From the Desk of Clearissa Coward’s Command Center
The Holidays Do Not Have To Be Stressful – Here’s Why
A Cozy Lifestyle with Clearissa Coward
I realize that it is a bit early for some, however, after Halloween, Thanksgiving will soon be upon us and we all know there is not enough time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We will soon be running around trying to make everything perfect for the holiday season.
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Most people look forward to the holidays with great expectations for family, friends and time to enjoy the season. The holidays offer great foods, much needed time from work (for some) and the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones.
While the holidays can be a joyous time, for many, they are stressful and can cause anxiety. Whether finances, family dynamics or other worries are at play, not everyone is excited about the added stresses that the holidays can bring.
One of the most common reasons that the holidays become stressful is the expectation placed on families who are sometimes overextended emotionally and financially. The added burden to provide big meals, extravagant gifts, pay for travel and overextend the budget feels like a heavyweight. Families begin to stress just about the time they are putting away the Halloween decorations. Not you and me Not this year. This year, we are going to plan and get prepared…right?
Despite the Hallmark channel’s insistence that families all love one another and that being together is all that matters (I love the Hallmark channel), many families are fractured, busy and unable or unwilling to live in harmony.
The key to having a stress-free holiday is all about preparation and setting boundaries. Sticking to a plan that allows for the fun parts of the season without setting the family up for failure is the best way to ensure that everyone has the best time possible, even if times are not perfect.
What Role Do Boundaries Play?
When children are small, parents set boundaries that are clear expectations for their conduct. As long as a child operates inside the boundaries, they are allowed to engage without any consequences. If they step outside of the boundaries, they are redirected back to what is acceptable. Setting boundaries outside of parenting has the same benefits.
Setting boundaries around the holidays allow for the same outcomes as parenting. Preparing a budget and sticking to it, deciding who to share the holidays with and negotiating what activities to participate in will create a sense of calm in a potentially anxious season. The key to setting meaningful boundaries is to do it ahead of time. Preparation is necessary to set boundaries, to keep boundaries and will give you time to make sure everyone is aware of your boundaries beforehand. You should let the family know well in advance if you have decided not to bring the green bean casserole and the apple pie. Nope, not this year. The responsibility of preparing two “perfect” dishes is simply overwhelming this year, but you must let the host/hostess know ahead of time as to not add stress to their lives as well. Perhaps Aunt Tina can make the apple pie this year. 🙂
Planning Is Everything
Prior to the season (like now), discuss the expectations that add stress to your holiday season. Stressors like finances, shopping, holiday parties, wrapping gifts, making everything “perfect” should be discussed and a plan put into place so everyone is aware of their responsibilities. And everyone should have responsibilities. One person should not be expected to carry the entire load of the prepping for the holidays. It is unfair and can cause resentment.
Never assume that someone knows what you need them to do to help you. Say it out loud or send an email laying out what you need in detail. You could even hold a family meeting to make everyone aware that you, the holiday guru, will need help this year. Make clear decisions about how resources will be used. Once the decisions are made, stick to the plan. That is very important…say it with me now…Stick To The Plan.
What Can Be Done to Prepare for or Avoid Holiday Stress?
I read somewhere once that the single best thing that can be done to prepare for holiday stress is to acknowledge that it is part of the reason for the season. However, I disagree with that. I believe that if we plan properly, divide the chores, start early, and remember the reason for the season, we can avoid most of the stress the holidays can bring.
I also believe that if there is a family dynamic that you know will bring stress to the celebrations, approach it and fix it, as best you can, before the season begins. And if someone is being unreasonable, then perhaps the difficult person should not be included in all of the festivities. After all, this time of year is all about celebrating friends and family not tolerating them out of obligation…or it should be.
A stressful holiday season is directly tied to the expectations placed on a family that are above the usual expectations of everyday living. Just because the holidays are here, does not mean there is an obligation to overextend ourselves. Nor does it mean we have to spend this precious time with negative or toxic people.
I know it sounds harsh and difficult and that is exactly why we are starting early. So, if you have unresolved chores, bills, family relationships that are strained or projects that are unfinished, do everything you can to get them managed before the holidays set in.
Tips To Help You Handle the Things You Do Have Control Over
- Clean your home or have a service come in and get things on track. Head to the dump, donate to the thrift store and clear out your clutter. Clean your garage, your gutters, and your closets.
- Refill prescriptions, pre-write your holiday newsletter & address cards, clear out space for the holiday decorations to come down from the attic and make space for what you need. Start picking up baking items or other staples that you know you are going to need now while you have a bit more time.
- Touch base with friends and family now and share that you expect times to get so busy that you want to reach out now so you will not feel pressured later and they won’t feel neglected.
- Prepare guest rooms and guest baths ahead of time. This way your mind is clear and you are more apt to remember everything you need.
- Wrap and label gifts as you bring them in. Keep a list on your phone or in your planner of what you purchased for whom. This way you will not be overwhelmed as the holidays draw closer. With that said, some folks enjoy wrapping parties and if that is your tradition then at least keep your list of purchased items. For me, I do not enjoy wrapping parties. I would much rather have tree trimming parties and/or just parties where my mind can be free and clear and I can enjoy my family and friends. 😉
- Begin preparing and freezing some of your cookies and pies now. Freeze them for the holiday season. Yes, yes, you can save some prep work to share with your mother/sister/daughter/best friend/husband/son/etc., but let that be the easy and fun stuff. Get what you can out of way as early as possible. The less rushed you are, the less stressed you will be.
- Do not be one of those last-minute food shoppers. Make your list and get it done early. You will be irritable if you wait till the last minute and get caught up in the crowd, long lines and have to play bumper carts in the market. Don’t forget the extra tissues, soap, bathroom tissue, paper towels and other toiletries you will need for guests while you’re there.
- Make certain that self-care is a part of the whole family’s lifestyle. Adequate sleep, forms of exercise and downtime are important in a season that is all about the hustle.
- Do not feel obligated to say yes to every invitation or be guilted into being the hostess with mostess. It is perfectly acceptable to say no to the things that cause more stress than joy.
- Stay in the moment. Remember the reason for your season. Whatever your personal reasons are for celebrating the holidays, remember to be present and enjoy everything you can about this year because this year will never be here again.
- Give. The surest way to reduce stress is to freely and willingly give of yourself, your time or your resources for the benefit of others. This is different than giving out of obligation and with resentment. No matter your finances, your family dynamics or your time constraints, you can give in a meaningful way towards something that is bigger than you and trust me, this will set your soul at ease.
12. Most important, at least in my home, set a holiday gift budget and stick to it. This will keep you from going overboard and feeling stressed even after the holidays. I am including a free downloadable file to help you plan your holiday shopping. Once you set your budget, this checklist will help you stick to it and best of all, it’s free.
There you have eight tips to help you start early and avoid feeling stressed during the upcoming season. Be sure to download the free holiday budget checklist.
Do you like to prepare for the holidays early or do you enjoy all of the hustle and bustle of the season?
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