ZEN YOUR WAY THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS
Do the end-of-year holidays catch you by surprise? I feel that way sometimes. I’ll be going along and all of a sudden it’s like a tap, tap, tap on my shoulder. I look and it’s Thanksgiving. Yikes! Where did the year go? If you feel like this, then you could also be experiencing an unusual amount of stress to go along with the November/December surprise. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Yet, so many people find they are frantic, distressed and exhausted by January 1. What gives?
Expecting Too Much
We’re all human. And we might look at our perfectly imperfect lives and wish for simpler times, happier holidays and amazing experiences. Simply put – we raise the bar too high. You might envision the perfect holiday being something out of a magazine with the food looking “just so.” You might long for an experience that doesn’t include family bickering or discomfort at trying to be the perfect host. You have to remember that you can only work within the talents, budget and family members you have. Setting unrealistically high expectations creates unwarranted stress mainly because there’s no way to create perfection given our real-life limitations.
The answer to expecting too much is simple. Decide your holidays will be realistically good instead of unattainably perfect. Give yourself a break from what you think you need to do to make a holiday special. Instead, focus on what is possible for you and your family.
Unending “To-Do” List
Our everyday lives don’t stop when the holidays start. When you already have a full life, adding holiday cards, wrapping, school events, work parties and more puts you into a state of stress and pressure.
So how do you deal with this? Just do what you can. Evaluate each task and decide if there’s a faster or easier route to get it done. For example, you could borrow or buy a holiday costume for your child’s play instead of making one from scratch. You could assign holiday tasks to other family members (be sure they are age appropriate) to encourage everyone to participate. While you probably can’t skip the office potluck luncheon, offer to bring drinks and napkins instead of agreeing to make a food dish for a large crowd. Determine the minimum amount of involvement you can afford, and then commit to that.
Finances can be one of the largest sources of stress during the holidays. Not having enough money, coupled with the possibility of adding to an already heavy debt-load can cause angst and emotional pain for many. And if you’re fueled by high gift-giving expectations, you may feel that using a credit card is justified to buy that “perfect” gift. You might also want to throw a lavish party; decorate your house as they do on HGTV or buy an expensive outfit for your company’s holiday soiree. But can you really afford it? When we spend what we don’t have, we feel guilty, uneasy and anxious.
The obvious answer is to set a budget – and then stick to it. Make a complete list of gifts to buy, activities to host or attend, food to purchase and other expenses you may have. Then, estimate a reasonable dollar amount for each item. The key word here is “reasonable.” Design a list that works within your cash budget, so you can avoid pulling out your credit card. Wouldn’t it be nice to greet January by not having a higher credit card bill?
Ask for help
Too often we try to do everything ourselves. We are being pulled in a lot of directions during this hectic time of year and can be stretched pretty thin. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. Have your family members chip in by bringing a side dish, or coming early to help you prepare for that big party. If its in the budget you can hire a service like Better Life Maids to help with the pre party clean up and preparation. Take some time to enjoy the holidays yourself.
If you pay attention to where your holiday stress and anxiety are coming from, you can work to minimize the effects. And when you’re consciously working to reduce your expectations, workload, financial burdens and commitments, you can begin to enjoy the season and create joyful memories you and your family will cherish. I can’t promise it will be a totally Zen holiday season, but you’ll probably be a lot closer!