Stress Less for a Happier Holiday

Holiday stressors add up quickly: You can go from happily scheduling your family’s events, to penny-pinching within the confines of your budget, to butting heads about the best way to cook the turkey, to completely losing it when your guests notoriously overdo it on the eggnog.

You know the holiday season isn’t meant for stress; you know it’s a time when you have the privilege to enjoy the company of your loved ones. Why, then, do we nitpick, overanalyze, and overreact to the flurry of commotion that’s supposed to be a happy occasion? Here’s how to keep your cool when tensions rise.

>>Be Realistic

Even if you meticulously plan every detail of your holiday season, you must realize that unexpected things will happen. No one has a “perfect” holiday, and that romanticized ideal will only let you down. Malls will be crowded and traffic flow will slow. You might have to make a few extra trips to the grocery store. Maybe a snowstorm will cause a brief power outage. Reminding yourself of this ahead of time will lessen stress if your plans are suddenly interrupted.

>>Compromise

When you feel a family argument brewing, take a step back. Acknowledge your feelings, and the feelings of others. Set aside differences. Agree to disagree. At the end of the day, it won’t matter who was “right” or “wrong”—and if you spend the whole day upset about something trivial that you probably won’t remember down the road, you’ll miss out on making good memories.

>>Take a Breather

Don’t lose yourself in the hustle and bustle. Make time to refresh yourself each day; ditch your phone for 15 minutes and meditate, listen to soothing music, or take a short walk. Unwind without distractions so you can continue your day with a clear head. Caught up in a heated moment? Take a slow, deep breath—this restores calm by allowing extra oxygen into your brain and slowing your normal breathing pattern, making you more aware of the present moment and how best to handle the situation.

>>Pinpoint the Issue

Before you start bickering about each person’s place at the dinner table, ask yourself if you’re really upset about the seating arrangement, or if there’s a larger issue at work. Share your feelings, but keep a neutral tone and refrain from placing blame on anyone. And remember, if someone close to you has recently died and this is your first holiday without them, it’s OK to feel sadness and grief—you don’t have to force a smile just because it’s the holidays—but don’t use that as an excuse to take unrelated frustrations out on other people.

>>Focus on Family

It’s not about the presents, who made the best cookies, or who takes the prettiest photos. The holidays are all about cherishing time with family. Some of your older loved ones—grandparents or great-grandparents—might be enjoying their last holiday season with everyone together. Make the most of this time and realize the day is not all about you; it’s about everyone bonding together. Talk, laugh, and share with each other as you celebrate the season’s greatest gift: family.

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