It’s that time of year again: gifts to select and purchase, decorations to set up, celebratory dinners to plan, and maybe even tree-shaped cookies to bake. For some, there are travel arrangements, scheduling days off from work, and lost income on top of added expenses. Then there’s the anxiety about being with “challenging” family members. “Can everyone get along for just one day?!” It is a truly stressful time for many of us, myself included. Yet, I know I will push onward through the season and make it to the other side. Once New Year’s arrives, only the positive memories of the prior weeks will linger. All of the stress will have been worth it, or not, but either way, we’ve got to get through it. Let’s make it as pleasant as possible for ourselves.
One year ago, I posted a blog titled “Seven Simple Tips for Coping With Holiday Stress.” After re-reading that article, it occurred to me that there is an 8th tip I can offer you:
Deal with holiday stress in the same way that you might cope with other stressful situations. Anticipate the toughest parts of the holiday season and plan ways to deal with those specific problems. Here are some simple steps to follow.
1. Identify the specific situations which make your holiday stressful.
For example: The hassle of traveling? The cost of hosting? The pressure of choosing the perfect gifts?
2. Choose one or two of those situations to handle differently this season.
For example, maybe you identified “choosing gifts” as one of your top stressors in step 1. Resolve to make gift giving more pleasant this year.
3. Think for a moment about what aspect of that issue (e.g. gift giving) is most difficult for you.
What triggers you in the situation of choosing gifts? Is it the cost? Finding the perfect thing? Wondering if you’re expected to give any gift at all?
4. Create an action plan to make the problem more manageable.
Let’s say for example that your specific stressor is finding the perfect gift for that important but hard to please person. There are various ways to tackle that challenge. Start by considering if you might just ask them! If that’s not an option, think about their current interests or life circumstances. Would they like an activity/event gift? How about a gift card? A recent survey of more than 1,100 U.S. consumers revealed that 60 percent included gift cards (to their favorite retailers, restaurants, and brands) on their wish list this year. Among 35-44 year-olds, the percentage jumps to nearly 70 percent.
5. If the outcome is not what you hoped for, chalk it up to experience and try a different action plan next year.
You put in your best effort. Give yourself credit for that. If someone is not satisfied with the results, at least you learned something useful for the future.
By the way, if anyone complains about the gift that you chose, “Bah, Humbug!”