12 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress

Particularly as a mother, I've noticed over the years that the holidays can be both difficult and joyful -- for kids and adults. Big expectations tend to provoke stress: Getting the right gifts for friends and family. Doing well on final exams. Seeing family members you haven't seen in a long time. Saying yes to every invitation and demand on your time. Also, extended time together allows more opportunities for emotions to rise to the surface. Here I share what I have found to be the most effective ways to reduce holiday stress, for my immediate family of six and beyond:

1. Set limits around gifting

One of the simplest ways to reduce holiday stress is to set limits around gifting, whether it’s trimming down the number of gifts you are giving and/or trimming down your spending. And you can absolutely retain joy and generosity while editing your holiday gift list!

2. Set realistic expectations

Signing up for more commitments than you and your kids can reasonably handle is like buying a one-way ticket to unhappiness. Give everyone time to partake only in the opportunities that are the most special to everyone.

3. Limit travel

I get it, especially with kids in the mix, it’s hard not to “deliver” in terms of shuttling kids around to relatives. But it can be exhausting and stressful. If you aren’t the hosting hub and need to juggle different families, try alternating holidays (e.g., one family for Thanksgiving, the other for winter holidays). Or just declare a year where you are staying put in your own home!

4. Communicate in advance about plans

Your kids are not mind readers. Particularly if they are older they will want to have time over the holidays to themselves or with friends. Explain to your kids which events, chores, etc. are expected and which are flexible. Leave open windows on the calendar for downtime, last minute fun plans, and your kid's engagements.

5. Be present

You'll enjoy holiday activities or events more if you give them your full attention. Stow your smartphone and be present.

6. Move

Get outside and walk, alone or with family and friends. You'll benefit from fresh air, quality time (if you choose to bring a buddy), and exercise.

7. Let your kids be

Holidays bring about a lot of shoulds...about what to wear, how to behave, what to give, etc. Allow your child to be whoever he or she currently is and not expect them to be who they once were or who you think they should be.

8. Be thoughtful

Remember how annoyed you feel when your relatives bring up that same embarrassing story about you every single year? Be thoughtful and refrain from doing the same to your kid. Childish nicknames and embarrassing stories, not to mention excessive lecturing and demands will result in stress and likely tantrums (from parties of all ages!). Think before you speak and apologize when necessary. You are still your child's most important role model.

9. Breathe

One of the best ways to work through stress is to breathe. So simple sounding, but true. When my children are crying and upset I take these moments to teach them to breathe. I do it with them (big breath in...deep breath out!) and they usually cheer up by laughing at me, but over time they have learned the concept of focusing on breathing to calm themselves down.

10. Let go of worry

It can be challenging, but the reality is that worrying doesn't actually accomplish anything positive. It only takes you away from the present moment. The moment you could be enjoying. Whether it's related to final exams or gift giving, encourage yourself and your kids to let go of worry.

11. Remember that you can’t control other people

Holidays typically bring out a lot of interpersonal stress. Remember that you can’t control other people and what they say or do; you can only control how you let the situation affect you.

12. Find Laughter!

One of the best forms of medicine is laughter — find it, whether it’s watching a show that you know cracks you up, or hanging out with fun friends.

12 ways to reduce holiday stress

12 ways to reduce holiday stress