Dateline NBC and Prevention Magazine say 41 percent of people polled find the holidays as stressful as a job interview. Other conclusions from the poll: money is the #1 cause of stress, and women are more likely to stress than men.
It's been a while since I had to put on a suit, but I remember job interviews being a lot easier than the holidays. You go in, you hand over the resume, answer a bunch of silly questions, smile and hope there is no spinach in or lipstick on your teeth, a handshake and you're out of there. Little to no shopping, baking, visiting and wrapping involved. You can always get another job interview, too. There are no second chances or do-overs for a holiday.
I've learned over the years to reduce the holiday stress to a manageable level by simplifying and preparing. Some tricks:
1. Gift shortcuts: Wrap and bow gifts as soon as you bring them home. If you don't think you can wrap it attractively, gift-bag it. Keep at least two generic gifts on hand for when someone in the family says "I need a present for So-and-So in five minutes."
2. Fast food: keep a box of Rice Krispies, a bag of marshmallows, and a disposable sheet cake pan on hand at all times so that when someone needs a kid dessert in a hurry, you can make Rice Krispies treats. For grown-ups, keep a bag of big corn chips, salsa and your favorite cheese on hand to make nachos. One of our favorite simple fast meals is salad, grilled cheese and hot tomato soup.
3. Time: When you are completely stressed, give yourself a time out. Sit somewhere peaceful by yourself, stop by church to pray, go to a library, or strip and take a hot bath. If circumstances don't allow a time out, have a peppermint or drink a cup of chamomile tea (both are natural soothers.)
4. Skip stuff: If you've got too many events to handle and/or attend, consider shortening the list and doing only what really matters to you. No one will give you an "F" in party-going.
5. Get involved: If you're alone for the holidays, don't sit around feeling miserable. Volunteer your time to a local church or charitable organization. Offer to babysit for busy relatives or neighbors. Make dinner for other single friends who are also alone during the holidays.
I think it's also a good idea to make some new traditions, because keeping up with some of the old is often impossible, exhausting, and makes no sense. Example: when we were kids, me and my guy rarely spent any time on Christmas Day with our mothers, because they were always in the kitchen making the traditional Christmas meal, which was generally a clone of the traditional Thanksgiving meal. We both hated this, so one of our new traditions is that neither of us cooks on Christmas Day; we spend it with our kids. I do make a couple of family favorites ahead of time, but we usually pick up seafood platters, sandwiches, cold salads etc. the day before and have a buffet-style dinner (also great for unexpected visitors.)
What are some of the ways you guys de-stress during the holidays?