The Holidays can be a joyful time of year. But let’s face it, it can also be one of the most stressful times of year too. Going to Christmas parties, to throwing Christmas parties, going to family dinners, cooking family dinners, cleaning, decorating, shopping, gift wrapping, more cleaning, more shopping, more gift wrapping…and on, and on. Not to mention diving your time and attention between parents, siblings, spouse, kids, extended family, friends and trying to avoid a seasonal family quarrel of some kind. Sometimes the stress of the holidays can get to be too much. Instead of feeling the spirit of Christmas we can feel like we we’re stuck in a holiday nightmare. We can get burned out. Sound familiar? Well, rest assured that you’re at least far from alone in dealing with this stress. I’d like to share some tips that I’ve learned over the years, and also that I’ve heard that works well for others, that may be helpful in preventing holiday burnout. Now, disclaimer, I’m no therapist and this is not to be construed as professional advice. The following is just opinion and may not work for you.
Realistic Expectations. It Doesn’t have to be perfect.
Thanks to movies, advertisements, and even pressure from family and friends, its easy to have unrealistic expectations about the holidays. As a result, what would otherwise be a great experience can seem like it fell short and didn’t measure up. This could be expectations we have on ourselves, of others, or even expectation of moments to let us relive a favorite childhood memory, or create a new special or even life changing moment. We may have in our head how everything is “supposed to go”, or how things are “supposed to be.” And more often than not, life unfold different than expected. In the song Beautiful Boy, written by John Lennon for his baby boy, Sean, Lennon says "Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans." This quote has always been a good reminder to me of how we have control over some things in life, and other things we do not. And we often have to find the beauty of life somewhere in between. For me, this means exercising some of what the spirit of Christmas encourages us to, both with others, and sometimes especially with ourselves. Love, patience, kindness, long suffering, etc. Often times, I have found that this attitude, and attitude of gratitude helps keep me from getting burned out during the holidays.
Sometimes less is more
Have you ever heard what the secret to not overpacking for vacation is? It’s actually pretty straight forward. The trick is to first, put everything on you intend to take with you on your bed…your clothes, shoes, toiletries, jackets, snacks, reading material, music, travel accessories, and last but not least, money. I mean everything. With me so far? The next thing you do is the key, and its so simple that its easy to ignore, but it works. Looking over everything you have on your bed, take half of everything on your bed and put it away, with one acception. The money you plan to take…double it. That’s it, half the stuff, double the money. That may seem silly, but there’s an important lesson there. We often over pack our holiday activity list with way to many things. In order to stop and smell the roses you have to…stop, take your time, and enjoy the moment. So take the time to make a list of all you’d like to do to make your holidays special, traditions you’d like to keep, activities, parties, etc., and eliminate half the list. This may mean you have to make some tough choices. For me, this helps to lower my stress level, and helps me enjoy the things I end up doing a whole lot more.
Let family know your plans in advance
Once you have decided your plans, it’s important to communicate these to family members who may be expecting you to try and do everything you’ve done in the past. For example, if you live in a different state from your parents or relatives that are expecting you and your family to come visit for the holiday and you’ve decided to stay home and have a smaller Christmas with your spouse and kids, let them know sooner, rather than later. It may be a little difficult for them to understand why, so giving them time to adjust before the holidays can be helpful. Some family members this may upset, or even make angry, and may even say something not so cheery. I have found the best way to handle upset emotions is to be empathetic. Let them know you can understand why they are disappointed or angry. Well, I didn’t say these tips were easy, especially if it means changing some long-standing traditions along the way. However, in my experience, these tips have helped make my holidays less stressful, and helps me experience more of the joy of the Christmas spirit.