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I’m going to call BS on Christmas Joy. Christmas can be a very stressful time of year. It’s supposed to be all ‘Merry and Bright’ (cue music and the choir), but for some of us – it’s just not all that! Christmas stress is a real issue that effects almost a quarter of the population during the holiday season. If you are nodding your head in agreement, then this is for you – here are 7 Practical Ways to Avoid (and Manage) Holiday Stress this Christmas Season.
Christmas can be complex. And no wonder. Forced (and often strained) social interactions with family or relatives, lack of time and money, credit card debt, unrealistic expectations and the pressure of gift giving can all contribute to soaring stress levels during the holiday season.
If you are feel anxious or stressed out at Christmas, please know you are not alone. And there are things that you can do right now to manage this holiday stress. It all starts with identifying what is causing you the most anxiety and then taking steps to change it.
The Three Biggest Causes of Christmas Stress
Alrighty then, so where do we even start with this one? There are a truck load of factors that all contribute to that sick feeling of anxiety we feel in our stomach as Christmas looms closer.
You’re not imagining it. And you are not alone. Over a quarter of us experience ‘extreme stress’ over the holiday season.
Holiday stress statistics show that the THREE leading causes of Holiday Stress are:
- Family: Family seems to be the biggest source of Christmas stress, with 76 percent of respondents reporting that family arguments have the worst impact on their mental well-being during the festive season.
- Money: Pressure to spend, buy gifts and have that ‘perfect Christmas’. Recent data collected in the APA’s annual Stress in America survey show that 62 percent of us feel stressed about money while 51 percent are stressed out about the “pressure to give or get gifts.”
- Time: 69 percent of people are stressed by the feeling of having a “lack of time” to do everything we should do at Christmas time.
Our inability to manage the stresses at Christmas are in fact killing us. Cardiac mortality is higher around Christmas and New Year’s than at any other time. In other words, the holidays are now considered a risk factor for death (source).
7 Practical Strategies to Reduce Christmas Stress
1. Make a Holiday TO DO List
Grab a pen and paper and write down a Master Christmas To Do List right now. Write down everything you feel you need to do this Christmas including gifts, events, shopping, budget, decorating, Christmas cards. To help you with this little exercise, you can get my Free Christmas Planner here. It’s got everything you need to plan for a Peace Filled Christmas.
Organizing your holiday tasks with a to do list can make everything seem much more manageable and make you feel more grounded. Seeing a clear outline of your completed and uncompleted tasks will bring you clarity and stop your mind spiraling into a busy frenzy.
2. Limit your Spending
Set a budget before you spend. Knowing how much money you have to start with is the only way to avoid financial strain over the Christmas season.
How to set a Christmas Budget:
- First up, make sure that all your usual expenses are accounted for so that you do not fall short on bills such as rent, power and necessities.
- Decide on the amount you are comfortable spending over the Christmas Season. This is a number that YOU CHOOSE.
- Plan for any other spending over the holidays, including any parties, gifts and food to fit into your chosen budget.
I have included a printable, done for you Christmas Budget in my Free Peace Filled Christmas Planner (you can get it here).
If money is tight this Christmas, then look at how you can reduce your spending. Don’t get sucked into the pressure to max out credit cards or go into unnecessary debt. Find creative ways to save money and avoid the urge to splurge.
Related Posts: The 4 Gift Christmas Rule
3. Manage your Expectations
Be realistic. And help your children be realistic about Christmas too.
Let go of your expectations to create that ‘perfect Christmas’. Rather, decide what Christmas means to you and your family (peace and quiet, a busy family get together, giving, serving … it doesn’t matter what) and then put a plan in place to achieve it.
Avoid getting caught up in the frenzy of Christmas having to be perfect. Recognize the commercialization of the season as a mass marketing technique. Don’t fall for the hype.
So what if Dinner is a one course meal that ends up being an hour late or gets eaten on unmatched dinnerware? It’s not a tragedy if your festive outfit is the same one from last year. Having an ugly Christmas tree will not ruin your day. And the number of gifts under the tree do not represent the love you feel for your family.
4. Set Boundaries
Learn when to say ‘Yes’ and when to say ‘No’.
The Saying ‘No’ bit. Holiday Stress can be aggravated by trying to meet unrealistic expectations. Set your boundaries this Christmas and stick to them. Decide on how much you want to spend and who you want to share your time with. Then say ‘No’ to everything else.
The learning to say ‘Yes’ bit. As Mom’s we seem to think that we have to do everything ourselves in order to get the job done properly. OK, so maybe that’s true, but we can’t do it all. If your three year old offers to clean the windows (even though you know it means knee high streaks throughout the house and a squeaky clean cat) , what are you going to say? Hell yes! If the hubby says he’ll do dinner tonight? Hell yes! Who cares if it’s peanut butter toast? Say Yes to more help. Always.
5. Change is OK
If you’re in a hole, stop digging. If you dread Christmas every year, then make some changes. Work out what makes you happy and start fresh with new traditions.
If needed, change everything. Introduce new traditions (like the 4 Gift Challenge), cancel your commitments, tell the extended family not to book their tickets. There are no rules to this. Too many of us spend our time feeling obliged to fulfill other peoples expectations. Life is too short for this.
6. Accept your Feelings
If the year has been tough, don’t force yourself to be happy just because of the festive season. Social media images of happy, laughing families can make you feel like you’re the Scrooge in the room. But let’s face it, lack of money, deadlines, strained family or personal relations, and pressures to please others do not make for a joyous Christmas.
Give yourself permission to be You. And accept the feelings that follow. You do not need the added pressure of trying to look happy to please everyone else. Assess your emotions and try and work through the things that are upsetting you and rather spend your energy developing strategies to change them.
Never, ever underestimate how much an organised home can help clear your mind.
Being surrounded by a structured, tidy environment can calm your emotions and reduce that feeling of overwhelm.
Use the Christmas holiday as an occasion to sort through your home. Clear the clutter, throw out the unnecessary and donate or sell unwanted items.
Related Posts: 200 Things to Throw Away
7. Keep up Healthy Habits.
If you are working hard on some health goals, don’t let the holidays become an excuse to lapse into old unhealthy habits. There is nothing wrong with treating yourself, but be sensible.
When all else fails, remember this: It’s just Christmas, and it too will pass. Attend to the basics – sleep, rest and eat well. Be realistic about the holiday and create a Christmas that suits you, your family and your budget.
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but in case you missed it, please read my post on the 4 Gift Christmas Rule. It is the one thing that has taken the stress out of Christmas for our family. It’s so simple, but it’s something that I feel makes Christmas special again. You can Read it here.
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