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Categories > Mental and Emotional Health > Stress management

Holiday havoc

Here come the holidays, and along with them, the turkeys, the fa-la-la-la-las and the family gatherings. Seems like a pleasant enough picture, but if you’re like most people, the holidays are also a time of stress, which can sap the fun out of any festivities.

So, what’s behind the holiday havoc? Well, for one thing, it’s an expensive time of year. Between gifts, travel and extra groceries needed for special meals, it’s easy to go way over your budget. It’s also one of the few occasions when most everyone in a family is thrown together for several days. Now you remember just why you have little to do with your Uncle Martin and how your sister’s “honesty” is just plain brutal. Add to that the strain of holiday demands, such as cooking, cleaning and shopping, and you’re spent before the holidays even officially arrive.

But don’t write off another season just yet. Try these tips to make your holidays merry and bright—or at least a little less stressful:

  • Don’t strive for perfection. Cookies will burn and flights will be delayed. Go with the flow. Set realistic goals about what you can handle (baking five pies in one night may not be doable) and pace yourself.
  • Practice forgiveness. Try to accept people for who they are. Most often, people don’t change, so it’s a wasted effort to try and do just that. Think of why a person may be so miserable—did they lose a loved one recently or are they suffering from a chronic illness?—then try a little forgiveness or at least see where they’re coming from.
  • Attempt something different. If your holidays are a disaster year after year, why not start a new tradition? Take turns hosting gatherings with other family members. Instead of one person cooking one big meal, try a potluck-style dinner. You may find it so enjoyable you’ll want to repeat it year after year.
  • Limit overspending. Decide how much you’re willing to spend on food and gifts and stick to your budget. If you’re crafty, you can cut down on gift costs by making your own. Or donate to a charity in someone’s name. Looking for cheap entertainment? Take the kids for a drive to look at holiday decorations.
  • Skip the overindulgence. The holidays are a minefield of tasty—and fatty—foods. Add stress to the equation and you may just find yourself pulling up a chair to that buffet table. Eat a healthy snack before you go to a holiday party or meal and you’ll help curb your cookie intake.
  • Do a good deed. Volunteering to serve up a holiday meal at a homeless shelter not only makes you feel good but also helps you realize that no matter how bad you have it, some people have it worse.