The most wonderful time of the year? Yeah, right! Instead of bringing joy, anticipation and excitement, the holidays, in equal measure, bring on feelings of panic, feelings of being rushed and large doses of anxiety.
When we work in full-time careers, have children, run a tight schedule and have very little time left over, the holidays become more of a last-minute obligatory fiasco than a time to relax and enjoy the company of others. Here are some great ways to make the holidays less stressful and more enjoyable.
There are effective ways to simplify during the holidays that we don't take advantage of. Typically, our minds are so full of racing thoughts, about what needs to get accomplished that the idea of simplifying seems laughable. It's only laughable until we open our minds to solutions. For instance, instead of cooking a big Christmas dinner, go to a place like Whole Foods and purchase prepared dishes that can simply be warmed up in the oven. Less stress, less mess.
When we take on too much, we end up feeling frenzied and unorganized. Nothing about what we're doing feels enjoyable. We are in a race against the clock, feeling as if we don't have the time to create the vision of the holidays that we want. The pressure has us fearing that our holidays are going to turn out to be a complete and total disaster. We must take a load off and simplify wherever and whenever we can.
2. Call in the troops.
We aren't the only people who have two working arms or legs. Give everyone in the family or workplace a task or two to relieve pressure. The entire Christmas event should not be taken on as a one-man-show. However, when we assign tasks to others in our family or office, we must give them creative freedom. If we're going to give a task to someone and we micromanage their project, how does this decrease our stress?
Further, micromanaging others only increases the stress and tension in the whole environment. Stop looking for perfection, and start looking for the joy of teamwork and bonding. People love to contribute and bear witness to how the task they were given makes a positive difference in the holiday experience.
3. Create a holiday playlist.
Nothing makes us feel merrier or brighter than Christmas music. Christmas music instantly transports us into a positive mood and mindset. The music acts as a powerful trigger, reminding us of why we're doing all we're doing to make this time of year special and rewarding.
Music is powerful. It lowers our stress hormones, blood pressure, heart rate and helps to kick feelings of panic to the curb. Take to Pandora or iTunes and create a holiday playlist. Let it play in the background while wrapping presents, driving in the car or while getting ready to host a Christmas party or dinner.
4. Find some mistletoe.
Physical affection has proven to increase the body's levels of oxytocin and dopamine, the hormones responsible for reducing stress. We must steal moments with our significant others to kiss and cuddle. Simply touching hands can make the stress hormone cortisol melt away.
It is the strength our relationships that help to buffer us against the negative effects of stress. We are less likely to overact when we have the appropriate amount of affection in our lives, so make sure to steal a quick kiss under the mistletoe.
Related: 4 Ways to Embrace the Holiday Season
5. Shop online
Some people are "mall people," and love the whole event of traversing different stores to find what they want to purchase for those they love and care for. However, there are many of us who would rather have surgery than go the mall and struggle with the parking, fighting the crowds and the long lines to checkout.
For busy people, it is often more enjoyable and less stressful to ask family members or coworkers to create an amazon wish list and have them share their list publicly. This gets us away from impersonal gift cards and provides insight into what others want. No mess, no stress, just "click" and the gifts are in the bag on the way to our home.
One of the most stressful parts of the holidays is getting pulled away from the routines which organize, stabilize and help us to function. We must do all we can to stick to our exercise, sleep and diet routines.
There is nothing worse than gaining weight over the holidays; therefore, we must love ourselves enough to practice moderation in our food choices and maintain our exercise routines even if that means bringing a TRX system in our luggage. When we look good, we feel good and we are less stressed. It's imperative that we don't sacrifice the activities during the holidays which help us stay sane in our daily lives.
7. Get outside
Holidays equal crowds and feeling crowded. We are cramming ourselves into busy malls, our own homes, the homes of our family members and frenzied work environments. When our varying environments feel congested and claustrophobic, we must get outside, even if it's just for fifteen minutes.
Get out, play in the snow, go to the beach, walk the dog, leave the office for lunch, or get out and run the wiggly restless kids. Getting outside and taking in some fresh air does the mind and body good. There is nothing comfortable about being slammed into small spaces with too many people, even if it's the people we love most. We all need a certain amount of space to maintain our sanity.
8. Find the humor.
Most of us prefer the holidays to be as joyous and as meaningful as possible, not just for us but even more-so for the people we are hosting. However, life isn't perfect, and no matter how perfectly we plan, something is bound to go wrong. Meals get burned, kids freak out, relatives argue, coworkers gossip, gifts disappoint and someone always feels sick. It is what it is. Instead of letting the small stuff ruin the day, take a minute to find the humor.
Remember the movie The Grizwald Christmas Vacation? It can't get worse than that. Have fun and maintain a light heart. This too shall pass. When we stay light-hearted it reminds us that the holidays aren't about being perfect. It is a time to laugh, be with those we love and to create memories. In reality, it is usually the bad memories which end up to be the funniest and most memorable as the years pass.