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How to Stay Sane During the Holiday Season

Written by Adrienne Wolter, Community Blogger | Dec 8, 2014 2:30 PM

We’ve all experienced that moment in the second or third week of December, probably nursing our 10th paper cut from wrapping presents or fanning off a tray of burnt cookies, when we think to ourselves, “Isn’t Christmas over yet?!”

But we shouldn’t have that attitude toward the merriest time of year. Whether you celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus or as special time to spend with family and friends, Christmas is an exceptional holiday to gather with loved ones and show them how much you care.

And then there is New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, with their promise of fresh starts and a chance for a clean slate. But New Year’s also comes with the pressure of finding the perfect party dress, getting invited to the right soiree, and staying up way past your bedtime. These holidays are high stress but also high reward if you live them in the moment.

So here are five tips on staying sane this holiday season.


Photo by Chris Lott

1. Get Organized

The holidays can seem overwhelming when we think about the big picture (“I have to do all of the baking, cooking and present buying!”), but it becomes much more manageable when we have a plan of attack (“I have to bake snickerdoodles and gingerbread cookies. I can do that next Saturday.”).

I realize that list making doesn’t come naturally to most of us. It is often reserved for the most type-A personalities (guilty), but it is a must if you want to keep your cool this holiday season. Make a list of chores that need to be completed, presents that need to be bought, and decorations that need to be put up. Try to tackle one or two things a day.

Why do the important ideas come to us at bedtime? Keep a notepad on your nightstand so you can write down that gift idea that pops into your head around 2 a.m. Then you can go right back to sleep.

2. Schedule Down Time

Downtime is crucial to staying in the holiday spirit. With the work parties, holiday happy hours and family dinners, your December calendar is full in no time. But all of that hustle and bustle is what leads to burn out.

Place your phone and tablet in a separate room and spend time with loved ones or by yourself. Play a board game, watch a Christmas movie, or drive around looking at Christmas lights. This “unplugged” time will allow you to recharge your batteries and connect with the people you are working so hard for — your friends and family. It will remind you about the reason for the season.

3. Ask for Help


Photo by Francine Clouden

Part of the stress of the holidays comes from taking on too much responsibility. Like the Princess Elsa in Disney’s Frozen, this is the season to “Let it go, let it go!”

Be honest when your child’s teacher asks you to bring in cookies for the Christmas pageant. Tell her politely, “I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to help right now. You can put me down for Valentine’s Day, though, when things are a bit less hectic for our family.”

When your mother-in-law asks in her special way, “Don’t you think you could come over on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day,” ask your spouse to explain to mom you value making memories with the immediate family.

Is your teenager or spouse sitting around while you run wild in the kitchen? Put him or her in charge of wrapping the presents. Who cares if everything gets put in gift bags or if there’s a bit of extraneous tape? At least it will be finished!

Simply put, don’t be so set in your ways to believe that no one else is capable of doing what you do. Ask for help, turn down some invitations, and enjoy this season more than you ever have before.

4. Go to Your Happy Place

Everyone has a go-to stress reliever. And I’m talking about a healthy one, not one that could get you in trouble (like drinking a case of beer or eating 5 pounds of chocolate). Take time to exercise by going for a walk to look at lights or heading to the gym for some cardio. Ask a friend to go to yoga class with you so you have an accountability partner.

If exercise isn’t your relaxation method, try meditation or prayer as a way to calm and center. Maybe in front of the warm glow of your Advent candles or Christmas tree, take some time to reflect on your day and list what you are thankful for.

Maybe your happy place is a girls’ night or a date night. Whatever it is, make sure you also schedule time for yourself this Christmas season.


Photo by Shutter Fotos

5. Think about Your Gift Giving

So much of our stress comes from finding the “perfect gift” for our friends, in laws, spouse and kids. As though that one thing, one item, determines all future happiness. Instead of hunting for the most popular toy, the trendy clothing or the hot game, rethink your list.

Can you cut it back to fewer gifts per person? Could you give an experience, like tickets to a show or classes to learn a new skill, instead of an item? What about giving to a charity in someone’s name instead of bargain hunting for a gift? If your friend or family member volunteers or works with a needy group, a donation in their name would mean more than a wrapped present.

The holidays become so busy we often wish them away, thinking “Isn’t it January 2 yet?” Follow these five steps to stay sane and enjoy the season this year. Happy holidays!

What about you? What are your tips for staying calm, cool and collected this holiday season? Leave your advice in the comment section below!

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