How many times have we said, “I am going to do things differently this holiday season” and the results remain the same? We fail because the tendency is to try to do more and to do it better. The secret to a less stressful holiday is to not work harder but to be sure there is more “down time” for you and your family.We often drive ourselves by thoughts that things should be perfect for the holidays. However, finding the joy and avoiding the stress may require cutting back and accepting less perfection. It is those “should statements” in our head that tend to gets us into trouble:
“The holiday dinner should be fantastic”.
“Aunt Mary should be pleasant.”
“I should go to that holiday party.”
It is these high expectations of what “should be” that causes much of our holiday stress. Therefore fewer “should statements” and a little more “who cares?” will enhance your holidays.
The following 5 suggestions may help you and your family experience more joy and less stress this holiday season:
1. Identify the 3 to 5 customs, activities, and events that bring joy to you and the 3 to 5 that bring you the most stress. Go on notice that you are eliminating the “bad” and protecting the “good”.
2. Set reasonable expectations which have nothing to do with perfection. Don’t be fooled by the media’s presentation of trouble free holidays with no stress.
3. Limit your spending for gifts and entertainment so you are not burdened by debt in January.
4. Volunteer at a local charity. Giving will greatly enhance the joy for you and your family.
5. Protect down time for you and your family. This time should be relaxing and fun.
Remember that even if you are well prepared for the holidays, stress will not completely disappear. So, circle the wagons and make these holidays a time of joy, celebration, and peace with friends and family.
Dr. Robert Kagey, a clinical psychologist, is a co-founder of Comprehensive EAP. He has extensive experience developing innovative approaches to fostering healthy, respectful and productive work environments. He can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.