Managing holiday stress

Guest Contributor
Ray Bemis

The holidays are an excellent time to celebrate with family and friends, but they can also be highly stressful. Managing the increase in shopping, travel, children’s activities and other obligations this time of year can be very helpful in reducing stress and allowing you and your family to enjoy the holidays

Take control. You might not be able to control everything on your holiday to-do list, but you can control how you react to them. For example, instead of getting worked up during holiday traffic, use the time in your car to listen to a book on tape.

Unload and learn to say “no.” If there are holiday tasks that you just can’t or don’t want to do, let them go – if you can. Also, don’t commit to new things just because you feel you have to. Learning to say “no” may take some practice and might feel uncomfortable at first, but taking on too much can be more stressful than “passing” on a request in the first place.

Choose holiday activities that you can do as a family and are fun for everyone. It’s okay to stop doing activities that members of your family no longer enjoy. If you start a new tradition and it doesn’t go well, do something different next year.

Maintain your children’s bedtime routine. Even during the holidays, keeping the daily bedtime routines will ensure you and your children are well-rested.

Delegate. Let each family member be responsible for cleaning/decorating a room. Create a “job jar” with everyone taking a turn choosing what his or her job will be. Be sure to make your expectations clear to your children and consider lowering your standards a little bit. Decorations don’t have to be perfect to be festive, and your children will be proud of their contribution to the holiday celebration.

Be realistic about relatives. Don’t try to solve past family issues over the holidays and use discretion instead of bringing up every little irritation. If going to a relative’s house every year causes a lot of stress, decide if you really need to do it. Maybe you can go every other year instead.

Create a budget and stick to it. Managing your money during the holidays doesn’t have to add extra stress. Budget how much you want to spend on gifts, food and the household during the holidays and stick to that amount.

Don’t give in to the “Gimmes.” The familiar phrase of, “I want, I want!” can wear parents down over the holidays, but giving in to your child’s every request can cause financial distress. It’s okay to tell your child that a gift is too expensive and that even Santa Claus has limited funds. Another way to fight the commercialism of the holidays is to start traditions that don’t cost any extra money. Bake cookies, go caroling, give to needy families or volunteer.

Set limits for college kids. A college student home for the holidays can wreak havoc on family routines. Your teen has been on his or her own and doing things very differently for months, so you’ll need to set some ground rules in advance. Everyone’s going to have to compromise during the visit, so it’s vital that parents and kids be respectful of each other.2 Set-aside time for yourself. One of the best things you can do for your family is to take care of yourself. Whether it is exercising, meditating, reading a book, enjoying coffee with a friend or simply going to bed at a reasonable time, it’s important to de-stress yourself during the holidays.

Prioritizing obligations and setting limits and boundaries about how you spend your time will not only save you some unnecessary stress this holiday season, it will teach your children a valuable lesson about what is important to your family.

For information about stress, depression, substance abuse and how you can support your teen’s well-being, go to the blog at www.RAYSAC.org.

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