We continue our special series on “10 Ways to Overcome Holiday Stress” by Aubrey Freitas, Registered Behavioral Therapist. If you missed any previous blogs, you can find them on our website.
4. Avoid Overspending
"The holidays have a tendency to become a shopping frenzy," points out April Masini, author, relationship expert, and Ask April advice columnist. This can lead to financial pressure and the stress associated with crowded stores, busy streets, the quest to find the 'perfect' gift, decorations, and more. It can also lead to overspending or debt. For these reasons, it's important to set a budget within your means, and stick to it.
Remind yourself that spending is not what the holidays are all about. If you exchange gifts with loved ones during the holiday season, you might find it helpful to make a gift list and use it to manage your holiday spending budget.
Also, don't forget that not every present has to come with a price tag. Non-material gifts can be heartfelt and sentimental and can often be the most memorable of all. For example, you can paint a loved one a picture of their favorite pet, write them a personalized poem, or make them a picture collage.
5. Avoid Holiday Entertaining Stress
Does the idea of cooking a holiday dinner for loved ones bring you feelings of stress? If so, you're not alone. Many people feel pressured to cook elaborate recipes, or numerous dishes to place on their dinner tables in order to impress their guests. Not to mention the added difficulty of cooking for a larger number of people than you may be used to. But, it doesn't have to be. "Cooking a traditional feast is only one of several ways to host a lovely holiday dinner," notes Masini.
Some ways to beat the holiday meal stress include:
Prepare something less complicated. As Masini points out, some people get completely overwhelmed by the idea of having to cook a turkey. However, you don't have to spend three hours on just one aspect of your meal. You can make a variety of simple side dishes instead or cook a main dish that's more within your bandwidth.
Order a takeout holiday dinner. Many local supermarkets have options for people to purchase their holiday dinner pre-made. "All you have to do is order it in advance and pick it up," says Masini. Most of these dishes can be prepared in a take-and-bake style, where you can follow the heating instructions and have your meal prepared with less hassle. This will allow you to have more energy and time for other endeavors, such as spending time with loved ones.
Host a potluck-style dinner. Another way to cut down on the hassle of holiday dinners is to get your loved ones involved. You can make a plan with family and friends to bring a dish to the gathering. This way you can spread out the cooking responsibilities, and also give everyone a chance to bring something to dinner that they enjoy eating and want to share with others.
6. Plan Holiday Travel to Minimize Hassles
Traveling during the holidays can be particularly stressful since so many people are on the go this time of year. Bob Diener, the founder of GetARoom.com, offers some tips for limiting the stress and expense of traveling during the holiday season.
Make reservations ahead. It is an important key to reducing holiday travel stress. "Book early," advises Diener, "Rates are expected to go up as it gets closer to the holidays." When you book in advance, you may be able to grab a room at preferred hotels before they fill up. Diener also points out that many hotels offer 21-day advance purchase rates, which can also help your budget.
Choose travel days wisely. It's advisable to avoid traveling immediately before major holidays. For example, if you are going out of town on Christmas, Diener suggests that people consider traveling early morning on Christmas Day and returning on Saturday to avoid the rush of travelers. This can even help you score a lower rate on your ticket.
Be flexible. Diener suggests "driving to or from a smaller, less busy airport" whenever possible to avoid the larger crowds and lines that can be found at larger airports. Also, early morning flights are likely to be less packed than later ones.
Arrive early. "Due to overbookings during busy times, you don't want to miss your flight," advises Diener. In fact, you might have to wait hours or days to get another one during the holiday season, which could cause someone a lot of stress. He points out, "An extra hour at home isn't worth all the frustration of missing a flight."
Follow our blog this month for more insights to help plan a less stressful holiday season.