So you’re supposed to be jolly, singing Christmas songs, wrapping gifts with faux berry attachments and baking sugar cookies you’ll later decorate with elves made out of homemade icing.
But somehow it just isn’t happening.
Instead, you’re frustrated, broke and the only reason you want to break out the rolling pin is so you can smash those gingerbread house kits that you bought back in November thinking you’d have time to make them for the neighbors.
Don’t sweat it, say those who know about how to manage stress during the holidays.
One of the things a lot of people forget is it doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to be homemade” when it comes to the season of peace and joy, said Anne Grubbs, enrichment and volunteer coordinator for Community Education.
Hors d’oeuvres – even you can buy those at Southern Foods,” Grubbs said. “I have a friend who goes out there and buys everything and heats it up so she can focus on getting her house ready for everybody” who comes to her holiday party.
Grubbs shared ways to manage holiday stress at the Women in Charge luncheon at The Medical Center a few weeks ago. On Thursday, she shared the information with the Daily News during a time when she was managing the stress that comes from having a sprained ankle this season.
“I can hop just about anywhere,” she joked.
The bad ankle isn’t about to get Grubbs down.
She learned long ago that no holiday is perfect.
“If it snows and you can’t get around to deliver your packages,” don’t worry about it, Grubbs said. “One year my mother and I loaded up the sled and delivered the packages on foot. You make the best of what you’ve got.”
Now, she’s planning to use a wheelchair to do the rest of her Christmas shopping.
Jan Trabue, a licensed professional clinical counselor with FamilyWorks Therapy Services in Bowling Green, said the holidays bring more stress than usual “because it’s a big celebration and there’s a lot of high expectation and lots of activities going on that people have to deal with.”
Both Trabue and Grubbs said one of the biggest things that can be done to manage holiday stress is to manage your time well.
“Pace yourself when it comes to shopping, cleaning your house,” Trabue said. “Include your family members in any holiday-related chores, such as putting up the Christmas tree. This is a good strategy, too, especially if you’re a parent: Remember that this is a time for making memories with your kids. Do you want your kid’s memory of Christmas to be of you being stressed out and cranky? Probably not.”
Crankiness can also be avoided by saying “no.”
“It’s OK to saying no to baking six dozen cookies or to say no to your house being where everybody gathers,” Trabue said. “Don’t overbook yourself, commit yourself.”
“Pick the things you do,” Grubbs emphasized.
And pick how you’ll do each event on your schedule.
To avoid long, confusing shopping trips, for example, “plan ahead before you go,” Grubbs said. Make a list of what you want to buy each person and “sort of map out from one end of the mall to the other” where you need to buy each gift.
You can also avoid shopping exhaustion by not carrying a purse loaded down with everything but the kitchen sink.
And make use of the lockers in malls.
“Put your coat in there,” Grubbs said.
When you can, use a shopping cart or stroller to carry purchases, which you should make sure aren’t too expensive for your budget.
Doing things as affordably as possible during the holidays is important if you don’t want to be stressed out from spending too much money, Grubbs and Trabue said.
Trabue holds to the idea that “if you have to charge it, you can’t afford it.”
Grubbs said people with large families can draw names or give each other stocking stuffers instead of big gifts.
“Don’t spend to impress people,” she said.
And don’t kill yourself trying to find the perfect gift.
Sometimes a gift card is a wonderful present.
Sometimes a visit can be a gift, especially for someone who may be lonely or if you are feeling blue because you’re alone.
Taking part in church activities can also be a good way to battle loneliness during the season, according to Trabue.
“Churches are wonderful sources of support for everybody, particularly for the lonely, those who may be grieving,” Trabue said. “I would say get involved with a church group and let them be your extended family.”
And treat yourself well this season.
“Have good self control,” Trabue advised.
Don’t stuff yourself with food or too much alcohol.
“I never try to get too far away from my normal routine,” Trabue said. “During celebrations and special times, you’re going to stay up a little bit later and eat a little bit more, but do it in moderation. Just being aware of that can empower you to have better self control.”
Exercise can also help.
“A lot of people think walking the mall is their exercise, shopping,” Trabue said. “But a good 30-minute aerobic activity is an excellent stress buster.”
Trabue said she was preparing to exercise as she spoke.
“I’m going to go do my workout so I can go Christmas shopping,” she said.
The exercise would help her keep her focus on enjoying the holidays.
“One of the best strategies for managing stress, whether it’s holiday stress or stress in general, is to keep your focus,” she said. “When it comes to holiday stress, keep your focus on what the reason for the season is.”
Carmichael, Alicia (2005, December). Fa la la la … AAAAAAUGH!. Bowling Green Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.bgdailynews.com/features/fa-la-la-la-aaaaaaugh/article_dd7019c9-810e-5708-af69-bd1bf0327657.html