This year, give yourself the best holiday gift ever: more merry, magical moments and fewer frazzled ones. Here are five ways to make this year’s celebrations high on joy and low on stress—and help you keep the happy in the holidays.
1. Ratchet down those expectations. Chasing after picture-perfect get-togethers can create the perfect storm of stress. It’s OK (really!) if your guests arrive while you’re still setting the table, if you burn the carrots or if the sweater you bought for your favorite cousin is the wrong size. Things happen, even during the holidays. Keep that in perspective, and do your best to relax and enjoy.
2. Trim your to-do list. Go ahead—cross out at least one or two things that are likely to make you frantic. You don’t have to say yes to every invitation that comes your way or bake cookies from scratch when you can easily buy yummy ones. Make what matters most—time spent with friends and loved ones—your priority.
3. Catch your breath. Your default holiday behavior may be to go into overdrive and cheat yourself out of restorative me-time. But chances are, you need that downtime now more than ever. So carve out at least a few minutes every day to recharge. Do something that gives you pleasure—for example, unwinding with music or calling a faraway friend.
4. Lend a hand. Spread some holiday cheer by volunteering for your favorite charity—maybe a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter. Helping out may lift your spirits and put you in that special holiday mood.
5. Resist the temptation to overspend. Ultimately, you’re only setting yourself up for post-holiday stress. Scale back, and remind yourself that the real holiday spirit doesn’t revolve around pricey gifts.
If you enjoy making crafts or baking, consider giving some homemade gifts. Or give the gift of your time: Wrap up a homemade coupon for some babysitting hours—weary parents will be grateful. Or offer to clean the home of an elderly person or someone recovering from an illness. These types of gifts are easy on the budget and often greatly appreciated.
Sources: American Psychiatric Association; American Psychological Association
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