For some of us, the holidays can be the best time of the year. For others, it’s one big stress-induced season.   But does it have to be?  Why do we let something that should be joyful turn into something that gives us anxiety?   One reason is that many of us put too much pressure on ourselves to have the perfect Norman Rockwell image of a holiday.  In fact, a survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that the holidays contributed to feeling sad or dissatisfied for many of those surveyed.  68 percent reported feeling financially strained, 63 percent said there was too much pressure, and 57 percent said they had unrealistic expectations.   So, let’s try turning that around this year.  Let’s try some stress-reducing techniques aggregated by FirstLantic and see if we can’t get that holiday spirit back and throw Mr. Grinch to the curb.

Don’t be so hard on yourself

Easier said than done, but does it really matter if you get every cookie recipe baked or every holiday present wrapped beautifully?  What if you just bought some cookies or found some festive holiday bags that you could use instead of wrapping everything by hand.  The point is that you don’t have to be perfect.  If you have fun, everyone around you will, even if the cookies aren’t homemade.

Set spending limits

Every gift doesn’t have to be expensive.  Why not suggest a maximum spending limit and a limit on the number of presents?  There is no point in spending more than you can afford and living in debt the rest of the year.  Some things don’t cost much but will give you a lot more pleasure than a gift that gets used a few times a year (if at all).  Offer to take your friends or family on a holiday light tour of your neighborhood, visit some of the beautifully decorated store windows, take a group ice-skating, go caroling, or simply sit outside with some blankets, candles, and hot chocolate (or come in your shorts if you live in a warm climate).  Bottom line – experiences are what we remember most, not the baubles.

Volunteer

The best way to feel grateful for your fortune is to share it with others.  Even if you don’t have a lot, chances are many people have less.  When you give your time, you realize that the holiday spirit is not about giving gifts but about paying it forward and helping others.

Reach out if you are alone

Don’t assume that other people know that if you are by yourself.  If you have friends, family, or neighbors, suggest a get-together.  If they are remote, then arrange a Zoom or Facetime call.  Or be the party planner and organize a small gathering at a restaurant with others that may be alone.   There are also celebrations that you can join at community centers or religious organizations.   If you want to be by yourself, that’s okay too but don’t feel you have no other choice.

Give yourself a break

And find some time for yourself.  Get out of the house and treat yourself to a latte, take a walk, or sign up for a yoga class.  You have every right to take a deep breath and do something good just for yourself.  Don’t feel guilty about taking that break, either.  The chances are that if you feel better, that will rub off on those around you.

If you need help, talk to a professional

If you’re unusually sad, anxiety-driven, or depressed, don’t be afraid to ask for help.   Recognize that sometimes you need someone to talk to, and you should never be embarrassed to acknowledge that. Plenty of people feel the same way you do, so don’t try to deal with it yourself.  Get help if you need it.

In summary, the holiday season can be magical, but it can also be full of chaos like too much traffic, pushy shoppers, and commercialization going awry.  But you don’t have to let it get to you, and you have the power to change your mindset and control your own experience.   Simply put, try to find the holiday wonder you had as a child.

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