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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Monday, December 18, 2017 6:40 AM

Karen Houston-Johnson, VP, Credit Union Resources

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. Only there you are, battling your way to the register among hordes of mall shoppers, listening to relatives bicker at family get-togethers, and staying up until all hours to bake festive treats. But are your Grinch feelings normal, or do you need to do things differently to better handle the holidays?

Seasonal overstress is not uncommon; numerous studies have found that for many people, the holidays are the most overwhelming part of the year, and women are even more affected than men.

Reality check: despite all the holiday craft and decorations boards on Pinterest, there are no requirements when it comes to celebration. Here are five proven ways to enjoy the season without freaking out.

Remake a list, don’t check it twice: Jot down your top priorities, leaving off anything that is not an absolute must. Be brutal! Do you really have to host more than one meal or go to every party? Then delegate what you can. Give your partner a list of to-dos, whether it’s shopping for gifts or hauling out the decorations.

Be real about family fun: Expecting relatives to be one big happy family can lead to letdown. Instead, aim for one big calm family. If relatives are coming, don’t leave chunks of unstructured time when they can get on one another’s nerves. Organize easy activities, like a Monopoly championship or a movie screening. You can also suggest that guests relax with a book or take a walk outside. If you're visiting family, it might help to have an escape plan; tell them you’ll stop by but can’t stay all day.

Keep up fitness: Most of us ease up on exercising regularly during the holiday season because we’re so short on time. But that’s a big mistake. Even squeezing in a 15-minute run several times a week or a nightly after-dinner walk will improve your mood and make you feel less stressed-out.

Know that the thought really does count: Often our own perfectionism can drive us to shop for the perfect presents, racking up time and frustration (not to mention bills). The truth is, people want to know that you thought of them and value them; that’s the biggest gift. A small or homemade item with a note that says how much the person means to you year-round will be a bigger hit than a pricey present.

Focus on what the holidays signify to you: For some, the holidays are about time spent with family; for others, religious observance is key. Own your meaning. Reflecting for just a few minutes each day on the significance of the holidays and why you appreciate them can help keep you centered.

So, give yourself a break during this busy time . . . slow down, get real, and enjoy the holidays!