4 Tips for Less Stress and More Joy This Holiday Season

White mittents and red and white snowflake mug sit on wooden table with frosted window in backgroundThe holiday season can bring great fun and connection. It can also be a time of great stress. The natural rhythm of our lives may get shaken up, with more added to our plates in the form of social obligations, travel, shopping, shipping, and other demands. For many people, there’s simply more to think about—what to bring, what to wear, what to make, what to get so-and-so. Wallets are emptied, and budgets are strained. If you’re not enjoying the holidays, chances are you’re feeling overwhelmed by them.

Here are some quick reminders and tips to help you cope with holiday stress:

1. It’s Not About What You Give; It’s How You Show Up

What you bring in terms of your mood and your attitude may be far more memorable than what you physically bring to any event. Do your best to enjoy who you’re with at any given moment, and glean what you can from any event you’re a part of, even if it might not be the most comfortable or fun way you can think of to spend your time.

If you go into an event with an open and positive mindset, you may create room for more enjoyment. If you find yourself in the middle of a holiday party wishing you were elsewhere, try to mentally bring yourself back to the present moment and focus on making the best of your circumstances, whether you chose them or not. Remember, you always get to choose your perspective and attitude.

2. Less May Be More

In a month filled with to-dos, what would it mean for you to put less on your plate in order to soak in what you do commit to?

I know some people who are hitting up multiple holiday festivities in one day. If that’s your jam and excites you, then go for it. However, if you find yourself “should”-ing your way from event to event because you feel you have to make everyone happy (everyone except you, apparently!), consider limiting your rounds and being more selective about where you put your energy and other resources. Which brings us to …

3. You Don’t Need to Give to Everyone

It can feel amazing to give. However, when you have many people on your list, such that you’re generally more stressed than excited about gifting, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and prioritize.

This one is for the people-pleasers out there. It can feel amazing to give. However, when you have many people on your list, such that you’re generally more stressed than excited about gifting, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and prioritize.

I understand there may be people in your life who are non-negotiables, people you may consider “musts” for gifting. Viewed through a different lens, you may find those expectations to be largely self-imposed and that there are people close to you for whom your thoughtfulness or presence is enough. A holiday card or words of appreciation can be and often is sufficient.

If any person you’re on the fence about gifting has a problem with not getting something from you beyond good vibes, that issue is theirs, not yours. Gifts are best when they come from a genuine and giving place, not when expected or forced.

4. Stick with Your Self-Care

Taking good care of yourself does not need to stop just because the holidays are here. Self-care can certainly be more challenging amid travel, time crunches, and an avalanche of sugary foods and drinks. However, making time for the activities and habits that help you feel grounded and balanced may help you feel less stressed and more joyful.

The thing with self-care is it’s most effective when there is a rhythm and consistency to it. The best self-care is treated as a lifestyle, not a sporadic diet. Do your best to take care of yourself—it’s important, and you’re worth it.

Discover what lights you up most about this time of year and make it happen. Often, it’s the little things that don’t take much time or effort that have the greatest impact. Think of what those things might be and incorporate them into your holiday schedule. What happens during the holidays may not be entirely within your control, but your attitude is.

When it’s all said and done, hopefully you will be able to look back and know you put yourself in the best position possible to enjoy the holidays.

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Kim Egel, MA, MFT, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Adam

    December 15th, 2016 at 7:43 AM

    The holidays used to put so much stress on me, I thought that I had to buy something for everyone and I would go into debt doing it.
    Once I finally understood that my own bills have to come first and that the people who love me would understand, it was a burden that was completely lifted.

  • lucinda

    December 15th, 2016 at 10:45 AM

    Take care of you baby, and everything else will always work out.

  • Glenda

    December 16th, 2016 at 11:38 AM

    When at all possible I try to lay low this time of year. I don’t want to have to go to parties and make small talk with people that I really don’t like all that much to begin with. It seems like a pointless thing to me when all I want to do is Netflix and chill really.

  • Reed

    December 16th, 2016 at 5:54 PM

    I never quite understand why we think that we are obligated to do one thing or another just because it is Christmas. I mean, if you don’t like these people, then you make a conscious choice not to be with them.

    If you can’t do that, then just go and sit quietly and be an adult

  • percy

    December 19th, 2016 at 8:02 AM

    once I get to leave work Friday afternoon and be off until the new year I think that I will feel rejuvenated for a while

  • Stephanie

    December 21st, 2016 at 10:15 AM

    Even though I am usually eating terrible and drinking more during the holidays I never skip a workout. It might not keep me from gaining any weight but it at least makes me feel like I have done something useful that day. It might not even have to be something hardcore, just going for a walk and getting outside but that always tends to make me feel better and know that even though I am fueling with not so great things, I am still carving out a little bit of time doing something that is still good for me.

  • cecily

    December 22nd, 2016 at 6:27 AM

    Well if you go into any situation thinking that you are going to have a terrible time or that this is going to be so lame then guess what? This is what is going to be because this is what you have built it up to be. A lot of the misery that we may think that we have in our lives is not due to things that are beyond our control, but because of the things that we have done to contribute to that misery.

  • Carrie

    December 23rd, 2016 at 8:42 AM

    We are not getting much for Christmas this year because I finally made the decision to enter into a debt management program this year so I had to close all of my credit cards.
    I bought what we got with the little bit of extra cash that I have every month, which is not all that much at all.
    So although under the tree looks a little more bare (ok a lot more bare) than it usually does, I know that I have done the right thing because now I don’t have to worry about the credit card bills that will come in January the way that I usually have to do!

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