12 tips to reduce holiday stress

Feeling stressed? Put the holly-jolly back into your holidays with these tips.

The holidays are here, which means it’s time to make your list and check it twice – not your ‘wish list’ but the one detailing a seemingly endless number of tasks that need to be accomplished in, well, a matter of days or weeks.

The gifts need to be purchased and wrapped, cards signed, parties attended, turkey stuffed, travel plans made, family and friends brought together. And if you’re entertaining it all needs to be pulled together in a perfect Martha Stewart holiday.

This on top of the usual day-to-day demands of work, caring for children and/or elderly parents and other chores – not to mention the financial worries of paying for all the gifts, travel arrangements and other holiday extravaganza. No wonder we’re stressed, exhausted and in some cases, even depressed.

But there are ways to bring more peace and joy into the holiday season. More realistic expectations, planning ahead and asking for support are just a few ways to ward off the holiday blues. In fact, the Mayo Clinic offers these 12 tips:

1. Acknowledge your feelings. If a loved one has recently died or you aren’t able to be with your family or friends, let yourself feel sadness or grief. Take time to just cry or express your feelings. Just because it’s the holiday season, you can’t force yourself to be happy.

2. Seek support. If you’re feeling isolated or downhearted, reach out to family members and friends, or community, religious or social services. Consider volunteering at a community or religious function. Getting involved and helping others can lift your spirits and broaden your friendships. Also, don’t be a martyr – ask for help for organizing holiday gatherings, as well as meal preparation and cleanup.

3. Be realistic. As families grow and change, traditions and rituals often change as well. Hold on to those you can and want to. But accept that you may have to let go of others. For example, if your adult children and grandchildren can’t all gather at your house as usual, find new ways to celebrate together from afar, such as sharing pictures, e-mails or videotapes.

4. Set differences aside. With stress, expectations and activity levels high, the holidays can be rife with family conflicts. This is the time to practice both patience and forgiveness. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion.

5. Make a budget – and stick to it. Before you go shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and other items. Then be sure to stick to your budget. If you don’t, you could feel stressed for months afterward as you struggle to pay the bills. Look for creative gifting options, such as donating to a charity in someone’s name, giving homemade gifts or instituting a family gift exchange.

6. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and, if possible, make one big food-shopping trip instead of numerous smaller ones. Expect travel delays, especially if you’re flying.