The holidays are on the way, as you well know if you’ve been in Michael’s, Walmart, CVS, or just about any other retail establishment in the U.S. For kids, that means dreams of the perfect toy under the tree, lots of goodies, and time off from school. We moms, on the other hand, get to spend more money, increase our time in the kitchen, find that perfect something for everyone in our life (on down to the mailman), and wrap a zillion gifts, all while our kids are home.underfoot.all day. Toss in a visit with your mother-in-law to add an extra bit of spice and voila! This is more than enough to make most of us feel a little stressed over the holly, jolly season.
While the typical holiday conditions aren’t ideal, some of the worst pressure can actually come from inside your own head. You have a desire to do the holiday in a certain way and to make everyone happy. You want the picture-perfect tree, the kids in matching pj’s, every present wrapped in advance, and happiness to abound. You want to look awesome. You want your kids’ faces to light up with joy and delight. No one will be tired or cranky or forget to say thank you.
Since you can’t change your mother-in-law or many of the trappings of the holiday, this year focus on changing the way you think about it. Here are some top tips for de-stressing your holiday:
1) Let go of the word “perfect.” If you need things to look and be and feel a certain way in order to be happy, you are destined for disappointment. Practicing resilience and having a spirit of adventure about the whole wild ride that’s the holiday season is much more likely to serve you well.
2) Set expectations in advance. If you want to change up something about the holidays so you are less stressed, be sure to give your family and friends advance warning. Letting them know that things will be different may not decrease their kvetching, but it will give them a heads up that if something is that important to them, perhaps they can make the effort themselves.
3) Stock up on pre-made meals for unexpected guests/bottles of wine for hostess gifts. Prepare for the unexpected and you won’t be harried or stress when a social occasion comes up over the holiday at the last minute.
4) Take the easy way out. Yes, Uncle Harvey may love your traditional pumpkin pie but this may be a year when the pie comes from Wegman’s and that has to be okay. Sometimes we build up others’ disappointment like it’s the worst thing in the world but I can say from experience, mature adults can get over disappointment fast.
5) Invest more in experiences than in things. Every year at Christmas, my folks would have a fight over — of all things — the Christmas tree. My mom had visions of the tree she would like and my dad would come back with something homely that didn’t match her idea of festive at all. I can tell you that what mattered to me as a kid wasn’t which version of the Christmas tree we got, it’s that the emotional climate of our house became toxic and sullen and very un-fun. Don’t ruin the holiday because of your attachment to one vision or one way of doing things or because you want your own way.
6) Give your mind some mini-breaks. Whether you relax best when you are meditating, praying, doing yoga, or knitting, take some time out for you. It doesn’t have to be a long time; even a short time away can make a difference.
Noticing yourself feeling frazzled and on edge? Need more help than a short break or good self-care can offer? Consider reaching out for short-term therapy, which can offer you strategies and important support during the holiday season.