The Secrets to Reducing Holiday Stress

by Ann Douglas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, unless….

You’re newly pregnant and exhausted. The number one item on your holiday wish list this year? Finding the energy to deck the halls before the relatives arrive.

Your baby is teething. Committing to anything more gourmet than slice-and-bake for the office cookie exchange seems like total overkill.

Your toddler is fascinated by the family heirloom ornaments passed along by Grandma and Grandpa (who expect those very same family heirloom ornaments to be hanging from the tree when they arrive for their annual visit).

Ahh, the holidays. We look forward to them all year long–and then they actually arrive. At that point, we realize that our expectations of what the holidays are supposed to be like don’t exactly mesh well with our day-to-day lives.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to stressing ourselves out. We can take control of our holiday expectations before they spiral out of control.

The secret?

Image: Shutterstock/Oliveromg

Image: Shutterstock/Oliveromg

Deciding which aspects of your holiday celebrations actually matter to you and why.

Once you figure out which ones you’ve been carrying forward from year to year in the mistaken belief that someone actually enjoys them (“What do you mean no one around here likes fruitcake?”) and which ones are the stuff of which family memories are made (“I love it when we all snuggle on the couch and watch “A Christmas Story”), you can start making some changes.

Maybe there’s one recipe that smells like the holidays (mmmm……Ginger Crinkles). And one activity that signifies family together time (a Scrabble match? a game of pick-up hockey? Uncle Bill chasing the kids around the house playing tickle monster?) Every family has its own (weird and) wonderful traditions.

Let the rest of it go: the pressure to make Food Channel-perfect cookies and to live in some designer’s idea of the perfect house. That’s not real life. What’s real is having cookie crumbs in your foyer (because your Ginger Crinkles are too yummy to resist) and snow footprints on the family room carpet (because Uncle Bill forgot his mitts when it was time to play pick-up hockey).That’s the sign of a home full of love. What more could you ask for this holiday season?

Your mission? (And you have little choice but to accept it.) To explain to the doting, but ornament-loving, grandparents why the heirlooms won’t be making an appearance for another few years.