Embrace the Mess and Reduce the Stress

For many reasons, the holiday season can be challenging. Some of us have the enormous job of hosting large families for meals. Some of us must travel during peak hours to join our families far away. Others cannot be with family and are lonely. Most of us are bombarded with messages from social media. television, and other influences that tell us what our perfect holidays should be like.
Realistic Expectations
The first thing to recognize is that we need to keep our expectations realistic. No Thanksgiving meal is going to be perfect. No family gets along perfectly all the time. Very few travel plans go smoothly. Budgets for holiday gifts, activities, and meals frequently stretch our finances. When we see these challenges coming at us, though, we can handle them with flexibility and resilience. 
Many children have real difficulty adapting their expectations. Some feel very stressed when their schedules change and they are away from school and their friends. Some have difficulty planning their free time and spend more hours than usual on social media, which can increase their anxiety. Others have unrealistic expectations of having the perfect holiday and are disappointed when plans do not work out. Being aware of this can help parents and families plan activities and conversations that will help their children adjust.
Keep it Simple
To reduce your stress, remember that keeping it simple pays off. Do you need six courses for a family meal, or will three favorites be just as wonderful? Does everyone need multiple holiday gifts or will one well-chosen gift be even better? Do you plan for three activities every day when on vacation or will one per day be perfect with some family time left over for board games, a ball game or simply reading a great book!
Watch Your Budget: Needs vs Wants
The holiday season is highly commercialized. Unfortunately, we are flooded with messages that suggest we need to spend a great deal of money to have a happy holiday. Most of us cannot afford to abandon our budgets, though. Learning which expenses are “needs” and which are “wants” is a great habit to adopt. We all need to eat, but although we may want to eat at restaurants every day, we do not need this. We need shoes, and although we may want expensive athletic brands, we do not need them. We need food, clothing, fresh water, shelter, and medical care. When budgeting for the holidays, make sure you cover the needs first, and if you have funds remaining, enjoy prioritizing which wants you can afford.
Travel Plans
Make sure you leave lots of time when traveling. Accidents happen when we rush. If flying or driving, expect delays and prepare for them, perhaps by packing extra snacks or activities, filling the gas tank or charging the car battery well ahead of time, and confirming all your plans carefully. However, remember that even when we have planned beautifully, delays and glitches are the norm. Having patience and a sense of humor will come in very handy when you are stuck in an airport and your baby is on the last diaper!
Self Care
Since holiday times can involve more stress than usual, it is even more important to schedule in time for self care. Make sure to maintain good sleep habits for the whole family, especially if you are planning a lot of late nights. Keep up the exercise, since you may be putting on extra holiday pounds! Get outside as much as you can. As the weather cools off, we need Vitamin D more than ever. So put on that warm jacket and go for a hike, a walk on the beach, or just a stroll around town. If you feel that stress setting in, take some time for yoga, meditation, calming music, or just a warm bath. Avoid harmful habits like substance abuse, smoking, and consuming unhealthy foods. Spend some time with friends who make you laugh and bring you joy – and think about limiting time with those who add to the drama. Above all, practice gratitude. Rather than dwelling on the factors that are not going as well as you’d like, make a list of all the elements that you feel grateful for. You will be surprised that this list is usually long!
Participate in Your Community
Get into the spirit of the holidays by learning about and participating in community events like holiday parades, lighting ceremonies, outdoor concerts, fun runs, farmers’ markets, or fireworks displays. Most of these are free or cost very little, and are a great way for families to get involved in healthy, fun activities. 
Throughout the year, many community organizations support families with donations of food, toys, and clothing, so be on the lookout for such help. Better still, see where you can help out. Research indicates that those who give back to their communities are happier overall. Helping others is a great way to reduce your own stress. 
No matter which holidays you celebrate, where, and with whom, remember that our joy as human beings comes from one another. Be with those you love and care for those who need your love. Happy Holidays!
This fabulous and informative article is brought to you by guest blogger, Anne Green.  Thank you Anne for helping Compass FAH spread education and the tools our readers need to succeed!