How to Stress Less During the HolidaysWe envision having a “holly, jolly Christmas.” After all, the Christmas song tells us, “It’s the best time of the year.”

But things are different this year. It doesn’t seem very jolly. Between busyness, unforeseen circumstances, and difficult family members, our stress level is at an all-time high. Truth be told, it’s anything BUT the best time of year. Is there a way to stress less during the holidays? Yes! To help you get through the holidays and to stress less, there are three steps you must take.

Step 1: Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations
There are often too high of expectations put on us by family and friends. We also have elevated expectations for ourselves, our spouses, and our kids. Some unrealistic expectations you might have are:

  • Getting the perfect gift
  • Sending out picturesque Christmas cards
  • Decorating every inch of the house
  • Cooking a spectacular meal
  • Expecting everyone to get along

Accept that the Christmas season won’t look the same this year as in years past. Be willing to adjust your expectations. Choose one or two of your favorite traditions and be open to creating new ones. For example, if you can’t be with your family in person, meet virtually on a video call. Or, if you always get professional Christmas pictures every year, choose a candid picture that you’ve already taken. Even though your holiday plans may look different this year, you can find new ways to celebrate.

Step 2: Set Aside Differences
From politics to the economy, there is no shortage of hot-button issues. Maybe you have a crazy cousin who likes to debate with you for hours. Or perhaps your mother-in-law disagrees with you about everything. Now is not the time to think that you can change anyone’s mind. After all, debating issues can divide families and friends—don’t let disagreements destroy your relationships.

First, realize you can’t control the situation. It can be as simple as remembering “The Serenity Prayer,” written by Reinhold Niebuhr. It has been used in support groups such as Life Recovery Groups. It says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” When you find yourself in a heated discussion, this prayer will help you relinquish control and come to a place of acceptance.

Second, remove yourself. If you feel your temper rising, give yourself permission to go. You don’t have to sit and take part in it—go quietly and find something else to do until you feel you can rejoin the group.

Step 3: Slow Down a Bit
If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed by your schedule, don’t accept more invitations than you can manage. Remember: It’s OK to say no to someone. So, when you receive an invitation that you would rather not attend, you can say, “No, thanks.” You don’t need to offer any excuses; simply say no.

Make sure you spend some time by yourself every day. Do not choreograph, plot, and fill every hour of your schedule. For the sake of your physical, mental, and spiritual health, you will need some downtime.

There are alternatives to getting drawn into an argument. Consider these ideas:

  • Take a walk outside.
  • Watch a funny movie.
  • Smell a relaxing scent.
  • Meet a friend for coffee.
  • Listen to some soothing music.

The true reason behind celebrating Christmas is the joy that comes from knowing that the Lord was the greatest gift ever given! Instead of allowing the stressors to overtake your holidays, stay focused on the reason for the celebration!