Trade in Folly for Jolly – 4 WAYS TO REDUCE HOLIDAY STRESS

Posted by: Shel Harrington 12 November, 2013 26 Comments

4 Ways to Reduce Holiday StressThe holidays can be a wonderful time of family, fun, good tidings and joy. They can also be a time of unrealistic expectations of Norman Rockwell picture-perfect families with a Martha Stewart in every kitchen. Which leads to holiday angst and marital stress. Chances are even if Norm was still around, he wouldn’t be tapping us on the shoulder to pose for a family portrait. And the only thing many of us have in common with Martha Stewart is the cousin who had an orange jumpsuit that matched hers. Yet we still keep expecting the holiday fairy to wave a magic wand and make perfection happen. And we keep getting disappointed. Want a new ending? Change things up this year. Here are 4 ways to reduce your holiday stress.

1. Balk at tradition. If there is an obligatory holiday event that is causing you more angst than excitement, examine your reason for including it in your agenda. If your answer to self is “because we’ve always done it,” I urge you to reevaluate.

You may have heard about the lady who always cut her holiday roast in two and cooked each half in a separate pan. When asked why she did it that way year after year, she said because that’s the way her mother had always done it. Her surprised mother said: “I only did that because I didn’t have a pan big enough for the roast.”

And then there’s the people who continue to put rice paper in wedding invitations, maintaining years of tradition. In spite of the fact that the purpose of the rice paper was to blot the wet ink – a problem modern printers don’t have. So that useless piece of paper keeps falling out whenever invitations are opened – because it’s tradition.

If the tradition no longer makes sense or serves a purpose – like bringing joy – give yourself permission to omit it this year.

2. Re-think the menu. Feeling overwhelmed by your self-imposed requirement to include all the traditional dishes for each holiday meal? See number one, above. Trying to please everybody or impress with all the expected homemade dishes  and already stressing about how you’ll find the time to get it all done? Edit your menu list ruthlessly. Pick two or three things on your list as ‘homemade keepers’ and make convenient trade-offs for the rest. If your plan includes made-from-scratch biscuits, your special dressing, the green bean casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and apple pie, select the best and substitute the rest. For instance, you might do your special dressing, whip up your biscuits, and head to the grocer freezer section for a mixed vegetable steamer-bag and a holiday gift from Mrs. Smith – your choice of frozen pies. Or make the pie and the vegetable dishes you love, and pick up a couple of boxes of Stove Top Stuffing along with some heat-and-serve rolls.

If loved ones have the audacity to complain about their favorites being slashed from this year’s menu, tell them you’ll send them the recipe and leave it to them to decide whether or not it will be on the table.

3. Pare down the greetings. If getting Christmas cards written and mailed is something that causes you stress, lighten your load. Don’t send any to neighbors, co-workers, friends you see regularly, or friends/family that you know you’ll see over the holiday season. Prioritize those left on your list. Instead of trying to carve out a chunk of time to get the job done, do one or two at a time as you are able over the next few weeks. If you don’t get through the list, at least you’ve gotten the special ones out.  More than once I have sent out “New Years Greetings” that looked just like Christmas cards – except they got there a week or so later.

4. Make a commitment to you. Once you’ve plotted out the absolute ‘must-dos’ and ‘love-to-dos’ on your calendar, pick a night or two during the season that is not committed and mark it off as downtime for you and your spouse. Unless there is something urgent or so fun you don’t want to miss it, treat your commitment to yourself as respectfully as you would a commitment to a loved one. Would you cancel out on them at the last minute? No, of course not. Prioritizing this commitment of downtime for you and your spouse will result in you feeling less stressed and more able to enjoy your other commitments. It also allows time for you and your spouse to stay connected during the hectic holiday season.

How do you reduce stress during the holiday season? Let us know in the comment section below.

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26 Comments

  • […] From Folly to Jolly – 4 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress […]

  • Thanks for permission to keep giving up stress and enjoying the holidays, Shel. We’ve gone out to eat the past 4 or 5 Thanksgivings. Best choice I’ve ever made and the kids (and their significant others) actually started looking forward to it even though they balked at the decision the first year.

