Are your holidays and family gatherings stressful and often disappointing? If so, it’s time to try something new. Using the holidays to confront family members in yet another annual sparring match is a certain recipe for a less-than-jolly holiday season.
Instead, look at the holiday season as an opportunity to make peace with estranged family members, experiment with low-stress celebrations, and put yourself and those you care most about first. Try employing the following tips to help you reduce stress and enjoy the festivities more than you have in years past.
Figure Out Your Ideal Holiday
Trying to satisfy the expectations of parents, siblings, or children during the holidays can overwhelm anybody. Selecting gifts, decorating, preparing food, and planning travel are physically and emotionally exhausting.
Often, when families get together, members are expected to conform to their old roles based on birth order, gender, family rules, and rituals. But neither you nor your family are the same people who established your early roles and traditions.
Changes are inevitable in every family. Children grow up and become parents. Healthy, independent parents age and become dependent. Siblings move across the country, pursue different careers, and develop different values. These changes require a new perspective and the evolution or replacement of the rituals and relationships that may have been satisfying in the past but are no longer appropriate.
The first step to a happy holiday is determining what you want from the experience. What’s important to you? What are your priorities for the season? Give up on the idea of a perfect family, perfect environment, and perfect gifts. These goals depend on others whom you cannot control.
A common cause of holiday stress is feeling overwhelmed. In addition to your normal work schedule, you must shop for gifts, make and send holiday greetings, attend a plethora of seasonal parties, and travel or host a holiday meal.
Prioritizing your goals and setting aside time for them in advance can reduce your anxiety and restore a feeling of control that may have been missing in previous holidays. Use your time wisely by doing only those things you enjoy and eliminating or substituting tasks you dislike or find boring.
Other ways to simplify your to-dos so you can get into the holiday spirit include the following.
Online shopping is more convenient – and often more affordable – than in-store shopping. You can avoid crowds and the temptation to overspend. You can often have your online purchases gift-wrapped and sent directly to out-of-town recipients.
Use a Professional Assembly Service
Retailers sometimes offer an affiliated service to assemble toys or complex gifts that invariably come with confusing directions and mismatched or missing pieces. While you might spend a few more dollars, you’ll also avoid frustration, family strife, and busted knuckles.
Give Experiences and Gift Cards
In today’s society of plenty, it’s difficult to find a special or unique gift for everyone. Rather than purchasing something that will be little used and quickly forgotten, consider giving recipients an experience, such as tickets to a play or an annual membership to visit the local zoo. And instead of trying to discern the tastes of a work colleague or secret Santa, give them a gift card and the opportunity to buy whatever pleases them.
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