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As moms, our lives are hectic enough but when the holidays roll around, our stress levels get ramped up even more.
According to a report by the American Psychological Association (APA), 44 percent of women (versus 31 percent of men) say they have more stress during the holiday season.
Whether you’re at home with little ones all day or a working mother, chances are all the holiday to-do’s fall on your shoulders.
Between sending Christmas cards, purchasing and wrapping gifts, shuttling kids to Nutcracker rehearsals and attending school performances and holiday parties, the list can seem endless.
Add to that the stress of traveling or hosting guests, combined with challenging family dynamics, and the holidays can make for one stressed out mom.
But the holidays don’t have to—nor should they be—a season of stress. With a small shift in mindset and a few simple tactics, the holidays can be filled with faith, hope and love.
Here are 7 ways to cope with holiday stress.
1. Focus on what matters most
To lower your stress level, think about what’s really important to you and your family and focus your energy on that.
For our family, it’s important that my kids know first and foremost that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, what his birth means and what a magical event it is. As a result, when we talk about Christmas, we center our conversations about our faith.
Santa, the gifts and the cookies are a part of my kids’ experience, but they are all fun extras.
2. Rethink traditions
When I was child, our family’s annual Christmas Eve tradition meant that we didn’t get home until 2am in the morning. Everyone was expected to stay until the end and no one deviated from the tradition.
Like it or not, today’s generation is more willing to buck the trend.
Although our family continues the same type of tradition today, we’ve had to adapt the timing so we’re home at a decent hour to put out the gifts and cookies for Santa and to get sleep. Luckily, the older generation is more flexible and understanding of our desire to get home early.
When it comes to family traditions, the expectation might exist, but that doesn’t mean your family has to follow suit. You can make changes to the tradition or say ‘no’ altogether.
Although not everyone in the family will be happy with your choices, if changing the way things have always be done means your holidays will be less stressful and more enjoyable, so be it.
3. Be realistic
Your goal might be to make 5 dozen Christmas cookies, buy thoughtful gifts for all of your kids’ teachers, and meet your friends for your annual holiday dinner.
But if trying to do everything is going to leave you stretched thin, maybe it’s not realistic for you and your life.
Instead, think about ways you can cut back or cross things of your list. That might mean making one or two types of cookies, buying gift cards for the teachers and planning drinks with your friends in the new year, for example.
4. Have a holiday stress-busting ritual
The more stressed out you are, the less likely you’ll be to eat healthy, exercise and make sleep a priority—all habits that are important for combating stress.
Having a daily or weekly ritual can help too. It could be a weekly yoga class, 20 minutes when you wake up in the morning for prayer and/or meditation, carving out time in your schedule to attend your favorite HIIT class or taking a warm bath after the kids have gone to bed.
5. Forget the gifts
Every year, I get really stressed searching for the perfect gift for adults in our family. I also don’t want to feel obligated to buy gifts—I want to give from my heart.
That’s why this year, both sides of our family decided not to give gifts but to donate to a charity instead. We all agreed that gifts should be only for the kids.
If donating to a charity doesn’t fly with your clan, suggest a Secret Santa or a grab bag instead, which is more affordable and takes less time.
6. Get help
As women, we’re expected to do it all, but that doesn’t mean we have to.
Of all the tasks on your list, there are those you tell yourself you should do or you feel pressured to do, those you’re capable of doing but don’t want to do, and those that actually bring you joy.
We can make choices about what we’re going to do and what we’re not. For example, a few years ago, I decided sending Christmas cards wasn’t worth all the time and energy it took.
It was however, important to my husband, so he took over the task. He picks out the card and the photos, addresses them and sends them off. It may not be what I would have chosen, but letting it go means I won’t be so stressed out.
It can be hard to hand over certain tasks to our partners, but it is possible to find opportunities for them to help out. Perhaps it’s wrapping gifts, going grocery shopping or making a Target run for stocking stuffers.
Accepting that done is better than perfect can be freeing.
If getting your spouse to help out isn’t going to happen, think about other people who can.
Depending on their ages, kids can seal and put stamps on cards or wrap presents for their grandparents, for example.
You could also outsource tasks to a company like FancyHands.com for booking travel, making restaurant reservations or purchasing gifts.
7. Hire a babysitter
When time is tight and your list is long, getting it all done with kids underfoot is almost impossible.
Lean on your regular babysitter, a family member or swap babysitting with a friend.
Also, check in with your gym, kids’ play spaces and schools who may offer a few hours of care so you can get things done.