Stress is as synonymous with the holidays as mistletoe and eggnog. But there’s no need to let the Grinch steal your holiday cheer. Here are nine ways to keep Christmas chaos to a minimum:
(1) Be the boss. Avoid playing the role of holiday victim. Instead take charge of your own physical and mental health. Perhaps you skip the long drive to visit family and celebrate Christmas at home. Or you forego the household decorations and simply hang a wreath on your front door. Expect pushback from others in the clan. But stay the course. The ultimate decision is yours.
(2) Select choices that encourage serenity. Evaluate your standard holiday traditions and ask, “Does this bring me joy?” If not, toss it out with other mental garbage and replace it with activities you look forward to.
(3) Take control of your schedule. Invitations start arriving around Thanksgiving and don’t ease up until the first of the year. Socializing is important. But overscheduling creates undo stress. Give must-attend office parties top priority, then carefully choose what else you want to do.
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(4) Downplay consumption. The pressure to buy worthless merchandise is intense this time of year. While few of us are ready to quit gift-giving cold turkey, you can pare it down to a reasonable scale. You may even look for alternatives to traditional presents, like making a donation in a family member’s name or taking Grandma out to lunch while you’re home from college.
(5) Shrink responsibilities and expectations. We overdo on every level at the holidays. We expect ourselves to be oh-so cheerful and our kids to be well-mannered round the clock. Of course, this never happens. Then we end up exhausted, disappointed and resentful. Notice when idealism is driving your psychic sleigh; take a deep breath and whisper, “Let it go. This isn’t realistic.”
(6) Find time to relax. Go snowshoeing with the kids. Sit by the fire and read a spy novel. Have coffee with a friend. Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you can’t chill out.
(7) Remember to exercise. It’s tempting to quit going to the gym or skip that early morning lap swim. But exercise is a sure-fire way to stave off stress —and it counteracts the effects of over-eating. Stick with a workout routine to feel better inside and out.
(8) Revel in the beauty of the season. Christmas time is lovely when we take in all the visuals. Attend a candlelight church service or take the Hearst Castle holiday tour. Focusing on your immediate surroundings keeps you grounded in the present moment and immediately eases tension.
(9) Give to others. The act of sharing time and money with our needy neighbors does a double service. Folks who are less fortunate get a warm jacket or a gift to put under the tree. Givers feel a sense of emotional well-being. Be generous with your favorite charity. Be sure to include children and grand-children in your endeavors so they become the donors of tomorrow.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit lindalewisgriffith.com.