Year after year I say the same thing to myself, "I will only do what I can handle". But with all the planning, commitments, shopping, and travel, keeping that promise this holiday season hasn't been so easy. The joy and cheer of the season can easily be overshadowed by stress and exhaustion. And I’m in good company. So far this year, three quarters of U.S. adults report moderate to high levels of stress, according to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association. And that’s particularly the case in families with financial difficulties. As you multitask your way through the season, here are 5 tips to help you cope with holiday stress:
Make a list. Jot down holiday tasks in a daily to-do list, and make sure it's on one page and can be carried with you wherever you go. Not only will the list help keep you organized, you’ll get a sense of accomplishment as you begin to scratch off completed items. And by making lists, you can decide what you could delegate to someone else. If you’re shopping for the groceries, perhaps your spouse can pick up the holiday decorations and the kids can help with chores around the house.
Schedule in some "me time." With all the hustle and bustle, it may seem implausible to schedule in some time for yourself. But by slowing down you will actually have more energy to accomplish your holiday goals. Take an hour or so everyday to unwind. Turn off your cell phone and watch your favorite show, read a magazine, listen to music, meditate, or do absolutely nothing.
Workout while you shop. Exercise can increase energy, help relieve stress, and improve your mood, so it's especially important not to let fitness fall by the wayside this time of year. Since the average person can burn about 220 to 310 calories an hour while walking briskly, use your shopping trips as workout opportunities. And park your car as far away from the entrance as possible to get a few extra steps in. Whatever you do, aim for 20 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week—housecleaning, yard work and snow-shoveling count as workouts, too.
Keep an eye on your spending. In a recent survey, approximately seven in ten Americans reported that money is a significant source of stress (71 percent) for the holidays. Creating a realistic budget can help you to spend within your means and prioritize the "must have" and the "maybe" items. And remind your children that the holidays aren’t about expensive gifts.
Lower your expectations. If you’re the do-everything, be-everywhere type, scale back this year. Devote your time and energy to a few key activities and holiday parties that are most meaningful to you. Reflect ahead of time on which activities those are, then graciously decline other requests. If you don't have the heart to do some of your usual activities, like sending holiday cards, buying lots of gifts, or stringing up lights, skip the less important rituals or see if someone else can do them for you or with you.