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Reducing Holiday Stress

Aug 17, 2008
The holiday season is upon us. It seems like only yesterday we were putting away the decorations and making New Years resolutions. Now Thanksgiving has passed and we're all getting ready for December. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa or any other big holiday, the pressure of the season seems magnified compared to other times of the year.

It is also a time when we remember those who won't be with us during the holiday season. Perhaps you have lost a loved one or you have a son or daughter in the military or away at college who can't get home. Maybe they want to go on a ski trip with their friends instead. And, as the family grows, the juggling act of whose family to spend the holidays with often creates hard feelings for the family that not chosen. Perhaps money, or lack of money, is an issue. The anxiety induced by financial difficulties is high on the list of reasons for relationship conflict.

For many people, the stress of the holidays diminishes the joy of the festivities. Preparing the right meal, buying the right gift, having the right clothes, and cleaning the house can be overwhelming. Truly, don't you deserve to enjoy the holidays? More importantly, don't you deserve to enjoy each and every day?

Take a deep breath. Relax. It doesn't have to be perfect. Don't make yourself crazy making sure that your house is spotless and your meal is perfect. The holidays are about family and friends, not about the food.

Now, for some practical tips whether you're celebrating with family or alone:


While some people enjoy the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping and decorating, others find it cumbersome and confusing. There is the pressure to find exactly the right gift, to have the house decorated to Martha Stewart perfection, and to cook a meal worthy of Wolfgang Puck. Somewhere along the line, the true meaning of the holiday season has become muddled, and for so many people it is more stressful than enjoyable.

If you're having the family over, here are some simple ways to relax and enjoy the holiday - a way to be a guest at your own party:

First, ORGANIZE! Make lists of everything that needs to be done. Have a list of things to buy for the big dinner; a list of presents for each person; a list of things to do in the house. Keep the lists handy so you can alter them as needed.

Then, PRIORITIZE! Figure out the Must Do's and tackle them first. Then consider the Want To Do's, see how much time and energy you have and decide how to proceed.

Finally, DELEGATE! Ask someone else to pick up the items on your grocery list; consider having a service come in to clean your home. Ask guests to supply the dessert or the wine. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Here are some more tips: Consider ordering gifts on-line. Some sites even offer gift wrapping and free shipping; but most importantly it saves you time and the pressure of facing the mall. You can even order food on-line or at local gourmet grocery.

Love the aroma of fresh baked cookies, but you can't find your way around a kitchen? Buy a "Christmas Cookie" scented candle and check out your neighborhood bakery.

Most importantly and something that happens to all of us: make sure you have everything you need and you know where it is before you begin any project. Have you ever started wrapping packages and discovered that you can't find a pair of scissors? Gather all your tools together before you begin.

Be sure to reasonably allocate your time. If you underestimate how long it will take to perform each task, you will be constantly running behind schedule.

Try to fit in a manicure, a massage, a lunch date - something that will help you reconnect and relax. Give yourself permission to find some pleasure in the process.

Holidays are about making memories. Make sure you have plenty of camera memory cards, film or tapes for your camcorder. And don't forget to make sure that everything is charged and ready to go.

Turn on some holiday music to set the mood. Who doesn't feel better listening to Jose Feliciano singing, "Feliz Navidad" or Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song"?

Whatever holiday you celebrate, remember that it is not about the stuff, it's about the love.

The following websites are personal favorites of ours, and we want to share them with you:

Amazon.com - gifts for the whole family.

rachaelray.com - simple holiday recipes and organizational tips.

flylady.net - tips to help you to organize your life and simplify!

hgtv.com - decorating ideas.

realsimple.com - helpful holiday hints.

allrecipes.com - real recipes submitted and reviewed by real people.

We hope you will find useful tips and information to help you to be a guest at your own party! But what if you're not having a party and are alone and not celebrating with family or friends.


Some of us live away from our family, some of us have gone through a divorce or lost a loved one and may be alone or with only one or two people. Maybe it's the first year you're alone or maybe it's the tenth. It doesn't matter. The holidays for some are times of stress. We think we're supposed to be happy, but we're not. We think we're supposed to embrace the holidays, but maybe fear is standing in the way.

Here are some suggestions for things to do if you're alone and prefer not to be alone:

TRAVEL. There's still time to plan a trip. Go on a cruise that has set dinner tables - you don't have to dine alone. Take an organized tour of someplace you've always wanted to go. On tours there are couples and there are singles and think of all the people you might meet!

If you plan to stay home:

INVITE. Make a list of all the people you know who are also alone and invite them over. Follow the suggestions above to have a stress free holiday.

TELL A FRIEND that you're going to be alone. Your friends are your friends and they want to be there for you. People want to help.

GO TO A RESTAURANT. Find one other person who is alone, or your child, or your parent and make a reservation at a restaurant where you never get to go. Make it special.

ASK AT YOUR HOUSE OF WORSHIP. Many churches and temples have dinners on the holidays. Many also know of people who welcome someone who is alone. Don't be embarrassed, do it. You never know you could meet your best new friends that night.

VOLUNTEER. If you're not ready for a celebration, volunteer. There are so many places that can use your help to serve meals to those who are less fortunate than we are.

The most important thing we can say is don't sit home alone unless that is your preference. Embrace the holiday in as simple a way as you can and remember that your loved one wants you to be happy. This can be the first day of the rest of your life.
About the Author
Mary Caprio and Fran Elster are Certified Empowerment Coaches and the founders of Your New World Coaching. They are dedicated to helping people move forward in their lives. Visit our website at http://www.yournewworldcoaching.com or contact us at mailto:info@YourNewWorldCoaching.com
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