By Youth First – December 10, 2018

Sometimes the demands of this busy season can override the inherent joy, allowing stress to be an unwelcome guest at the table.

Here are some tips to help reduce stress and appreciate the upcoming holidays.

Put first things first. In the words of Dr. Redford  Williams,  director of Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Duke University, “ The holidays are supposed to be about kindness and  generosity and people most often neglect to extend these courtesies to those who need them the most – themselves.”

Remember the advice of airlines when “in the event of loss of cabin pressure,” adults are told to put on their oxygen masks first and then help their children. As parents, this may sound counterintuitive, but if you’re not breathing, you can’t help anyone else.

Healthy self-care allows us to handle those bumps in the road that are inevitable for us all.

Set a realistic budget. The cost of food and gifts seems to have grown faster than Jack’s proverbial beanstalk. Decide how much you can spend and stick to it.

Refrain from trying to buy the happiness of others, especially children. Those same children may try to convince you otherwise, but is that the message you want to instill?

Large families may opt for a gift exchange. Just decide what works best for your family. Overspending during the holidays could result in a post-holiday financial crisis, which is not a stress-free way to start the New Year.

Accept help. This is not a time to “out-Martha” Martha Stewart. Just think of the shopping, cleaning, baking, and entertaining this season. Remember, Martha has help and lots of it. All family members can help with shopping and cleaning, according to their age and abilities.

If Aunt Jane wants to contribute her famous horseradish-chocolate chip Jell-O mold, accept graciously. It may not be what you had planned, but it will make her feel appreciated and valued. Isn’t that what we would all like?

Just say no. Avoid over-committing your time when you know you are over-scheduled. Not speaking up can allow feelings of resentment, being overwhelmed, and being out of sorts.

If you’re thinking:  “They should know how busy I am!” Surprise! No one, outside of Cinderella’s fairy godmother, can discern our wishes or read our minds.

Similarly, no one can support and participate in every project, no matter how worthy. Schools, churches, and charities can all benefit from our time, talent, and treasure, but it’s up to us to choose what we can reasonably support.

Remain open to the joy of the season. Enjoy the first snowfall, the innocence of a kindergarten Christmas program, the gathering of family and friends around the dining table, or the sweet sounds of a church choir. All of these and more are available to us if we allow it.

In the words of those accidental philosophers, the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.” Peace and joy are gifts of the season, freely given.