By Michelle Sathe
Signal Staff Writer
If many songs, movies and TV shows are to be believed, the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. Think scenes of happy families connecting amid mounds of foods and gifts, seemingly without a care in the world.
In real life, a significant part of the population finds that the holidays can be the source of stress, fatigue, and irritability.
Nearly 40% of people said their stress level increases during the holiday. Top causes for this increase included lack of time and money, pressures of gift-giving, commercialism, and even family gatherings, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association.
If you find yourself among that 38%, here are 10 easy tips to help you embrace what’s good about the holidays while eschewing what makes it stressful.
This is one of the most common ways to start the season off on the wrong foot. A poll by the Principal Financial Group found that 53% of people experience financial stress due to holiday spending, even though more than half of those polled had set a budget.
Take a hard look at what you can really afford to spend on your loved ones. Allocate an amount for each person on your list and stick to it, no matter how tempting it is to go overboard.
Otherwise, you could be setting yourself up for potential debt well into 2024, which isn’t a festive thought.
Does anyone on your list really need another candle, picture frame or sweater? The answer is most likely no. Instead, think outside the box and give your loved ones something they really value, like customized gift certificates for the busy people in your life. Some fun ideas are
a night of babysitting,
a dog walk or two or
going out for a meal of their choice.
Of course, homemade food gifts such as cookies never go out of style and can be quite cost-effective. Just make sure to note who’s on a diet that precludes sugar, gluten, or dairy products and adjust any traditional recipes to accommodate their needs.
Reach for Help Whenever Possible
Some people love wrapping gifts. Others (like me), not so much. If you fall into the latter category, consider taking your gifts to a store like Posh Presents SCV, where they will wrap anything from anywhere and do it beautifully. Visit their website at www.PoshPresentsSCV.com/
Hosting a holiday meal? Don’t try to go all Iron Chef and do everything yourself. Instead, focus on a main dish and ask your guests to bring a side, dessert, drinks, or even napkins, paper plates, and disposable utensils.
When the meal ends, ask your guests to help with clean up. Whether it’s washing dishes or taking out the trash, most people love to feel a part of and will be happy to lighten your load.
Indulge with Discretion
Temptations are everywhere at holiday parties, from open bars to rich, decadent buffets to food gifts. Unless you’re allergic to anything, or sober, feel free to indulge a bit. It’s one of the best parts of the season.
Just pace yourself, i.e. don’t overdo it to the point where you fall into a food coma and can’t function or get so drunk that you’ll make a fool of yourself. (Of course, if you’re going to be drinking anywhere outside your home, lining up a designated driver or taking a drive share is a must.)
Just say ‘No’
So many parties, so little time. This is where you need to discriminate and determine what is necessary for you to attend professionally or what you want to attend personally.
All other invitations are to be declined, with no guilt attached.
Avoid Toxic People
Whether it’s that colleague who is the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard or that annoying relative you have never liked, it’s hard to avoid toxic people at holiday bashes. Make a game plan ahead of each event to deal with potential interludes, such as how to gracefully exit a conversation or creating signals to your partner that you want to move to another area of the room or leave the party altogether.
Make Some ‘Me’ Time
With kids out of school on break and relatives visiting, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. It’s OK to take some “me” time to center yourself. This could be luxuriating in a bath with music and candles, finding a quiet spot around the house to meditate for five to 20 minutes or going for a nice, long walk (if you have a dog, take him or her with you).
The frenzy of the holidays can upend some of your structured self-care time. So as much as you can, stick with your gym or exercise routine to keep stress at bay and get those endorphins going.
Theoretically, the holidays are largely about giving and making the world a better place. There’s no better way to do that then volunteering to help someone less fortunate. That can be visiting a lonely senior in a nursing facility or a pet in a shelter that would love some quality time with someone who cares or helping out at a soup kitchen that serves up hot meals during this cold weather.
For a group project, consider asking your family or neighborhood to donate their gently used jackets and other clothing, canned food or providing a meal for a low-income family.
Consider New Traditions
If the holidays feel like “Groundhog Day” in an unpleasant way, shake things up. Don’t host the holiday meal this year — go out for dinner instead and invite people you really enjoy spending time with. Or skip town altogether with a fun getaway to the coast or the mountains — Airbnb is a great resource to find a room, condo or house just about everywhere in Southern California.
If neither of those options are in your budget, then consider a staycation and find cost-effective ways to enjoy Santa Clarita. Take a hike at Placerita Canyon or one of the many nature trails, go to a matinee or just stay home and binge-watch your favorite shows or movies. Holiday theme optional.