Because most people have high expectations of the holidays, many families experience extra tension during November and December. People feel the pressure of long "to do" lists and numerous activities. Ironically, family members may be more short-tempered or overly sensitive during a time of year that is supposed to bring joy. The keys to managing this busy season are adequate planning, advance preparation, shortcuts and stress management. Here are some suggestions to help your family have a happier, less stressful holiday.
- Plan ahead. Planning can prevent much of the stress that arises from holidays. Be sure to include the entire family in planning. If family members help with the planning, they will be more committed to carrying out the plans. Begin planning well in advance. Ask everyone to join in making a list of things that need to be accomplished. Then, divide the responsibilities among family members. A calendar is helpful for scheduling activities and events. When planning to entertain, begin with the date of the event and work backwards to establish reasonable deadlines. For example, party invitations could be sent three weeks ahead of time, food could be purchased two weeks beforehand, etc. The more organized you are, the less hectic your holidays will be.
- Prepare in Advance. To reduce the tension caused by last minute preparations, do as many tasks in advance as possible. Family members can purchase and wrap gifts long before the holidays arrive. Food for a party can be prepared ahead of time and then frozen. Cards can be written and addressed in advance. For holiday travel, packing several days before the trip will eliminate the last minute rush, as well as allowing time to remember forgotten items. If you have planned well and prepared in advance, you should be able to relax and enjoy the festivities.
- Take Shortcuts When Possible. Nothing is wrong with purchasing a bakery dessert for the party instead of making a homemade pie. Your whole house doesn't need to stay spotless during the entire holiday season; just close a door or two when guests arrive if family members haven't gotten around to cleaning their bedrooms. Don't feel like you have to send long, handwritten cards or letters. Friends and family would probably rather have a newsy letter that has been typed and photocopied or get a card with just a signature, than not to hear from you at all. Postcards are also a good compromise when it comes to holiday greetings. Any opportunities you have to take shortcuts will make your holiday preparations easier.
- Handling Stress. No amount of planning will prevent all of the tension which can arise during the holiday season. To cope with stress effectively, families should plan some time which is free from the rush of activities. Sometimes a change of scenery or a few minutes spent away from other family members can prevent bickering. Good health habits can also lessen holiday stress. Special occasions are not the time for family members to neglect nutrition, exercise, or rest. Finally, keep your expectations about the holidays realistic. Don't try to do everything there is to do. As a family, decide what is important, work on the important things first, and don't worry about what doesn't get finished. After all, the holidays are meant to be enjoyed!