It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Christmastime! A time of celebration… and for many a time of stress. Whether it’s stress in the office as you try to meet end of year deadlines, or stress at home as you try prepare for family get-togethers, holiday travel and of course buying all the gifts you have to get for everyone on your list. Or maybe even a combination of work stress and personal stress. Interestingly enough, stress at home can affect how stressed you feel at work.

Here are a few simple suggestions that can make all the difference in not only managing stress levels this season, but also enjoying the season.

Reduce screen time. We are all connected to devices constantly in one way or another. Even in recreation we often find ourselves in front of a screen scrolling through Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, the news, etc. This holiday season, reduce the time you spend on these platforms. Though they may seem to provide nothing more than a momentary distraction, they can actually increase your stress levels by creating unrealistic expectations in your subconscious about how things should be and what all you should be doing, could be doing, etc. They can even color how you perceive the way things currently are, making your perception inaccurate at best. Instead, choose to connect with those around you and choose to enjoy every part of this season- even if it’s not all picture perfect and things don’t exactly go as planned.

Set realistic expectations. This actually goes right along with the first suggestion above. You should come to grips with the fact now that, no, you can’t do everything, and you weren’t meant to do everything. Learn to be ok with that and realize that though you may want to make homemade cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning, open presents with the kids, go to grandma’s, watch the tree lighting ceremony, see the parade, go look at Christmas lights at the botanic gardens, go to the Nutcracker ballet, attend a live concert of Handel’s Messiah, get presents for all your coworkers, send out 50 Christmas cards, elaborately decorate the house, buy and wrap gifts for the family, have the house in perfect order and cook a 5 course Christmas dinner for the guests that you plan to invite, that may not be realistic for you. Know your personal limits and decide what activities will be the most meaningful then do those. It could mean less elaborate decorations, keeping things more simplified instead of being that house in your neighborhood that’s so lit up it can be seen from outer space. Maybe you choose between the going to the Nutcracker ballet, looking at Christmas lights at the botanic gardens and attending a live concert of Handel’s Messiah, instead of trying to make it to all three. Or, instead of doing homemade cinnamon rolls and cooking a big 5 course dinner, choose which one is more special to you and your family. It could be that you have the cinnamon rolls because your family will appreciate that more and then settle for soup and biscuits for dinner. Above all, don’t be afraid of making plans and having them fall through. Keep a sense of humor and be realistic, realizing that things rarely happen the way we envision. Your Christmas doesn’t have to look like it came straight out of a Hallmark movie to be an enjoyable one.

Limit spending. Often one of the most stressful things about this time of year is all the spending that we feel obligated to do. Whether it’s on gifts alone, or a combination of gifts, buying decorations, entertaining and travelling, those dollar amounts can add up super fast! And, then we have the stress of figuring out how we are going to pay for everything, or how long it’s going to take to pay off the credit card we just put all our purchases on. This year, determine to set a budget and stick to it. Maybe it means that you do more homemade gifts for your friends and family. Or homemade decorations (cinnamon sticks tied with some ribbon and twine from the Dollar Store make lovely, classic tree ornaments and so do oven-dried oranges! Or even pinecones hung with twine!) Maybe it means that you buy fewer gifts for each person, like one special thing you know they’ll really appreciate. If you’re planning on entertaining, reduce your guest list to those who are truly closest to you and ask others to contribute to the event. Most guests enjoy getting to contribute somehow. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. There are all kinds of ideas online for how to save money when gift-giving, entertaining, decorating and travelling. Do a search and see what you can find to get more ideas for setting spending limits and then sticking to those limits with budget friendly ideas.

Go for a walk. Getting fresh air and exercise has been proven over and over again to help relieve stress. Studies have shown that just being outside alone can help to release tension and feelings of stress, anger and anxiety, decrease your blood pressure, lower your heart rate and reduce muscle tension. Add a bit of walking to that and all those benefits of being outside only increase. There’s something that being outside and being a little active does for us that nothing else quite can do.

Choose to have fun. Take a break from thinking about all the to-dos and take the time to just enjoy. If you’ve been nose to the grindstone trying to wrap presents for 3 hours and your starting to feel more like Scrooge than jolly St. Nick, stop and take a break. Get a cozy beverage and enjoy soaking up the beauty of the season. Listen to your favorite Christmas music, sit and enjoy looking at the decorations in your home, watch your favorite Christmas movie. You can also make the project itself more fun by playing your favorite Christmas movie while you wrap those presents. Have someone who can help, or at least have nearby to chat and laugh with. The main thing is, enjoy. Be less focused on checking off your to-dos and be more focused on enjoying what you’re doing, whatever that may be.

Hopefully these tips are helpful for you or someone you know.

We wish you a very Merry (and stress-less) Christmas!