The holidays can be a highly stressful time for many families. Whether you are hosting a holiday party at your home, organizing travel with children, and/or trying to balance your everyday routine with additional holiday activities, it's helpful to prioritize your time, commitments, and family activities to help contribute to stress reduction.
Here are some tips and tricks for managing holiday stress, specific to busy parents, that allow for more time with your family.
Managing Your Time during the Holidays
There's one thing that none of us can buy and that's time. We all wish we had more especially during the holiday season. What's the best way to manage your time during the holidays to reduce stress? Assess how you're spending your time and prioritize those items most important to you.
Here are some tips for managing your holiday time for better stress management:
- Make a list and check it twice. Think of the things that cause you the most stress during the holidays. Write them down, along with the level of stress they cause and how they affect you.
- Take control. Decide which things on your holiday list you can do something about. Remember that you might not be able to control everything on your list. For instance, your children's school schedule or traffic jams are trying parts of life. Even though you can't control these events, you can control how you react to them. For example, instead of getting worked up during holiday traffic, use the time in your car to listen to a book on tape. Or perhaps baking with your children during the holiday now isn't the fun activity you remember from your childhood. Purchase cookies rather than perpetuate a past activity which causes you and your family more stress.
- Unload and learn to say "no." If there are holiday tasks that you just can't or don't want to do, let them go - cross them off your list if you can. And don't commit to new things just because you feel you have to. Let someone else run the school holiday party or coordinate the work gift swap this year. Learning to say "no" may take some practice. It might feel uncomfortable at first. But taking on too much can be more stressful than "passing" on a request in the first place.
- Work on shedding the holiday "perfection impulse." Don't expect perfection from yourself or others. For some things, doing an okay job is just fine.
- Choose holiday activities that you can do together as a family and are fun. Make wrapping paper together with colorful potato prints on brown paper or meaningful holiday presents together as a family project. Volunteer with your children at a food pantry. Or plan a special shopping trip or visit to a holiday display. If it doesn't go well, do something different the next year. Don't repeat it just because you hope it will be fun. Consider splitting up for activities - you do a special activity with one child while your partner does something special with your other child or does something special for him or herself.
Managing Your Household and Family during the Holidays
Managing your household and your family’s responsibilities are also critical to keeping your stress in check during the holidays. Here are some helpful tips:
- Prioritize your household chores. As much as possible, organize your home so you can clean as you go and avoid weekend overhauls that take away from family time. Work with your partner and children to prioritize and share household chores and tasks. Not only will you teach your children responsibility but also you will spend some quality time together. Play holiday music to lighten the mood and make it fun.
- Maintain your children's bedtime routine. Even during the holidays, keeping the daily bedtime routines like reading together and putting your children to bed at their normal time will ensure they are well rested and give you time to relax or complete a small chore needing to get done.
- Create a budget and stick to it. Managing your money during the holidays can be difficult and add extra stress. Budget how much you want to spend on gifts, food, and the household during the holidays and stick to that amount. Remember, most times a small gift is enough to show someone you care.
- Set aside time for yourself. One of the best things you can do for your family is to take care of yourself. Whether it is exercising, meditating, reading a book, enjoying coffee with a friend, or simply going to bed at a reasonable time, it’s important to de-stress yourself during the holidays.
Learning to manage and prioritize your time, commitments, and family activities can reduce stress, allowing you to enjoy your holidays and focus your energies on the things that matter most to you and your family.
The Work-Life Equation Podcast: Holiday Hacks for Working Parents
On this episode of the Work-Life Equation, real working parents talk surviving the busy holiday season. From taming the “I wants” to surviving the “You need two dozen cupcakes…by when?!” and forgiving yourself for cranberry sauce from a can, Bright Horizons working moms Kate, Aili, Rachel, and Michelle share their real-life strategies for creating festive, satisfying holidays for their families…minus the guilt.