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There’s nothing more blissful than the holiday season. That is, as long as you live in the Hallmark movie universe. In real life, spending the holidays with kids and extended family can be stressful, overwhelming, exhausting, and, in some cases, even traumatizing.

Based on the most recent data, it’s easy to conclude that a significant portion of people are not looking forward to Christmas this year.

  • According to Statista, 18% of UK adults agree that Christmas is pure stress. 39% feel like there are too many expectations linked to Christmas. And 5% say their family always fights over the holidays.
  • A survey from the APA conducted in November 2022 discovered that 31% of adults (and 39% of parents) expect to feel more stressed this holiday season, mainly due to the inability to afford holiday gifts and meals.

Do you already know that the holiday season tends to be stressful in your family? Or do you want to do everything you can to make it magical instead of overwhelming? Either way, the following are the tips you can implement as a parent to cope with holiday stress.

Set Your Intention to Enjoy the Company of Your Loved Ones

One of the leading causes of stress is a lack of control over the outcomes of life’s situations and an overwhelming list of responsibilities. And when you combine these two factors with the high expectations during the holidays, it’s no surprise that we end up feeling tense or exhausted.

As a parent, it’s easy to become lost trying to make everything perfect when, in truth, perfection is almost always unattainable — especially when there are children involved.

So, instead of working yourself to the bone this year, trying to create that magical Christmas experience, why not set a different intention? You’ll likely agree that what’s special about the holidays isn’t the perfect Christmas ham or a heap of expensive presents. It’s a priceless opportunity to spend uninterrupted time with loved ones.

So, the only item on your to-do list should be to enjoy each other’s company and create happy memories together.

family celebrating Christmas together

Whether this involves playing board games on Christmas Eve, getting cozy and watching a classic movie, or planning a rockin’ New Year’s Eve party is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that you pick activities everyone likes and give yourself the freedom to enjoy them to the fullest. Even if a few mini “disasters” happen along the way try to keep the holiday anxiety to a minimum so you all enjoy the time of year.

Have a Plan

The second tip to help you cope with holiday stress is to create a plan and ensure everyone knows it.

No, we are not talking about a military-style schedule. That will only cause you to feel overworked, overwhelmed, and frustrated. Because let’s face it, whenever kids are involved everything seems to be running late or contrary to what you originally intended.

The type of schedule we’re referring to is a loose program of events, to-dos, and meal plans, which will remove any need for you to stress over what to do next. Hopefully, it will also encourage family members to join in on the organization (where needed), giving you that much-needed helping hand.

If you have relatives coming over (or you have teenage children), you can share the schedule with them via email or a messaging app. Doing this will set everyone’s expectations and allow you to ask for any required help in advance. Plus, if anyone has any objections they will have time to make them known before things have already been set in motion, eliminating unnecessary stress.

Shorten That Shopping List

One of the most common causes of parental stress during the holiday season is the unavoidable financial strain.

Whether you are making six figures or minimum wage, your children probably have an extensive wish list that includes toys and costly gadgets they want Santa to bring. Unfortunately, the economic outlook is not so great this year. And this means one thing for most families high inflation rates will inevitably cause some stockings to be left slightly less stuffed.

While this prospect may seem bleak, it is important to remember that the holiday season is not about gifts and stuff. Sure, that’s what we’ve been molded to expect by TV, movies, and social media. But if you are looking for tips for coping with holiday stress, it might not be a bad time to remind yourself and your family members that the holidays are about family gatherings and togetherness. Not consumerism.

With this in mind do not be afraid to take a slightly more budget-conscious approach to Christmas this year. Whether you create DIY gifts, reuse old decorations, or forego presents altogether and focus on experiences is entirely up to you. But remember, whatever you decide, what matters is not the pile of gifts under the tree come Christmas morning. It’s about enjoying time with your kids and creating a memorable experience they’ll cherish for years to come.

Practice Self Care

Let’s face it. There will be instances during the holiday season when stress will be unavoidable. Maybe you will have to deal with an unexpected change of plans, a family disagreement, or the kids having had a bit too much sugar. In most cases, these will be circumstances you will not be capable of controlling.

Fortunately, there’s one thing you can and should try to control when it comes to stress: your resilience.

woman having tea in front of fireplace alone time

If you consult the science on stress, you will find that there is one key ingredient you need to maximize your overall well-being: a self-care routine. The good news is developing such a routine can be relatively simple:

  1. Get sufficient sleep on a mattress that won’t aggravate asthma or allergies. This will allow your body to recover from the day’s events. And it will ensure that you are in good mental health to deal with the demands of spending several days with the kids.
  2. Eat nutritious, stress-fighting foods. Your diet should include healthy foods with lots of Omega-3 fatty acids, veggies rich in antioxidants, and plenty of fiber to keep the gut microbiome healthy.
  3. Skip the coffee and alcohol. Yes, it can be impossible to imagine starting the day without a warm cup of joe or ending it without a glass of wine. However, these substances can harm your health especially if you are feeling stressed or anxious. So, instead of reaching for the third cup of coffee to give you energy on Christmas day, try to squeeze in a nap instead. Or opt for green tea, which has been scientifically proven to reduce stress.
  4. Exercise. Going for a run after Christmas dinner may not be your thing. However, do not forget getting sufficient exercise is one of the main prerequisites for coping with holiday stress. The recommendation is that you do 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day. Of course whether for you that will involve going for a walk, a swim, or doing some yoga is not as important. What matters is that it makes you feel better.
  5. Schedule some alone time. Finally, if you know that the holidays make you stressed, exhausted, or anxious, permit yourself to schedule some alone time for intentional self-care. Book a mani/pedi appointment. Take a relaxing bath while the kids watch a movie, or sit down at a cafe between running errands for some quiet time. What you will do with your alone time is completely up to you. In the end, what matters is that you give yourself the space you need to be at your best when you’re with those you love.

Final Thoughts

Getting through the holidays, especially with kids and extended family is never easy. But even if you feel that the time is more trying than you would like it to be, it is good to remember that most of us deal with similar challenges during this season.

So, instead of fretting over the fact that you are not exactly enjoying the festive spirit, focus on setting yourself up for success this year. Whether that means more planning, adopting a more carefree approach, or setting aside time for self-care is entirely up to you. Just make sure that you feel the best you can and can enjoy the precious moments you have with your family.

Holly Schaeffer

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