Thanksgiving feels like weeks ago. Cities, stores, homes, schools, and entire towns are decorated for the holiday season. Lampposts and stop lights are dressed with red ribbons. Luxury cars sport antlers and Rudolph noses.
And then there are the commercials. Everyone on tv (commercials and most shows) are smiling, celebrating, decorating and playing in the snow.
All of these messages mean this must be the most wonderful time of the year, right?
Well maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, and maybe it is both. For many, the holidays signify stress, unrealistic expectations, memories (good and bad ones), commercialism, and thinking others are happier / more organized / better bakers than you and your family.
As a psychologist and the founder of a parenting community focused on making the world better one parent and one child at a time, I’m here to tell you the truth today: the holidays are stressful for most people. But no one wants to admit this! Every week I am on Facebook Live video answering questions from parents and caregivers and our most recent session inspired this post. I created this list of 5 tips to help you get through this holiday season with minimal (or at least a lot less!) stress so that you can focus on the good:
1. Identify what stresses you out – We humans are pretty predictable animals and the old adage – The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior – usually rings true. Think about what stresses you out every year. Awareness of our triggers is key to managing our emotions and behaviors.
2. Make an action plan to reduce your stress – Here’s another true adage – The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. Once you have identified the things that trigger your stress then make a plan to do something different this year. Maybe you start shopping earlier or online. Perhaps you ask your spouse or other family members to help out more. Maybe you don’t go to every holiday party. Whatever it is, realize you don’t have to do everything this year. Do something different and get a different outcome! Genius!
3. Identify a goal you want for yourself and your family – Think about what is really most important to you for this holiday season. Is it being together? Is it not repeating the last miserable holiday season? Is it about staying home or going away? Is it about giving? Buying less stuff? Letting your kids be instead of making them do stuff that makes everyone miserable? Your goals are your own. Pick one or a few that are important to you and engage in actions that are aligned with your goal.
4. Don’t believe the hype – It’s fun to receive holiday cards from friends and see how the kids are growing and what everyone is up to, right? Sure it is until you start comparing yourself and your family to all of those beautiful families visiting all those beautiful places and doing amazing things. We all show the best version of ourselves to others on social media and on our holiday cards! No one is perfect so don’t compare yourself to perfection! And don’t get carried away on Facebook – instead stay connected to your friends in real life too and most of all stay uber focused on your family and what you have and how you can be grateful for it.
5. Be kind to yourself — People, please, please take it easy on yourself. Many of us have crazy high expectations for ourselves and for the holiday experience. Be kind to yourself and do not take yourself so seriously. Laugh at yourself if something doesn’t turn out right. Remember that what you remember about the holidays is not necessarily what your kids will remember. Just do the best you can and try to let the rest unfold. Try to focus on the nice moments and let the stressful and annoying ones go.
The holidays are an opportunity to pause and be grateful for family and to reflect on another year coming to an end. By following this plan you will focus on what is most important to you, keep things in perspective, and be good to yourself and your family.
Wishing you all a healthy and happy holiday season!