A recent national poll on children’s health by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital found that while the holiday season is generally a delightful time for most parents, nearly one in four mothers rated their stress level as high during this time. The same survey also revealed that more mothers than fathers feel the most stress during the holidays, which is not completely surprising. After all, moms often take the lead in organizing and planning holiday festivities, cooking meals, buying gifts, and doing all sorts of holiday preparations.
Perhaps you’re a mom who also feels overwhelmed and stressed every year because of the many holiday tasks you must juggle to ensure a joyful festive season for your family. If so, you may want to pause, breathe, and tweak your strategy this time around. Otherwise, you might lose the true spirit of the holidays and put your mental well-being at risk. To help make your holiday preparations less hectic and more manageable, consider the following tips:
Take Time for Yourself
Working non-stop to complete all the tasks on your holiday to-do list can be counterproductive. While you may have a beautifully decorated house, perfectly wrapped presents under the tree, and a table full of home-cooked meals, you’re probably overlooking the things that truly matter—your health and sanity. How can you enjoy the company of family and friends and the holiday season if you’re bone-tired?
That said, take time for yourself amidst all the holiday frenzy. Wear your favorite pair of comfy leggings and a sweater and enjoy a leisurely walk, even for a few minutes. A little sunshine and fresh air can boost your mood, clear your mind, and improve your immune system. You can also read a book, write in your journal, or do whatever you like. When you give yourself some downtime, you can recharge, relieve stress, and enjoy the season more.
It’s impossible for you to do everything and please everyone. So, be realistic. Set your priorities and identify what you can and cannot handle from the get-go. If you already have a lot on your plate and your friends ask if you can host a holiday dinner at your house, be honest and say no. Do you receive several party invitations? Limit your attendance to parties you feel excited about and decline the rest.
Ultimately, you need to minimize or modify your holiday preparations to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Define what things mean most to you and your family, and focus your time and energy on doing them. Otherwise, there’s a great chance your holidays will be all about going through the motions instead of experiencing and savoring special moments.
Start Your Preparations Early
Don’t wait until the last minute to start your holiday preparations. Get a head start to avoid stress and minimize the pressure of getting everything done on time. For instance, you can list down all the gifts you want to purchase in advance and spend a few months tracking deals and sales to buy them. That way, you can complete your holiday shopping gradually and at a lower cost.
Perhaps preparing meals stresses you out the most. If so, consider cooking dishes before you get busy. Casseroles, chicken pot pies, stews, and soups are examples of holiday favorites that you can make in advance as they freeze well. Prepare them ahead of time and keep them in the freezer so that you have ready-made meals that you can simply pop into the oven when you have guests or host dinner parties.
Get Your Family Involved
Instead of continuing to take on the bulk of holiday preparations on your own, share the load with your family. Perhaps you can delegate specific holiday tasks to your spouse and kids, such as decorating the house, running errands, or getting the table ready for parties. Make everything a family effort. Not only does it make things easier for you, but it also teaches your loved ones about working together and sharing responsibilities.
Learn to Let Go
Like most moms, you probably have a vision of the perfect holiday celebration. It could be a table filled with fancy home-cooked meals, stacks of presents under the tree, and an immaculately cleaned and well-decorated house. While it’s good to have a clear picture of what you want for inspiration, you should be honest about what you can and can’t accomplish given your time, budget, and energy.
That said, learn to let go of any unrealistic expectations. If money is tight this year, you can buy fewer gifts or look for creative (and free) ways to show appreciation for your loved ones. You can also host a potluck-style party to make entertaining guests less costly. In essence, you may need to modify your “perfect” holiday celebration according to your current situation to relieve yourself of unnecessary stress.
The tips above are some of the top things you can do to make your holiday preparations less hectic and more enjoyable. Keep them in mind and continue finding other strategies that suit your situation. Ultimately, the secret to reducing holiday stress is staying focused on the essentials. Spend time with family, nurture relationships, and make meaningful memories.