If your spouse isn’t a budget person, come up with a suggested number and ask them what they think. Include them instead of telling them.
Here’s an example, according to Dave Ramsey’s website, the average family (who makes $50k a year) spent about $800 on Christmas in 2018. Let’s say you are this family, and you decide yes we can afford $800 but instead let’s throw $400 of that at our debt, and the rest is for gifts. Or even $250 towards that dream vacation and $550 for gifts. Or heck, make this a minimalist challenge and spend $100 on a family activity and throw $700 at your debt – wow! You get the point, you have options and you can get creative. Just come up with a plan and agree to stick with it.
Glenda, you are taking all of the fun out of Christmas.
I think what you mean is I am encouraging you to achieve your BIGGER goals faster than you would have, so you have the freedom to what you want in your life without the ball and chain of debt and guilt around your ankles.
What are you willing to give up now to have the life you want? I’ll repeat it, you have to live like no one else so you can live like no one else. This is allllllll temporary! This power and responsibility are in your hands, my friend, and if you don’t make a change for your family, no one will.
I know it takes baby steps to take a step back, set boundaries, and come up with a budget, but I honestly only want the best for you and what has worked for me in the past. You have to change old behaviors (like not giving into guilt and what you have done in the past) to make room for healthier ones. This holiday season should be a celebration, not an ordeal, and the truth is that choice is yours.
What are your favorite tips for reducing stress during the holidays?