How To Manage Holiday Stress

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Already feeling the pressure and time restraints to find the perfect presents, make it to he holiday parties, clean, cook amazing holiday treats, and somehow still take care of yourself? The holidays can be extra exhausting with so many expectations of making things amazing and fun for everyone. Holiday stress is real and leads to freak outs over burnt cookies, tears over sold out gifts, and utter shame when forgetting to attend a holiday party. This time of year is supposed to bring family and friends together so we can cherish what is really important - each other. There are lots of ideas ahead on how to manage your holiday stress so that you can actually enjoy the holidays. 

GIFTS

Gifts! They can be expensive, time consuming and cause emotional turmoil as you look for the "perfect" one for the special people in your life. But, they don't have to add to the holiday stress. They are meant to show your affection and love others. When they start to cause more stress than they are worth they have lost their true purpose. Sometimes you have to say you aren't buying gifts this year because it really adds too much stress, anxiety, rushing around, getting angry that doesn't end up showing how you really feel about your loved ones. If you are going to be giving presents this year, here are some ideas to help navigate those tumultuous waters. 

Money/ Spending During the Holidays 

1. Don't buy presents. Presents are expensive especially when you feel the need to buy them for every friend, neighbor and co-worker. Let me say this one again, you DON'T have to buy presents for everyone. Pick and choose who you actually want to give to, and stick to it. 

2. Hunt for deals. Now we all know this one. But sometimes the trick isn't hunting for deals on all the presents you are buying, just one or two of the really expensive ones. You can spend an hour a week scouring the internet and calling stores about their prices to find the best deals. It can help your budget but not devour all your extra time.

3. Buy used. If you know that a used product will work just as well as a brand new one, save some dollars and buy it used. There is nothing wrong with giving a refurbished electronic or pre owned clothes. Also, see if you can buy something off of a friend that owns what you are looking for. Maybe a cute scarf or an old gaming system that they hardly use could be yours for even less. 

IDEAS of places to shop: Craigslist, 2nd Hand Stores, Good Will, Reused electronic stores

4. Joint Gifts. Sometimes its easier to just toss in $20 into a group gift for someone rather than attempting to find your own, which can take more time and money. Joint or group gifts can be fun and can help you buy the big expensive presents. 

5. Make Gifts. If you have extra time making presents can sometimes be a cheaper option. Make sure you actually have most of the supplies before deciding to make presents. Plan it out accordingly as well. Time is usually restricted the closer the holidays come, and this can only add to your stress if not properly planned. Some times you have to jump ship on the hand made gifts, to just store bought because you didn't plan accordingly. That's okay! Do what you need to, to be able to show up in a good mood and able to enjoy your quality time with friends and family. 

IDEAS of gifts to make: Scarf, Put a picture in a picture frame, Art, Poetry, Pottery, Candle Holders, jewelry 

6. Cards. Sometime a card is what saves the day. A simple card, which can be from the dollar store, with a thoughtful note inside can be the best gift. Don't sell short the idea that since this gift is simple and cheap, that it doesn't have just as powerful impact on a loved one. Your little nieces and nephews probably won't appreciate a card, but their parents most definitely will. Cards are simple and can be done last minute when you need some token of appreciation ready by the end of the day. 

7. Coupons. I know it sounds cheesy to make coupons for your friends or your neighbors, but hear me out. Your friends come over to your place and they compliment something when they are over there, how organized everything is or the dishes you bake. Maybe they are always complimenting the way you dress or your make up. These are things to offer to do for your friends. Help them organize, clean out their closet, teach them how to make your famous eggs. Whatever it is that you can offer is going to bring you closer to your friends or family, as you spend extra quality time with that individual helping them learn something new or discover what they already had. 

IDEAS for coupons: Cook a Dish, Organization, Cleaning, Fashion/ Organize Closet, Gardening, Make Up, Edit Resume

8. Potluck. Think about throwing a potluck dinner for the holidays, instead of exchanging gifts. This is a really easy idea for friends, so that you don't need to buy gifts for everyone but you can still share the holiday spirit with them. This may be a little more time consuming to plan, but definitely is one of the cheapest way to enjoy the holidays and not worry about gifts. 

Time Savers for Holiday Gifts 

1. Pay for Gift Wrapping. If you are short on time but have some extra money buy your presents and ask for them gift wrapped in store or online. It usually cost an extra $4-$5 for each present, which can run steep, but be a major time savor for those with a little extra cash. 

