Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, there’s a lot of opportunity for stress. The holidays can be a beautiful time of year to make fantastic memories – but it’s also when high expectations and being thrown together with (occasionally difficult) family can make you equally miserable.

But, there are ways to mitigate the effects of stress to enjoy this time of year fully with a minimum of emotional turmoil – keep reading to discover thirteen effective stress reduction strategies to get you through the season.

Have Realistic Expectations

Your holidays don’t need to be perfect or happen just like prior year’s celebrations. As our families change and we grow older; rituals and traditions often must change.

Hold on to the most important ones, but be open to starting new ones. For example, if your grown children can’t make it home this year, try finding new ways to celebrate as a family, such as using Skype and sharing pictures or videos by email.

It’s also important to realize that your 14 year old won’t be as enthusiastic about some holiday traditions as he or she was when they were only eight. It can be disappointing not to share a particular movie or trip because a child has outgrown it. Accept that this is a natural part of life and move on.

Make Peace with Family Members

Make an effort to accept your family members and friends the way they are, especially when they don’t live up to your expectations. Lay aside any grievances until after the holidays and try to see both sides of the situation. Also, be as understanding as possible when others get hurt or angry when something goes wrong. The odds are that they’re experiencing the effects of holiday season stress too.

Plan Ahead

This is the most critical time of year to have a plan. Preparing for family gatherings, travel, accommodations, and of course, gift giving, will ensure that things go as smoothly as possible.

Planning will minimize the chances of things going wrong or getting caught unprepared at the worst possible time. Set aside time to get the shopping done, make travel arrangements well in advance, schedule car or home maintenance beforehand to avoid the stress of home heating problems or getting stuck on the road. With the season’s chores, activities, and commitments set out in advance you’ll enjoy more and stress less.

Don’t Be Afraid to Say No

No one wants to be rude or hurt anyone’s feelings on purpose – but it’s important to know when to say no. Saying yes to someone when you should have said no could leave you overwhelmed and feeling resentful. Friends, family, and office mates will understand if you aren’t able to join in every holiday project or activity. Even when it’s not possible to refuse when the boss needs you to work overtime, you may still be able to change something else on your schedule to make up for lost time.

Share the Load

Many of us take on too much over the holidays. Whether it’s cooking, baking, decorating or planning activities – you need to know when to delegate some of the work. Taking on too much responsibility or work can cause high levels of stress that will ruin any enjoyment for you.

Be willing to admit that you can’t do it all by yourself and just as ready to ask others to lend a hand.

Take a Break

The holidays can be overwhelming – between Halloween, Thanksgiving, religious holidays and New Year’s Eve; it’s a non-stop roller coaster ride of festivities for over two months. Don’t feel guilty about taking a break from it all. Sometimes a little alone time or scheduling a break from seasonal activities will keep you refreshed and able to appreciate the festivities better with less stress.

Get Enough Sleep

Chronic sleep deprivation can cause a lot of health problems (and even weight gain), so it’s’ crucial that you get enough sleep during this busy time. While late nights with friends can be an enjoyable way to pass the time, getting too little sleep for too long will eventually catch up to you and make many other holiday commitments unnecessarily stressful as you deal with excess fatigue and struggle to stay awake.

Make Time for Exercise

Being busy with holiday preparations, keeping up with work commitments, and attending to family shouldn’t keep you exercising. Keeping to your fitness routine over the holiday provides you with:

Important time for yourself

A way to keep holiday weight gain to a minimum
A great way to relieve holiday season stress

If you don’t have a fitness routine – then this is a great time to start one. December is the time of year when the gyms are least crowded.

Moderate Alcohol Consumption

Although a couple of drinks can be an excellent way to relieve stress; drinking to excess will damage your health. This is especially true for people who don’t ordinarily drink very much throughout the rest of the year. A sudden increase in drinking over the holidays is the cause of holiday heart, a type of heart arrhythmia caused by alcohol affecting heart tissue adversely.

Pick Your Fights

Arguments are inevitable when people are thrown together for any activity, but especially the holidays. Keep stress to a minimum by picking your fights.

Is it that important that someone is seated next to somebody else or that a meal is served a particular way? Try to determine the situations when it’s important to stick to your guns or better to just let it go and avoid a confrontation.

Things Will Go Wrong

The kids will fight, decorations will break, plumbing will fail, you’ll argue with your siblings over stupid things, etc. Keep your perspective and anticipate that things will go wrong. If you go into the holidays expecting that there will be some difficulties, then you’ll stress less when they do happen.

Keep Electronics Charged

Avoid the stress of missing a picture or video opportunity because the smartphone is out of juice. Make sure that you won’t ever miss the perfect holiday shot (or a call) by keeping the phone, tablet, and digital camera charged and ready for use.

Don’t Forget to Have Fun

Finally, remember to enjoy yourself. The whole point of being together with friends and family is to enjoy each other’s company. Instead of stressing, try to take advantage of the holidays to enjoy the festivities. It could be a fun day getting a Christmas tree with the family and decorating it, or going ice skating with your partner; instead of stressing over it remember to have fun.

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George Citroner

GW Citroner is a Hudson Valley, NY based writer whose work has appeared in over 20 publications and on an incredible range of Health & Wellness topics.

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