Reduce Your Holiday Stress

Start holiday planning and preparations earlier. Can you imagine how much less stressed you would feel if you had all your gift shopping and wrapping done in October?

As the holiday season approaches, your stress level will probably rise. In addition to your typical schedule of work, home, and kids, you have got more shopping to do, menus to plan, and food to prepare. The good news is, even with all the extra activities and preparations, you can still reduce your holiday stress.

Here are some proven strategies to help you decrease your stress. Some of these may even be so effective that you’ll choose to use them all year long, not just during the holidays!

1. Acknowledge that everything doesn’t need to be perfect. The commercials and movies on television during the holidays really miss the mark when it comes to realistic portrayals of family holidays. Accept that you can enjoy beautiful holiday get-togethers regardless of whether something is spilled or you’re having trouble locating your favorite dinner napkins. Furthermore, most people will hardly notice if the pies were baked a little too long or you forgot the cranberry sauce.

2. Start holiday planning and preparations earlier. Can you imagine how much less stressed you would feel if you had all your gift shopping and wrapping done in October? Also, plan your holiday menus well in advance of using them. This way, you’ll have the menu set and the store lists made, and as the holidays draw closer, you can review and make any minor adjustments you want. Spreading tasks out over longer periods of time means you will have less stress during the holiday season itself. 

3. Scale down your holiday plans. Because adults sometimes have an overly idealistic view of the holidays from their childhood experiences, this strategy can be tough to do. Scaling down your plans involves letting go of your “perfect dream” for the holidays; you don’t have to find the perfect gift, spend the most money, or have a room stacked with wrapped packages to show your love to others. Instead, ascribe to the theory, “It’s the thought that counts.” Most people will never remember the cool present you got them, but they will remember the warm memories of time you spent together.

4. Take shortcuts to save time. Figure out easier ways to do things. One good example: Rather than baking the pies, order them from a nearby restaurant that’s known for its delicious baked goods. When shopping, don’t be afraid to select gift cards as holiday gifts. The fact is many people prefer receiving a gift card as they can then choose exactly what they want. Gift cards are easy to shop for, satisfy nearly everyone, and will cost you less in wrapping paper. 

5. Choose what you want to do. Ponder what the holidays truly mean to you and then express that meaning in your celebrations. Let go of feeling required to plan and carry out elaborate, lavish celebrations. Maybe you would rather have smaller, more intimate gatherings with friends spread out over a month or two, rather than a big whoop-de-doo that makes it difficult to safely connect with others, especially due to COVID-19. The best way to teach your children that the holidays are about giving to others is to take them to visit local charities or to serve meals at a soup kitchen. 

This year, make the decision to reduce your holiday stress. By shedding the urge to be perfect, beginning holiday planning earlier, scaling down expectations, and using shortcuts to save time, you’ll bring your tension level way down. Think about what you really want the holidays to mean to you and your family. Then, you can let go of expectations based on the past and really enjoy your time together. And ultimately, isn’t that what the holidays are for?

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Kathleen Stark
Kathleen Stark is a licensed social worker in the state of Maryland. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from University of Maryland, University College, and is a Master of Social Work from Salisbury University, Maryland. Kathleen combines her years as a Social Worker and a psychotherapist with her experience as a cognitive behavioral therapist. She teaches concrete skills to assist women to own their value and create a positive outcome in their personal and professional lives. Kathleen is the founder and owner of Kathleen Stark, LLC and creator of the Transformation Life and Business online coaching program. Kathleen has 10 years of experience working with women in many capacities: trauma healing specialist, empowerment coaching and cognitive behavioral therapist. As a therapist and life coach, she is passionate about connecting with women and guiding them through their challenges. Kathleen integrates her knowledge of women’s issues and her life experiences to guide them in increasing their overall view of self, to decrease struggles with imposter syndrome and gain a full loving relationship with self.