The holidays are here and the pressure and stress are on — but it doesn’t have to be a stressful time of year.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in all the holiday hoopla, setting high expectations in an effort to make things perfect for our family and friends.
READ MORE: What stress can do to your brain during the holiday season
But it’s a stress-inducing game we’re never going to win, Dr. Alok Trivedi, a psychological performance coach at The Aligned Performance Institute, says.
“We paint these fantasies of how things are supposed to be,” Trivedi says. “It’s not reality, but we want everything to be perfection and happiness. It’s supposed to be this time of life where everyone is good, but what it does is that it actually creates the opposite effects and we get the chaos. The more perfect you try to make it, the more chaotic it becomes.”
To help those dealing with the stress that this time of year can bring, Trivedi offers 10 tips to help you through the holidays.
1. Stop trying to please your family
Learn to say “no” to your family sometimes, Trivedi says, otherwise the holiday season will be a very stressful time for you.
“Realize that they’re not going to be totally happy with everything anyways, so stop the idealism that everyone’s going to be happy,” he says. “Do the things that are content to you and that will make you comfortable.”
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And while quality time is nice, allocate your time accordingly, Trivedi adds, and don’t over-commit.
2. Stop painting the holiday fantasy
Know that the stereotypical holiday fantasy is just that — a fantasy, Trivedi says. So if you’re unrealistic in your expectations, you will only be let down.
“Ask yourself, what’s the benefit of the holidays for you? What’s the worst that could happen if it doesn’t work out for you?” Trivedi says. “What this does is that it lowers the stress and the expectations.”
Let the reality of our holidays unfold realistically, he adds. Trying to make a fantasy into reality will only lead to disappointment.
3. Stop being a perfectionist
Don’t try to control situations that you cannot control because it will only leave you frustrated, Trivedi warns.
He says things will always go wrong and that’s just life, so go with the flow and enjoy every moment for what it is.
4. Stop eating to excess
It’s so easy to want to indulge in hot eats and treats over the holidays, but try not to overdo it, Trivedi says.
“This is big — more than people realize,” he says. “What people do is they want to give themselves freedom to indulge, but what that does is it creates more stress in your body which then doesn’t help you handle the psychological stress on a day-to-day basis.”
5. Stop trying to make everyone happy
It is impossible to make everyone happy, Trivedi says, and this is especially true around the holidays.
No, you won’t be able to make every dinner party, but that’s OK. He says people may initially seem disappointed, but when you set your boundaries, people respect you for it.
6. Stop expecting big gifts
There’s no need to dazzle your friends and family with big, flashy gifts, Trivedi says. On top of that, don’t expect big gifts either.
READ MORE: How to avoid a meltdown when travelling with kids over the holidays
Your big expectations will often lead to big disappointment if you don’t get that big gift. Plus, there may be that added stress of feeling the need to reciprocate and repay the gift-giver with a big gift in return.
Instead, expect nothing, Trivedi advises, and if something is gifted to you, be grateful. Make sure to follow up with a genuine “thank you” whether in person or in a note to show your appreciation.
7. Stop buying on credit
You may feel the itch to buy a lot of gifts for everyone, but make sure that if you do you, stick within your budget, Trivedi advises.
There’s no need to be showy with your gifts, instead be genuine. And don’t buy on credit, Trivedi says, because once you get that credit card bill in January, you’re going to regret it.
8. Stop determining worth on things
“Don’t try to determine the value of the gifts you received but instead value the time you have with your family and friends,” Trivedi says. “Enjoy the actual company rather than the expectation of the result.”
Happiness, he says, is not dictated by that with which you own, but rather who you are as a person. Try gifting an experience like a concert or trip to make those worthwhile memories, Trivedi suggests.
9. Stop prioritizing others over yourself
Make time for yourself. Trivedi says that even though the holidays are when many spend time together with loved ones, you have to make sure you practice self-care.
Maybe enjoy some alone time. Take that extra time off, treat yourself to some time to do nothing. And don’t be afraid to cancel some plans if you feel overwhelmed because it may be the best thing for you in the long run.
10. Stop planning everything
Lastly, know when to call it quits on planning.
Yes, panning can relieve stress when you put together your daily schedule, but that isn’t always the case, Trivedi says.
Trying to control every minute leads to underlying stress you might not even realize. Instead, enjoy the present time. Being present for the holidays is the most enjoyable thing you can do as you may never know what unexpected excitement and surprises might be around the corner.