I Hate the Holidays: Stress-Busting Tips

Macys.NYC.2014.8“Glad to see ‘em come, glad to see ‘em go,” announced Mrs. Evans as she charged into the teacher’s lounge and plopped, exhausted, into her chair at the lunch table. She’d spent the previous night baking Christmas cookies, the morning dealing with second graders full of Santa-stimulation, and that night, after making dinner, she had to do three loads of laundry and then wrap presents.

I was a new teacher then, single and still living with my parents. I loved everything about the Christmas, even the ebullient energy of my fourth graders. I had a little of that same Santa-stimulation myself. So, I wondered, “What’s she talking about? Why is she being so ‘Bah Humbug’?”

Now in midlife, probably the age that Mrs. Evans was then, I get it! In normal months, it’s hard enough juggling the demands of a business with regular family tasks and responsibilities. Then comes the Christmas holidays with weeks of extras: extra shopping for gifts, extra dinners and parties, extra-charged family dramas, extra sadness for that missing someone special, extra stress. Who needs it?

The extra you really want is the extra love and joy, but you just aren’t feeling it! But you really want to, right? Here’re a few tips that will not only help you stay in control over the holidays, but also take you comfortably into the New Year:

Simplify: You don’t have to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Instead, buy store or restaurant gift cards. They are appreciated by young and old alike and you don’t have to worry about saving receipts and making returns. Best of all, with grocery stores offering gift cards to almost all the major chains, you can do all your gift-buying when you go food shopping!

Another way to simplify and celebrate the season, with style and without debt, is to forgo gifts altogether. Instead, gather family or friends for a special event to which everyone contributes. One of my favorite holiday memories is a dinner-for-twenty when, instead of gift-giving, every friend bought just one extra special dinner item: a gourmet appetizer, special wine, dinner delicacy or fancy dessert. Everyone also chipped in a few dollars for basics like candles and table decorations. We made a night of it and, from the shared preparation for the candlelit, laughter-filled meal to the last sip of wine, we made that holiday memory that we all recall with a glowing feeling.

Boost your energy: You don’t have to get worn down. Here are five things you can do:

  • Sleep! Yes, it always seems like sleep is at a premium, but make a point to choose just one night each week to be in bed by 9pm.
  • Stretch your body every day. You can do it before you get out of bed in the morning and before drifting off to sleep. If you don’t know how, just watch a cat and mimic its moves.
  • Vitamin B Complex is said to be great for stress and Vitamin C to ward off colds. Take each one daily.
  • Exercise. Make it a plan (PLAN means write it on your calendar) and then follow through. Research shows that exercise releases the beta-endorphins that reduce stress. Even just twenty minutes on the treadmill while watching your favorite TV show will make a difference.
  • Laugh. It relaxes you and exercises your internal muscles. Few things are as energizing as a good belly laugh!

Outsmart temptation: Nothing puts a cramp in the New Year like putting on your pants and struggling with buttons and zippers. Here are four ways you can prevent it:

  • Christmas treats: Indulge in drinks and sugary desserts only at holiday parties. Keep baked goods, alcohol and other sweets out of the house for a couple weeks. Store them out of sight (try the trunk of your car or your neighbor’s house).
  • Christmas goodies at work: Decide how many you’ll have and choose the time you’ll eat them. For example, if a co-worker brings in her always-scrumptious cookies, choose your favorite two and save them until after lunch. Once they’re eaten, tell yourself “that’s it for today.”
  • Before you go to a dinner party, make choices.
    • Wine: Decide how many glasses of wine you’ll drink and that you’ll drink a whole glass of water between each one
    • Hors d’oeuvres or cookies: set a limit on how many you’ll eat. You’ll be surprised by how picky that will make you, how much more you’ll taste those goodies and how much more you’ll enjoy them! Also, if you taste something that doesn’t make you say “ooh” and “yum,” spit it (politely) into a napkin.
    • Dinner and dessert: No 2nd helpings and eat only half of every dessert
  • Before baking those Christmas cookies or going to the big holiday party, reduce hunger by drinking a big glass of water and eating an apple and a hardboiled egg (odd, but it really works).

This year, instead of being a frazzled shopper or angry, horn-blowing driver, you can take control and fill your holidays with better-than-ever chunks of the good cheer we all enjoy.

And there’s an extra bonus: without the stress caused by a bloated budget or the fuzzy sugar high, you won’t have to ease your way into the New Year. Instead of procrastinating, you’ll be getting a jump on 2016 by being strong, energized and focused on your goals.

Think about how much that will do for you by the time the next holiday season rolls around…

I wish you a Merry Christmas, fabulous holidays and a Victorious New Year!

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