Six Life Hacks for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

The holiday season means something different to almost everyone. There are food and fun, presents and festivities, friends and family, and don't forget stress and worry. Nearly a quarter of Americans reported feeling “extreme stress” come holiday time, according to a poll by the American Psychological Association. Holiday stress statistics show that up to 69 percent of people are stressed by the feeling of having a “lack of time,” 69 percent are stressed by perceiving a “lack of money,” and 51 percent are stressed out about the “pressure to give or get gifts.”

“The songs may all say that Christmas is “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” but in addition to the stress above, it can also be a time of difficult family relationships, feelings of loneliness, and a reminder of the loss of people close to us. Often, those seen for emergency mental health services during the holidays site family conflict and/or feeling lonely as the precipitating factor to the crisis,” according to Karen Russell, PCC-S, LCDC III, site director for Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services of Erie County. "It is important during the holiday season to take care of yourself and not get lost in the hustle and bustle of the holiday."

1. Know when to say "Sorry, I just can't make it."

It's the holidays, whether you are on vacation or have a couple of extra days off sprinkled here and there, make sure you're using them as you'd like. There will be many invitations from friends, family, and co-workers— it's impossible to be at everything. Try to use the quality over quantity mindset when selecting what invitations you decide to decline. If you still feel bad about missing the event, make a reminder on your phone to call (don't text) that person during the event you couldn't attend. 

 2. Use your phone

In a way, it can allow you to be in two different places at the same time. The next best thing when you can't be there in person is a nice phone call to wish that special person a joyous holiday season. Tell them you're sorry you couldn't be there in person, but you wanted them to know you were thinking about them this holiday season. People know schedules are busy— they'll appreciate the gesture just as you would.

3. Budget your giving

While many people can remember a special gift they've received from years past, almost everyone can recall numerous special experiences during this season. Don't get overwhelmed with the stress of shopping or trying to buy the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Special experiences can be more meaningful than a wrapped present, so focus on the time spent with family and friends, and avoid overspending.

4. Follow a schedule, for the most part

It's Christmas Eve, and despite your best efforts to plan accordingly, you have three family events, a friend's party that you cannot miss, and have to be home at a decent hour for the wonder of Christmas to happen overnight. Put these events in your phone's calendar app with 15-minute reminders before you have to leave. This will allow you to get lost in the fun of everything without having to check the clock. And if you overstay— be merry!

5. Ditch the most stressful part of your holiday

Many of us love seeing the Christmas tree all lit up, adorned with sparkly and handmade ornaments from years past and the smell of fresh pine in the air. However, just as many of us dread bundling up to find the right tree, cutting it down, hauling it back, watering the base, vacuuming the dead needles, and praying that you don't have a Clark Griswold surprise inside. So, consider switching to a pre-lit artificial tree— many are a realistic-looking alternative that goes up in a breeze with zero maintenance. Oh, and to keep that fresh-cut tree smell, keep a bottle of Christmas Tree scented room spray and refresh to your heart's desire!

6. Be Realistic - Everything doesn't have to be perfect

Perfect is boring and well... just unnatural. You think you would like everything to go smoothly for once— until it does. Then you are left with an unsatisfied feeling of, "I thought that would be more fun." So expect the unexpected and embrace it. That will help you keep focused on what truly matters and don't sweat the small stuff. Don't let the inevitable setbacks ruin your mood, because it's not likely they'll be remembered a year from now.