    I enjoy your tips for a better life. 🙂

  • For Thanksgiving, I’m making the turkey, and everyone who is coming is bringing a dish. What we wind up with is what everyone will eat.

    For Christmas, we’ve adopted a Christmas Eve tradition of Chile. Everyone brings their favorite recipe, if they wish, and I make the white chile, with chicken breast. The ‘White Owl’ recipe from Kimmswick!

    • Shel Harrington

      Divvying up the labor is a great way to go, Faye! I love the Christmas Eve Chilifest – is that in lieu of a formal Christmas Day food event?

  • Great suggestions, Shel. And I had a LOL moment at the Martha Stewart comment. In my quest to follow a healthier lifestyle, there will be quite a few changes to this year’s Thanksgiving menu. In fact, I texted my daughter and asked how she and her husband felt about “tofurkey.” Haven’t heard back from her yet.

    • Shel Harrington

      You probably won’t Dee Dee. I suspect her momma taught her better than to use the language her answer would probably contain!

  • I love the idea of balking at tradition. The number of people who attend our holiday celebrations has dropped over the years from around 20 to 5, but we still do the same things we’ve done every year. Do my parents still insist on cooking the same amount and decorating like they’re having an open house? Yes. Are they insane? Pretty much. Will I be sending them this post? You betcha.

    • Shel Harrington

      Are you sure that’s safe to do, Marissa? Will your mother be able to withstand the shock of even the thought of including Mrs. Smith and her fine products at the dinner table? Proceed with caution!

      • LOL…I wouldn’t dare!!! Yes…it’s true. I’m one of those “have to have it homemade” gals but I am cutting down in other areas. Like shopping early…and shopping less. I want to avoid malls and busy stores as Christmas comes closer. I’m purchasing gifts now at craft fairs that are unique. Love that. Of course…if you put my pie and Mrs. Smith’s side by side…you’d know why there is no Mrs. Smith on my table. 😉 hehe

        • Shel Harrington

          Love the trade-offs you’ve made to keep things fun, Darlene. I enjoy getting things at the craft fairs, too. I used to participate in them with my husband’s woodwork and my funky scarves – I always looked forward to checking out everybody else’s stuff as we were setting up. Poor Mrs. Smith – sounds like she doesn’t stand a chance at your house!

  • very practical doable suggestions-thanks for the reminders!

  • Thanks Shel- I am loving your suggestion of a “free night” where my focus will only be on my husband. When I reflect on my most merry memories they always are about simply being together!

  • Oh my goodness Shel! Did you read my mind, or what? I have grown to actually “dislike” the holidays because of all of the stress. Shame on me. You gave everyone some great ideas.

    • Shel Harrington

      Nothing like having new grandchildren around to help you focus on the blessings instead of the rat race this year, Kevyn! Kids sure have a way of bringing us back to what really matters.

  • I’ve gotten rather radical about keeping the holidays light. One particularly stressful year, I didn’t send out the annual newsletter and cards. When life got saner, I didn’t revive the habit. G – a traditionalist of sorts – sends cards to everyone in his family. However, anyone linked to us through me doesn’t get one (unless he sends it!) We also stopped giving each other gifts. We pick one or two things to DO together instead. I know stuff like this isn’t for everyone, but it works well for me. 🙂

    • Shel Harrington

      So that’s why I haven’t gotten a card the past few years – I didn’t make G’s list??? I know what you mean about the gift-giving – sometimes getting more stuff isn’t as meaningful as time together.

  • Great tips, Shel! I try to do things early so I’m not rushing around like a crazy person. I like to enjoy the season.

    • Shel Harrington

      I heard somewhere that you liked to do things early. Oh yeah – on your blog! While this is a bit early for me to seriously be thinking about decorating, I love your logic about having everything cleaned up by the first of the year to have a nice fresh start.

  • Vickey

    We are all going out to eat. Talk about less stress! Love it!!!!!!!

  • Shel, what I did this year was send an email to my kids telling them to choose two dishes each that they are making for dinner. I feel great!

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