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7 Tips for Keeping Happiness in the Holidays

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The holiday season is upon us once again.

You might find yourself balancing your time between schoolwork, spending time with friends, hanging out with family, and maybe even attending a holiday gathering or two.

At some point, you might start feeling a little stressed out from:

  • Overscheduling, overindulging, and overspending
  • Too much time with family (or not enough)
  • Personal or family illness
  • Academic demands
  • Expectations of what you should be doing
  • Seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder

Between all the social gatherings, gift-shopping, and rich desserts, we often experience too much  of a good thing. This disruption in your daily routines can quickly send you into an anxious spiral. Too many activities, even if they are fun activities, can create feelings of overwhelm! 

So how can you keep the holiday stress from affecting your mood? And how can you keep from becoming a frazzled, exhausted ball of stress by the end of December? Here are our best tips for keeping happiness in the holidays.

1. Manage your holiday perfectionism. 

The holidays often come with the pressure to put on a “perfect” holiday season. This is the picture-perfect Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve that we read about in fairytale books and see in the movies. But nobody has an ideal holiday season. When you have unrealistic expectations for your holiday season, you can unintentionally ruin the fun spirit of the season for yourself.

Take a step back from trying to do everything and making every little detail perfect. If you absolutely love the idea of sending handwritten cards, baking cookies and cakes, dressing up and visiting your loved ones, and doing all the holiday activities that usually run you ragged, you still can—try scaling down.

For example, you can still send handwritten cards—but only to those in your closest social circle. And if you love gifting boxes of baked goods, would your recipients be any less happy with a few store-bought items thrown in? If you find ways to manage the stress of doing too much, you may enjoy these activities much more.

2. Set your priorities.

Holiday stress usually comes down to one thing: trying to do too much.

Before you pack your schedule with too many activities, decide which ones actually matter most to you. For example, if you usually become overwhelmed by a flurry of…

  • Holiday decorating
  • Baking
  • Caroling
  • Writing cards
  • Gift shopping
  • Wrapping presents
  • Visiting relatives
  • And other activities that leave you exhausted by January

… You may want to take some time to figure out which activities you actually want to spend your time doing.

Are you a crafty person? Take charge of decking the halls with holiday decorations!

Do you have a competitive streak? Put on a contest to see which family member can build the tallest gingerbread house!

Do you love giving back? Organize a local coat drive for your favorite nonprofit!

Pick a few favorite activities and really enjoy them, while skipping the rest.

teenage girl painting art on canvas

3. Replace soul-draining consumption with soul-feeding activities. 

It’s hard to resist mindless holiday shopping. When the items you’ve been eyeing all month are suddenly 25 percent off, it can be hard to resist the “Buy Now” button. But when we become caught up in excess consumerism, we lose sight of the things that really matter.

This holiday season, spend time taking care of the things that really matter:

  • Our friendships
  • Our family
  • Our community
  • Our spirituality
  • Those around us who are less fortunate than us

There are so many ways to feed your soul. 

  • Reach out to a childhood friend and reminisce about old times
  • Embrace the little seasonal moments with your family
  • Donate your clothes, books, and electronics
  • Write down your reflections, insights, and goals for the future
  • Share your time by volunteering with a local nonprofit

Take the time each day to take care of your spirit. You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference you can make in the way you feel during the holidays.

4. Turn on Airplane Mode.

The best way to reconnect is by going offline. Your phone, the TV, even your tablets should all be turned off and stowed away during quality time. This forces you to be present, and when you’re present, you’re able to connect. You can’t have those long, deeply satisfying conversations when your phone is constantly buzzing with Instagram and Candy Crush notifications.

5. Balance togetherness.

In an ideal world, we’d always get along with everyone and everyone would always get along with us, all the time.

But in the real world, we can get a little grumpy when there’s too much togetherness, or we can feel left out when there isn’t enough togetherness. Relationships and community are a beautiful thing, but most of us need some alone time. And this is often more true than ever during the holidays.

This holiday season, be mindful of maintaining a good balance between “me time” and “us time.” This involves consciously setting some boundaries. Your boundaries aren’t meant to keep people out; rather, you create boundaries for your own energy, to ensure you have what it takes to connect more meaningfully with the people you care for.

So if you need a moment to recharge your batteries, ask for some personal space. If you’re feeling isolated and alone, reach out for some company. 

Practice becoming more aware of your social boundaries and needs. Honor your feelings. You’ll be in a better place to be generous and loving to others throughout the holidays.

teenage girl reading a book in living room

6. Give yourself a break.

With a mile-long list of things to do, places to go, and people to see, the holidays can take an emotional toll on your body. And when we take out our seasonal woes by stress-eating or stress-shopping—and set ourselves up for the guilt that comes after—it’s no wonder that the holidays are totally draining!

Instead, schedule yourself on the “To-do” list. Set aside an hour each day to enjoy your own company. Read a few chapters of an interesting book, catch up on a jigsaw puzzle, or watch a movie. Downtime helps us slow down so that we don’t burn out.

You’ll only create more anxiety and stress by overscheduling.

7. Everything in moderation.

Holidays can be a minefield of shoulds and obligations—including from yourself.

But realistically speaking, it can be challenging to keep a regular nutrition and exercise regimen when there are a million other holiday activities to juggle. Recognize that your routine will likely be disrupted during the holidays, and allow yourself some wiggle room to indulge every now and then. It’s totally okay to enjoy yourself, in moderation.

Whether that means having an extra cookie or skipping a workout, remember that you can always hop back on the bandwagon tomorrow.

The holidays only come once a year and last for a few short weeks. It may seem impossible at first, but try taking the time to plan a little and slow down. You’ll likely find yourself enjoying the holidays more this year than in any year past.



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