6 Steps to a Stress-Free Holiday Season These six tips from the founder of The Stress Institute can help you have happier holidays. BY FRANCINE KIZNER
Follow these rules to reduce your holiday stress.
The holiday season is prime time for stress, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether it’s your budget, your family or the prospect of an expanding waistline that’s grating on your nerves, there are ways to refocus on what holiday time should be about—having fun and relaxing. Dr. Kathleen Hall, founder and CEO of The Stress Institute (www.thestressinstitute.com) shares six stress-busting tips that can help you have a calmer, more fulfilling holiday season.
1. Organize your holiday finances. One thing you need to be particularly aware of during holiday time is emotional spending. "You mean to spend $50 and end up spending $150 because you see other things you know the person will like," says Hall. She suggests making a list of every person who gets a gift—and sticking to it.
Hall also recommends creating a list of your family’s costs—including food, holiday parties, clothing and gifts—then figuring out where you can save. "Start planning now before the credit cards are due," she says.
2. Take the stress out of shopping. Once you know what you’re going to spend on each person, create a shopping plan. One great way to reduce shopping stress is by staying away from the mall and shopping online, says Hall.
If you can’t keep away from retail centers, Hall recommends setting aside one or two days a week for shopping. Let your family know when those days are, so they can come if they need to, and don’t shop on days you’re not supposed to.
3. Watch what you eat, but don’t diet. "The average person only gains two to three pounds during the holidays," says Hall. Still, feeling bloated is no fun. Plan for some excess intake by eating light at other meals during the day of a party, drinking sparkling water in place of some of your alcoholic drinks and eating breakfast, which boosts your metabolism.
Whatever you do, "never ever diet during the holidays," says Hall. "It causes too much stress." You can eat what you love if you do it in moderation.
4. Deal with holiday depression. The holidays are the biggest source of depression all year, says Hall. In colder climates, you may be dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder; more common and troubling, though, are family issues, like if a parent died recently and it’s your first holiday without them.
If you’re feeling down, it may be time to switch things up. Hall suggests volunteering for a good cause or starting new holiday traditions by going on a trip, trying new foods or decorating in a new way.
And while you may feel pressured to always be on and available during the holidays, make sure to take time for yourself each day, get plenty of sleep and drink lots of water.
5. Set rules for your houseguests. If you’re having a lot of family come and stay with you, set expectations beforehand. And once guests arrive, make sure they know the rules—print them out if you have to, says Hall.
One source of stress with guests is constant noise and activities. "Have designated areas," says Hall. "Have a quiet room and an activity room." Also make "I’m napping" or "do not disturb" signs for your doors.
6. Maintain an "attitude of gratitude." "Gratitude helps your mind focus on the big picture instead of getting caught in minor details," says Hall. Going into the holidays with the attitude that whatever happens, you still have things to be thankful for puts you in the right mindset to enjoy yourself.
"No matter what happens," says Hall, "remind yourself that you’re grateful to be where you are, that you’re healthy and that you have someone to love."