Strife in your family? No way to bow out of the dreaded office holiday party? There seem to be plenty of surefire ways for creating holiday stress – now it’s time for some cures.
"The key to failure is trying to please everyone," says Barbara Bartlein, a clinical psychotherapist, The People Pro, and author of 75 Things to Improve Your Marriage Without Your Spouse Even Knowing. Begin by accepting that you can only control your own actions, not those of others, and follow these five ways to ensure that you beat holiday stress.
Know when to say when
"It's a season, not a day," says Bartlein, who recommends spreading holiday events over several weeks if at all possible, whether you're celebrating with family, friends or coworkers. "Resist going to multiple events in one day or one weekend. This only leads to exhaustion and you have no time to really relax and enjoy the company."
Simplify gift giving
Many a gift-giver creates undue holiday stress for themselves by feeling like they need to find that "ultimate" present, buy a certain number of gifts or spend a particular dollar amount for their gesture to be meaningful. Stress can also come from receiving gifts, especially if you've put a more budgeted and restrained system into play and others have not. So do your best to work together for holiday stress relief. "Draw names. Buy only for the children. Everyone make a gift. Set dollar amounts. Have a special outing instead of gifts. Do anything that simplifies the process," suggests Bartlein.
Revise your habits
If you're the type of person who waits until the last minute to shop for gifts, you no doubt feel the pain of traffic jams, long lines at the mall and may even encounter astronomical overnight shipping fees if you shop online. Here's a surefire tip for holiday stress management: "Reschedule your day to go to the mall first thing in the morning," advises Bartlein. "It is definitely the time to power shop. Do not shop on your lunch hour; everyone else has the same idea. You'll leave frustrated and pressed for time."
Pick your battles
You know the type – the "too cool for Yule" folks who don't want to celebrate anything. "There's one in every office and usually one or two at family gatherings," says Bartlein. "If nothing else, we can celebrate that this year is over and, hopefully, next year will be better." So douse those expectations – some people will rise to the occasion and others will not. You already know who the biggest offenders are so avoid unnecessary stress and create yourself a peaceful holiday by putting your energy where it will be appreciated and reciprocated.
Tweak your traditions
There's no hard and fast rule that your holiday get-together must take place in December. January is fast becoming a more popular option – and having a "winter break" party can take a lot of the pressure off of the "necessary" holiday well wishes and gift-giving. "It not only seems to be a time that people need the boost, it's much less hectic," says Bartlein.