2. Shop Online. Buy as many presents as possible online. When you don't have to brave the packed stores, you save lots of time and stress. Stores often hold the anxiety and stress that comes with the holidays. Not entering them can help maintain your level of peace. Plus, when you usually buy enough on a store, the shipping is free. 

3. One time a week. Plan your searching, shopping, and wrapping, for one time a week. Spend a few hours hammering through the lists getting as much done as possible. The nightly runs to shop add up and are draining. One planned run a week can save a lot of time and headaches. 

4. Have backup gifts. Don't let a forgotten gift buy be a stressor. A neighbor drops by with a gift reminding you that you didn't get them a gift like you had planned, but you have a couple back up gifts on hand and now don't have to make a mad dash to the store. It can seem like an added unnecessary expense, but if you know you usually forget at least one persons gift, it can be a huge relief to have. 

IDEAS for backup gifts: gift cards, movie tickets, movies, holiday food basket, card 

Thoughtful and Meaningful Gifts

Some times we get so caught up in the holidays and feel the pressure of actually giving gifts to everyone that we actually miss the whole point. I on multiple occasions have received gifts that seemed poorly thought out and made me question whether the person actually knew me or not. When this happens, I end up thinking no gift would have been better than a crappy gift. 

I understand wanting to find the best gift for someone and then having to find something else because it was sold out or way more expensive than you thought. But, pause and make sure you are not missing the point of the holidays. It isn't to give crap to one another, so we can mark that off of our to do lists. It is share meaningful time with one another and cherish what we have. 

Don't let the consumerism of today trick you into thinking any gift is better than no gift. It is not true. I thoughtful, meaningful gift, that may be as simple as a card can have a bigger impact and be treasured more than a watch, or a new iPad. Giving meaningful and heartfelt gifts should be your goal. If that seems stressful then go to the basic card and a thoughtful note. Taking 15 minutes to write a meaningful note can touch someone in a way that a physical gift can not. 

So, double check what you plan on giving this holiday season and make sure that it has meaning and is thoughtful. It could save you a lot of money and headache when you really think about it. 

HOLIDAY PARTIES AND EVENTS

There will seem to be 5 holiday parties every week as everyone tries to cram in their celebration. Holiday parties can be fun and give you the time to socialize and enjoy the holiday spirit. But, holiday parties can also be time consuming and stressful especially if you plan on hosting a couple yourself. Remember the point of the holiday party is to bring people together in order to have fun. If you aren't having fun then you are missing the whole point!

Time to Party 

1. Limit the number of events you attend. Some seasons we get a ridiculous number of invites for parties, when the rest of the year you can hear crickets chirping. It can be overwhelming and draining to think about attending each and every invite that you receive. You don't have to! You can do first come first serve and limit the amount you will attend during the holidays, or limit how many you will attend each week. Just make sure that which ever parties and events you attend you actually want to go to. Don't fake joy or excitement. No one needs it. If you have to fake it, then don't go. 

2. Leave early or arrive late. Sometime holiday parties feel the most draining because they feel like they will suck up all your free time to actually get cooking, cleaning, and shopping done. So, plan to leave early or arrive late. You can decide what is best for you. Some times leaving early is the best plan as the overwhelm of people talking about plans, gifts, money and time can send anyone over the edge. 

Food at Holiday Parties 

1. Eat before. Some times parties are overwhelming because the amount of fatty, sugary food that is present. When you are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle the holiday food train can come in and completely wreck it. So, eat before you attend any parties. If you have to have a snack or a full meal so that you are less tempted and less likely to eat the food present, then do it. 

2. Leave early. An easy way to avoid the food is to go into the party with a mission. Go in and make your rounds, talk to the people that you want to, then leave. Don't meander by the table to grab something to nibble on. Your goal is to connect and talk to people. Have that be your focus and when you are done, leave! Don't stay for snack and dessert! 

Hosting Holiday Parties 

1. Reasoning for hosting. The job as host is to bring people together in a space. That is it! Your job isn't to provide all the cheer, all the presents, all the food, all the decorations, and all the laughs. Hosting becomes overwhelming when we think EVERY little last thing is our job. It isn't. You get to ask for help. You get to request that each guest bring a dish or a dessert. It is okay. This does not make you a bad host. This make you human and a sane one at that. Don't loose sight of the reason you are hosting, to bring people together. 

2. Potluck it. Like I said above there can be a lot of stress relieved when all you have to provide is a dish (meaning one), or hot chocolate for everyone. You can limit the potluck to a dessert potluck, where you will provide milk, and hot chocolate. Everyone can bring a dessert and BYOB. This way you can focus on just cleaning your space to make sure everyone is comfortable and not clean, cook, decorate, and provide amazing jokes as a host. 

