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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

10 Ways to Take the Stress Out of the Season

By Janeen Lewis

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but research confirms a different reality: Most Americans have elevated stress levels during the holiday season. And with the challenges of the last two years, instead of being full of good tidings and cheer, families may feel drained of peace. Even if you are staying in or are paring down your family festivities this year, keeping things as light and easy as possible will make the end of the year more enjoyable. Here are ten tips that will simplify the season and make it merry and bright.

1. Focus on your reason for the season. Why are you celebrating? Is it for spiritual reasons? Maybe you want to focus on family and friends or enjoy the spirit of giving during the holidays. Keep what is most important about the holidays at the center of your celebration. Reconsider any task or commitment that takes your time, energy, enjoyment, or finances away from your reason for celebrating.

2. Set firm boundaries around your time. Even during a year in which gatherings may be fewer, it’s easy to get caught up in organizing donations, planning for your family celebration, or connecting virtually with clubs and associates. This year, pick one project you want to volunteer your time to, or pick a variety of simple acts of kindness. Spend time with your friends and loved ones, but don’t feel guilty if you can’t commit to every Zoom party or virtual fundraiser.

3. Let go of Martha. One of the most stress-relieving things you can do at the holidays is set the bar a little lower. Martha Stewart is an elegant hostess, but you don’t have to do everything the way she would to have a beautiful season. Embrace simpler decorations, meals, and gift-giving than you have in the past. If you let go of expectations, you may be pleasantly surprised.

4. Farm out your to-do list. Make a to-do list of what you want to accomplish. If you find that it is too long, consider delegating some of the items. Have groceries delivered or use curbside pick-up, and buy gifts online. Grocery stores also have a plethora of pre-packaged holiday foods that make delicious sides, cutting down on your time in the kitchen. Buy desserts from your local bakery. No time to clean the house? Hire a cleaning service just for the holiday season or ask for this service as a gift for a later time.

5. Gift others with experiences. Shopping at the holidays can be time-consuming and nerve-wracking, even if you shop online. If you don’t start early, coveted items sell out, leaving you scrambling for another gift. Ask those you give gifts to if there is an experience they would like to have. Tickets to the theater? Family passes to an amusement park or aquarium? A relaxing day at the spa? 

6. Set a holiday tea time. Herbal teas help with anxiety and stress. In keeping with the holiday spirit, sip some calming peppermint tea, or try chamomile, lemon balm, or passionflower.

7. Take a hike. One way to tell your stress to take a hike might be to actually take one yourself. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins that trigger a happier, more relaxed mood. 

8. Reconnect with long lost friends and relatives. Meet with an old friend you haven’t talked to for years, and catch up. Take some time off and visit relatives you miss seeing on a regular basis. If you are staying home this holiday season, connect via Zoom or FaceTime. Surrounding yourself with people you enjoy is powerful when you want to combat holiday stress.

9. Do something kind for someone else. You don’t have to overcommit yourself to a charity or fundraiser to be kind. Small random acts of kindness can make someone’s day. Let someone in front of you at the supermarket line or let someone pull in front of your car at the parking lot. Send an anonymous Christmas card with cash or a gift card to a financially struggling college student or elderly person. Fill up Little Free Libraries with gently used books. 

10. Celebrate memories more than material possessions. Material gifts are nice, but most of us quickly forget gifts we have received in past years. The thing that we remember the most are the memories we make with friends and family. At the end of another unusual year, make some happy memories this holiday season and bid stress good-bye.  

Janeen Lewis is a freelance journalist, teacher, and mom. She has been published in several parenting publications and in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Magic.