GENERAL OVERWHELM DURING THE HOLIDAYS 

Life already seems chaotic and hard to manage without tossing all the holiday stuff into it. We still have work, cleaning, hobbies, side hustles, kids, significant others, families, friends, and sleep if we can manage to squeeze that in. Adding holiday cheer can just be enough to make everything turn into tears very quickly. So, getting back to the basics of balance, perspective, and self-care can help you conquer holiday overwhelm. 

Balance

Plan. Plan. Plan. Usually there are so many things pulling us in different way that we feel that we have to give up sleep or eating during the holidays to fit it all in. Not true. Have a plan and stick to it. Limit how much time you spend on prepping food, shopping for presents, or decorating so that you actually get to enjoy the holidays. 

Its okay to limit presents to immediate family. To only bring pre made food to potlucks and to hand out zero gifts when the gift exchanges start. Guess what! Some times you just have to pick and choose what you will provide, participate in, and show up for. Decide now what you will do and what you won't do, so that you can keep to it for the whole holiday season. If you have to lighten the load later that's okay. 

Perspective 

Some times we lose sight of what the holidays are about and need to get a smack in the face. It is NOT about presents. It is NOT a competition of who's house is decorated the best, who throws the best holiday party, or bakes the best Christmas pies. If you feel like this a is competition in any way, stop, take a breath. If you are holding up some idea of how things have to pan out and be perfect, stop, take a moment. 

The holidays are NEVER perfect. Pies get left uncooked, cookies are burnt, and presents get lost as we hide them from others. Shit happens during the holidays that probably doesn't happen really any other time. We argue and bicker about how the tree should look, or lights outside should be hung. This turns into hurt feelings, anger, and a whole lot of unnecessary stress that can easily be prevented when we remember what the holidays are about. 

If it isn't fun, then don't do it. If hanging out the lights every year is the biggest pain in the ass, that causes a few scares on the ladder, a lot of yelling and the beginning of the holiday arguments, then don't do it. Don't partake in activities or even traditions because you always have if they don't bring joy for the most part. Say no and leave it at that. 

The whole of the holidays can be fun, not just one or two days of the season. You can share a lot of activities with low stress and lots of fun, getting the holiday quality time in that is so coveted and often missed. Snuggle up to your loved ones, laugh with your friends during this time of the year. It is what it is all about. 

Self-Care 

1. Sleep. That is usually the first thing to go. Parents stay up late wrapping or buying presents as kids sleep. You hope to bake all the pies over night, so they are still fresh for the party the next day. Stop, go to bed. Sleep. You still need your rest, because without it you start to burn the pies, forget where presents have been hidden, and what still needs to bought. Sleep is what helps make you sane during the holidays. DO NOT sacrifice it. It can wait. You can be late. And bags were created so you can stuff unwrapped presents into them and still present as if they were wrapped. Sleep. 

2. Breakfast. You need food to make it through a normal day without the holidays looming. So you will DEFINITELY require it with the holidays. Eat breakfast and fuel yourself for the extra holiday "cheer" that is sure to be headed your way. 

3. Exercise. Don't give it up just to fit in an extra 15 minutes shopping or 10 more minutes cleaning. It is important for more reason than keeping your fit figure during this season. It will help you blow off extra steam and gain perspective of what is really important, being healthy! Maintain it.

4. Maintain your space. By this I mean, go for a walk if you need it. If you need to step away from a full house of people, do so. You can give yourself a break from all the people and go find your little space of peace. 

5. Avoid too many holiday goodies and alcohol. Though holiday treats can be the tastiest all year, they can also be a huge player in your mood swings, exhaustion, and foggy head. Don't over indulge when you know that you would rather be in a calm place for the holidays, not a sugar induced freak out. Also, limit the alcohol. It can help with the cheer, but can also add the stress the following day. 

6. Don't sacrifice your mood for more stuff. If you feel the pressure or the pull to buy one more gift or more food, and that means sacrificing a workout or some sleep to do it, DON'T. Its not worth it. Don't go out into the sea of chaos and overwhelm when you are needing peace and relaxation. I prefer good moods over more pie during the holiday. Most people do, so don't sacrifice yours. 

The holiday season is here, but that doesn't mean you have to be just as stressed as everyone else. Take care of yourself and remember what the holidays are about. Where are way you will be managing your holiday stress this year?

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